NFL owners to retired players: “We will not set aside your needs”

By Jeff Nixon – posted June 17, 2011

In their April 4, 2011 letter to retired players, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy – both former NFL players and members of the NFL’s negotiating team – said “We do not know what the NFLPA may seek for current players, but we will not set aside your needs. Your voice needs to be heard, and we will listen.”   

Nonetheless, there is a lot of concern among the ranks of retired players that the owners and the active players will come to an agreement that does not sufficiently take care of the needs of retired players.  

Even though the Carl Eller retired player lawsuit was joined with the Tom Brady active player lawsuit, the big question is:  What happens to our lawsuit if the owners and the active players reach an agreement? 

It is almost certain that the active players will be asked by the owners to drop their lawsuit if a Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached, but they cannot do that unless the cases are severed by the court.  The active players would have to petition the court to have the cases separated and in all likelihood the court would agree with them. 

So where would that leave retired players?  

If we don’t like what is offered through the CBA, we could be involved in our own litigation against the League long after active players and the owners are back to playing football, making obscene amounts of money and enjoying the spoils of war – one that ultimately ended in a truce, but left some terrible casualties in its wake – retired players.     

I hope that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees remember what DeMaurice Smith said when he was selected by them.  “We have a moral obligation to the retired players, we have a fiduciary obligation to the retired players. That obligation has to be both in words and deeds. If you fail in either one, you fail.”   

If they don’t include substantial increases in the NFL Retirement Plan…….they have failed! 

If they don’t have significant reforms to the NFL Disability Plan……… they have failed! 

If they don’t have additional medical services in the CBA…………..they have failed! 

Drew Brees said this about retired players “They shaped the game for us. Because of those guys, we have an opportunity to play this game, to make the money that we make, to get the benefits we get. We will always, always, always reach back to give to those guys. But there’s a way to do it.” 

Yes, there is a way to do it!  

In their last proposal to the active players, the owners put $300 Million on the table – money that would come from a new rookie pay system that would re-allocate more than $300 million “per draft class” to fund benefits for current and retired players.   

With that kind of money, there is no reason why the two sides can’t make some big increases to the pension plan in the CBA.   We shouldn’t have to continue a separate fight against the NFL.  Will the active players move to sever our cases? Will they set aside our needs?  They sure haven’t set aside their own. 

Based on their current number of credited seasons, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning will receive the following monthly pension payments at age 55 or if they wait until age 65: 

Peyton Manning – 13 credited seasons:  $6,110 monthly at age 55 and $16,000 monthly at age 65 or $192,000 annually.      

Tom Brady – 11 credited seasons:  $5,170 monthly at age 55 and $13,540 monthly at age 65 or $162,480 annually.    

Drew Brees – 10 credited seasons: $4,700 monthly at age 55 and $12,309 monthly at age 65 or $147,708 annually.  

For every additional season they play, they will receive an additional $470 a month. Barring injury, they will all play a few more years, so those amounts will probably go up.  As noted, their monthly amounts will more than double if they wait until age 65 to collect their retirement. 

With all the money they have made – and will make, it is very likely that they will not need to tap their pension benefits until age 65. 

Unfortunately the same could not be said for the pioneers of the NFL that made very little in the way of salaries and benefits.   

Many former players (including more than half of all Hall of Fame players) took early retirement and the social security election and many are now receiving pension payments that are less than $200 a month or $2,400 annually.   

Many former players elected to take the early retirement out of necessity, not because they needed the extra cash to purchase a second or third vacation home.  Some took it because they were told that NFL players were dying at an earlier age then the normal population, so they did what they thought was best for their families.  

To my knowledge, DeMaurice Smith and the active players have said nothing publicly about trying to assist the players that took early retirement. Hopefully they have discussed this at the bargaining table.    

In 1993, the NFLPA eliminated the early retirement benefit – and for good reason.  Former players were being devastated by this so called “benefit.” 

In addition to generous pension benefits, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will also have some other amazing benefits when they retire.  Here is an example of what one of the other class reps, Mike Vrabel will get when he retires.  Keep in mind that all of these amounts will increase for every additional year that Mike plays. 

