A federal judge today granted preliminary approval to a landmark deal that would compensate thousands of former NFL players for concussion-related claims. The ruling by US District Judge Anita Brody came about two weeks after the NFL agreed to remove a $675 million cap on damages. Brody had previously questioned whether that would be enough money to pay all claims. "This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families—from those who suffer with neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," plaintiffs' attorneys said in a statement.
The settlement is designed to last at least 65 years and cover retirees who develop Lou Gehrig's disease and other neurological problems. More than 4,500 former players have filed suit, some accusing the league of fraud for its handling of concussions. They include former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett and Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who suffers from dementia. The revised settlement retains a payout formula for individual retirees that considers their age and illness. Even with the cap removed, both sides said they believe the NFL won't spend more than about $675 million on damage claims. Critics of the deal have said the league, with annual revenues approaching $10 billion, was getting off lightly. (For more, read about Dan Marino—who said he sued the NFL by mistake.)