Retirement decisions carry more weight this year

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When the concussion settlement was first announced in August 2013, the parties agreed that any retired players as of the date on which the deal received preliminary court approval would be part of the class of former players who would be eligible for benefits.  Although Judge Anita Brody gave preliminary approval three weeks ago, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the plaintiffs’ lawyers and the NFL likely would not fight the addition of players like receiver Sidney Rice, who retired last week due to his history of concussions.

For other players currently considering whether to walk away from football, the closing window (assuming it isn’t already closed) for participating in the concussion settlement should be a significant factor in the final analysis.  For now, any players who choose to retire land in a gray area.  As the date for final approval of the settlement approaches, at some point it will be too late.

And while players who retire after it’s too late to join the concussion settlement could file their own concussion lawsuits, the person who brokered the deal explained that future claims likely will fail.

“For a variety of reasons, the underlying theory of this lawsuit about what took place in the past would be difficult to replicate in the future,” Judge Layn Phillips said in a document explaining the settlement.  “Everyone now has a much deeper and more substantial understanding about concussions, and how to prevent and manage them, than they did 20 or even 10 years ago, and the information conveyed to players reflects that greater understanding.  In addition, the labor law defenses asserted by the NFL would represent a very substantial barrier to asserting these kinds of claims going forward.  The combination of advances in medical research, improved equipment, rules changes, greater understanding of concussion management, and enhanced benefits should, and hopefully will, prevent similar lawsuits in the future.”

It means that, if a player has concerns about a history of concussions, whether known to his team or kept secret, and is considering retiring for other reasons, potential participation in the concussion settlement could be a factor.