Nolan Harrison calls NFL letter “absolute nonsense”

In a recent article posted on, the NFLPA Senior Director of Retired Player Services, Nolan Harrison talked about the letter that Carolina Panther’s owner Jerry Richardson and Green Bay General Manager Mark Murphy sent to retired players.

He said In my opinion, it’s just another way for the owners to try and sow the seeds of confusion. The only thing you can take out of that letter is that they’re going to continue the medical care for the five-year guys who have earned it. The rest of the letter is absolute nonsense.”

Mr. Harrison must have read a different letter than the one I received.
The letter I read talked about several important proposals that – if adopted in the CBA – would provide significant help to thousands of retired players.

The letter I read also talked about programs and benefits that the owners have agreed to fund – even though there is nothing requiring then to do so. One of those benefits is the LTC (Long Term Care) Insurance program.

Mr. Harrison doesn’t mention the LTC benefit because it’s an embarrassment to the NFLPA.  The NFL asked the NFLPA to show their commitment to retired players by sharing in the cost of the insurance policy premiums.

In the end, the NFLPA gave the lame excuse that they wouldn’t help fund the LTC benefit because it was being administered by an HMO and not all players would be covered by the services.  Well, if the NFLPA had provided funding, maybe more players could have received this benefit. We will never know, because the NFLPA never offered a counter-proposal.

This new  benefit will be provided at no cost to thousands of former players between the ages of 50 and 75 years of age.

So what is the real reason they didn’t help fund the LTC? Could it have something to do with the fact that it would have reduced the overall pot of money available for active player salaries and benefits?  

Wake up retired players!  The Union is run by DeMaurice Smith and his #1 priority will always be increasing and preserving active player benefits and salaries.  He can’t do that if he starts giving money to retired players for things like the Long Term Care benefit.

In the letter, the owners also talked about their commitment to continue funding for the 88 Plan, the pension plan, the disability plan and other benefits. These are the same benefits that the NFLPA said the owners would never fund in an uncapped season, or in a lockout.

Mr. Harrison said he was startled to see a reference in the letter to “more than $300 million per draft class to fund benefits for current and retired players. For them to throw that out there is just incredibly disingenuous when it’s tied to their current offer and tied to so many bad things. They’re putting this out there for retired players but not telling them that, if we had accepted it, all these “things” these guys fought for through the years would have been completely disbanded.”

He never tells us what those “things” are, but basically what Mr. Harrison is saying is that retired players are still being used as pawns in the NFLPA’s overall strategy to make sure that rookies continue to get huge bonuses and active players continue to get the salaries and benefits that Gene Upshaw bestowed on players since 1993.

Nolan and the NFLPA want retired players to help the active players retain salaries and benefits that most retired could not even dream about having.

Most retired players had no Player Annuity Program, no Second Career Savings Plan, no Disability Plan, no Severance Pay, no Health Reimbursement Account, no Tuition Assistance Reimbursement, no Player Performance Pool, no Minimum Salary Benefit, no five years of free medical coverage and no Pension for pre-1993 players with 3 years of credited service.

The cost of those benefits: $400 Million annually!

Someone like Mike Vrabel will have the following benefits waiting for him when he retires:

  • $600,000 in his Second Career Savings Plan
  • $580,000 in his NFL Annuity Plan
  • $300,000 in his Health Reimbursement Account
  • $157,000 in his Severance Pay Account  
  • $45,000   in his Tuition Assistance Account
  • $77,700 annually in his NFL Pension – $6,475 monthly at 55.
  • 5 Free years of medical insurance coverage for him and his family after retirement

In addition to the benefits he will receive, Mr. Vrabel has done pretty decent in the salary department over the past 14 years.

This was his salary for just the past five years:

2006….. $3.19 Million

2007……$3.74 Million

2008……$3.99 Million

2009……$4.39 Million

2010……$3.27 Million

I think it’s great that players are making good salaries, because careers can be short……… but is Mike Vrabel really going to need a “Second Career” savings plan?

Obviously, Mike Vrabel is not the typical player, but I’m sure he’s fighting hard to retain those all those benefits for active players.

I hope he’s fighting just as hard for retired player benefits.

I should also mention that the NFL owners pay the active players almost $43 million annually, via the NFLPA’s Group Licensing Agreement, which allows the owners to market the players – and “grow the game.”   When you know that fact, it’s hard to keep a straight face when the NFLPA says that NFL Alumni Executive Director George Martin is beholding to the owners because the NFLPA has a licensing agreement with NFL Properties that brings in $400 thousand.

