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Former NFL players appeal terms of concussion settlement

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PHILADELPHIA » Former NFL players who object to terms of the potential $1 billion concussion settlement have filed appeals that are likely to delay payouts to thousands of retirees until next year.

About a dozen appeals on behalf of as many as 90 former players were expected to be filed by Monday’s deadline. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia could hear arguments on the issues this fall.

Some challenge the exclusion of future cases of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain decay that many link to football concussions. Others are concerned the settlement awards players with neurocognitive symptoms, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but not those with behavioral and mood disorders that some link to CTE and concussions.

A lawyer for 51-year-old former linebacker Jesse Solomon, who spent eight seasons with five teams, called the exclusion "unfair" and "unreasonable" in an appeal filed last week. Solomon could get nothing from the settlement despite suffering from memory loss, slurred speech, severe headaches and other disabling conditions, the appeal said.

Negotiators who forged the deal argue that the science on CTE is still evolving. The estates of players who died and were diagnosed with CTE from 2006 to 2014 can seek up to $4 million, but future deaths are excluded to avoid "incentivizing" suicide. The problem cannot currently be diagnosed in the living.

Other players want the award calculations to include time played in preseason games or training camp. Currently, a player had to play in three regular season games to get credit for that season. The awards are sharply reduced for men with less than five years in the league.

Former player Andrew Stewart, 49, of Surrey, British Columbia, has Parkinson’s disease. He would get only one year of credit for his 1989 season with the Cleveland Browns under the current plan. But the NFL’s disability and pension plan credits him with the three additional years he spent in training camp or preseason games before being injured.

"A lot of players may not be aware of the difference in definitions," lawyer Michael Rosenthal said Monday.

The NFL expects about 6,000 former players to develop Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia in the coming decades. A small number are also expected to be diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

The maximum awards could reach $5 million but would likely average $190,000, given reductions for advanced age, other medical conditions and years spent in the league. The settlement, which includes baseline testing and medical monitoring, covers more than 20,000 retirees for 65 years.

The NFL and the lead players’ committee have argued that the appeals would delay payments to players who need them sooner rather than later.

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