The NFL owners have put an offer on the table and all Nolan Harrison can do is say it’s nonsense.

To a lot of retired players this is a serious situation and we don’t need the NFLPA’s “Spin Doctor” brushing it off by saying it’s “Just another distraction, just like the letter (Goodell sent two weeks ago) to the current players.”

Many former players don’t have the luxury of waiting much longer for the NFLPA and the NFL to do something substantial for the pioneers of the NFL.  As I have pointed out in previous articles; an average of 140 former NFL players are dying every year.

Mr. Harrison said “The only good thing in this letter is, finally, it’s in writing, they’re not cutting these guys’ medical benefits. The rest? Just a lot of noise.”

As you can see from that statement, Mr. Harrison is only concerned with the owner’s decision to continue funding medical benefits for players that qualified for five free years of insurance after retirement – something a majority of retired players never received.

He dismisses the owners commitment to funding the Long Term Care Program, the 88 plan, the disability and pension plan benefits and all the other proposals that have been put in front of the active players.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Nolan Harrison is the same person that signed a letter, along with nine other NFLPA Former Player members that said “We want to know why the teams contribute nothing to retired players and why $31[M] profit per club isn’t enough.”

Mr. Harrison said he would advise the former players who ask him for advice to disregard the letter as an effort by the owners to confuse the issues and sow discord between factions of former players at a time when the NFLPA is trying to make sure its former player support remains solid.

I think Mike Vrabel and the Union would see their retired player support increase dramatically if they came out and said they were willing to support a rookie “bonus” scale and split the $300 million in savings to help all pre-1993 player pensions.

After they get our small potato out of the way, they can then go back to the bargaining table and figure out how to divide up the rest of the $9 billion dollar pie.

Here is a link to the article: Nolan Harrison calls Richardson Murphy letter “absolute nonsense”


About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on April 18, 2011, in NFL Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nolan Harrison is the Senior Director for Retired Players Services. Based on Nolan’s writings and response to multiple challenges to his position I now think I understand what his title means. Director of Retired Players Services must mean Director of Post 93 Retired Players Services.
    When I hear the commment from the NFLPA that new programs for Pre 93 Retired Players are unexceptable because they do not cover enough Retired Players I think about being sold out by Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA when we requested a better Pension and a new Disability Plan. The same Association that chose to cut it’s Pre 93 Players loose and not take care of them is now saying that the NFL should take care of them. Well the NFL has stepped up to cover a great deal of these men with a Long Term Healthcare Program. Where is the Association to make sure the rest are taken care of. This same principle applies to the Rookie Wage Scale. Why isn’t Nolan and the rest of his “Minions” supporting this proposal instead of backing Agents. Think about this hard men. Our Association is backing Agents instead of supporting better benefits for it’s Pre 93 Members. I look at all the information on these issues with an open mind. It is my hope that Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett are indeed fighting on behalf of the Pre 93 body of men. As I write this note I have to agree with Jeff Nixon when he says that Mr. Harrison appears to be more concerned with the Active (Post 93)Players than he is about the Pre 93 Retiree’s. Maybe it’s time to change your job title Nolan.

  2. Whould Nolan Harrison give us his comments of Commissioner Goodell’s letter to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
    I would like his views on it.
    Perhaps Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett would like to comment as well.
    What type of support are these three parasites giving the Pre 93’ers?

  3. Mike Davis Raiders 1977-87

    Hello Men.
    I have a serious respect for all of you (retired players) I value your opinions and your passion and intelligence.
    I was raised up through the NFLPA as A Rookie when I was appointed Player Rep. I went through two Strikes. I was a player rep, Executive member, and VP for two terms. I retired in 1987 and at that time had one year remaining in office, I honored it and fulfiled my term after retireing..There in lies my committment to our cause for better working conditions, retirement & benefits….So beleive me when I say I saw this day coming in 1977 when I first saw the shambles our Retirement & benefits were in. I fought all my career to better these conditions.
    As true to my words and Thoughts, We find ourselves in what I saw back in the day.
    With that said..Let’s talk about the “Letter” dated April 4 2011 from Mark Murphy & Jerry Richardson.
    I for one apprciated the fact that what we as retired players wanted was on the table, Somethig we all have been sounding the alarm on for 50 years!!!! Improve Rension/Retirement and benefits with minumum trouble to qualify.
    At issue in my mind is as the “Letter” stated addresses what we as retired players are most concerned with real improvement to this system.
    When I read the letter, I said cool. Now we are at a starting point where will the barganing go on this element?
    My concerns are What is the structure of the offerings, How will it be funded and for how long and will it help bring all elgible retirees up to the 60% and beyound depending on bargaining. as well as the other elements of the letter stated.
    Question, will we ever know as bargaining progress, our see the final deal later?

    I take reading all retired players advocates representitives as a duty so I can keep in the know and the loop, As I said earlier, I truly appreciate all input from all, Forth & Goal, NFL Aumni, GridIron Greats and the NFLPA as well as Daves Pear’s group.
    One thing cought my attention, Written by Mike A. Talking about The 60% increase for the 55 year plus retirees (some 2000) And what does 60% increase will do for a player if he took his retirement early..This is all he foucused on, His dollar amounts were $177×60% 210×60% problem is in his thinking is, Tere are several Retired players out ther whom have waited till 55 & 65 years of age to take their pensions and tese numbers plus 60% look damn good..instead og the gloomy numbers he put up.

    All I’m saying to all retirees is what we have been saying all along..We want better Benefits, better pensions. These have been adressed, they are on the table let’s see where it goes from there..It is my prfound hope it will come to pass we are all happy & our needs will be met on all we deserve and worked for.

    I also think I can safely say for you all..We know this is a serious turning point in all our futures. This CBA is very crucial and we all know this, That’s why we all are emotional & salty. I ask respectfully all Retirees unite no matter your group membership we are fighting for the same thing and it would be a shame to lose it on division.
    One of the other questions that was asked By Ron Pritchard cut to the quick in a simple way. Why can’t our pension be like Baseball? I have been wondering for years too.
    It’s time we held The NFLPA & NFL accountable to get all of us firmly into the 21st century and take care of the terrible toll playing the game has placed on us.
    Let’s see if Both sides have our true interest at heart..Let’s see if the active players keep their word on fighting for improved pre 1993 retirees.
    lastly, The NFL can afford whatever they want to afford, and they are stepping in the right direction for retirees more than I have seen since 1977..Let’s see if the NFLPA will step up and help fund some cost toward retirees.

  4. No matter how you cut it, that pie is sooooo big that telling the rest of the world that you can’t resolve the basic Retired Players issues is really saying you won’t resolve the issues and this constant bantering is something that we’ve all seen before including the decertification and then the recertification with the Active Players Post 93 benefiting and the Pre93 Retired Players getting cut off through contrived New Benefits Programs “Dumping the Pre93 guys into the Dead Pool…..and utilize the Lie, Deny and Hope They Die negotiating tactics once they (the PA/Agents)got done selling the PAST PRESENT FUTURE…the rest is redundant…
    Unfortunately this must be repeated over and over again so that the real story is heard….Idi A Gene did a great job of getting 58-60% of revenue for the Players and now it’s time to split it the way He Promised…PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE….equitably

  5. Jeff- Posting Nolan Harrison’s response to the Richardson/Murphy letter to NFL retirees is so typical of the rhetoric, spin doctoring and tap dancing that members of the NFLPA’s negotiating team has continually brought forth regarding the owners offer in good faith to dramatically increase pre 93′ pension and benefits package. The owners put their offer in writing while the NFLPA can only respond with disparaging remarks, and nothing in writing.

    Indeed, Nolan Harrison’s title should be Senior Director of Post 1993 Retired Player Services from the tone of his response to the Richardson/Murphy letter. In a perfect world I would feel much more confident that pre 93′ benefits would be addressed fairly if Joe DeLamielleure was a member of the NFLPA negotiating team. I’m sure Joe would have some meaningful dialog with Mr. Harrison. Let’s face reality, Pre 93’retirees are a nagging pain in the butt to the NFLPA’s negotiating team.

  6. do you think Mike Vrabel could live the rest of his life on 5000.00 a year and a 250.00 signing bonus, back in the day that was it , dad played for the eagles 50 – 53 and is now 86 years young, he strugles to make end meet every year also with health problems, as you can imagine playing back then no face masks, leather helmets and when your knee was down you were “NOT DOWN”,I THINK THE PEOPLE RESPONSABLE FOR HOLDING THIS UP SHOULD GO AND VISIT DAD AND TELL HIM FACE TO FACE YOU WILL BE DEAD BEFORE WE HELP YOU!!!!!!!!!!! JUST A BUNCH OF GREEDY A– H—- THANKS JACK SUTTON P.S. DREW BREES THATS FOR YOU TO

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