  • $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 

Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning will have similar benefits waiting for them when they retire too! 

Some of the money that went into those benefits could have gone into the Pension Plan to help ALL retired players – but it didn’t – and maybe that’s one of the reasons our Pension Plan was classified by the IRS as being in Endangered Status in 2010. 

Some people – including sports writers, TV and Cable reporters and even some retired players –  say that we should be thankful for anything we get, because legally the owners are not required to increase the pensions of former Union members. Legally speaking, they are right! But morally speaking they are dead wrong.  

Let me remind everyone that most retired players had no NFL Disability Plan, no Severance Pay Plan, no Health Reimbursement Account, no Tuition Assistance Reimbursement, no Player Performance Pool, no Minimum Salary Benefit, No Player Annuity Program, no Second Career Savings Plan, no five years of free medical coverage, no second medical opinion, no rules that protected players, no special helmets or special protective equipment, no right to our own images that were used by the NFLPA and the NFL and no Pension for pre-1993 players with less than 4 years of service. We played on crappy artificial turf that shortened our careers. We endured primitive surgical techniques and became the unintentional guinea pigs for today’s players. We were given drugs and treatments by team physicians that are now outlawed by the NFL and the American Medical Association. We practiced without water and some players died of heat stroke. We had team physicians that were ordered to get us back on the field even though they knew we were injured. We were blackballed by the League for our union activities. 

This is why the NFL owners and the active players should do the right thing and include money in this new CBA to substantially increase in our pensions, reform the disability plan and provide additional medical services. 

We shouldn’t have to fight a separate battle for these things…….. but we will if we have to!   

Trust me when I say this – if they don’t assist the players that helped make this game great, the owners and the active players are going to see why we were once warriors, why we played in pain and why we never gave up.   

We will fight this battle in the halls of Congress, in the Courts and in the court of public opinion.   

We do not want to run this route, but if we are forced to, we will not be as gracious as we have been in the past.  We will do everything in our power to embarrass the billionaire owners and the millionaire players.  

Please do not set aside our needs!  




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 June 17, 2011, in NFL Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Go on, Jeff! Now you’re preaching it!

  2. Well said Jeff! I’m going to fight with you!!!!



  4. Great work Jeff. I hope we don’t have to fight. But, if we do “put me in coach” I can play this game!

  5. Great Post Jeff!

  6. Jeff, very well said. You should print Murphy and Richardson quote every day until there is a deal and the retired players are a part of it!!

  7. GAME ON. Tell it like it is Jeff.

  8. Awesome post and the sentiment of most if not all current retirees. The fight started a long time ago, and Luke the twin towers of the NY skyline, it will not be forgotten on my watch. I’m in… for life or death… but at age 47.., I still have plenty of fight in me.. I’M IN !

  9. Wild Bill Cody

    Amen & Amen….if we could just get the owners to pay us $1000 per football related surgery, I would have an monthly income of $16,000….Jeff, I would have to try hard but I believe I could get by with that…make that $17,000 after my next shoulder replacement in 6 weeks !!!!!!!!! Thanks for your efforts…Wild .Bill Cody

  10. chris burford

    Also on board! …………….. Chris Burford

  11. great job jeff now we/re telling instead of begging thanks

  12. Charles Ray Easterling


    If the union does not re-instate those of us who were talked into-yes talked into- taking early retirement, then I think we should subpoena the books of our union. What we receive in the financials is not true financials but only summary of different categories, which is much different than what a true audit reveals.

    For example, the first quarter of 2011-there is $1.6 million set aside in deferred compensation-does anybody know to whom and how much is going to the different respective people? This is our fault because we have not demanded an accounting and had the unions open their books, as they have demanded the owners-why? I believe everyone would get the shock of their lives if they were given monthly, as well as accrual, reports of all check cashing, check balancing, find reports, balance sheets, P/L’S, and taxes. Does it strike anyone strange than there are over $13,000,000 in deferred taxes on the revenue side that is owed-by whom and it is not itemized.

    Another interesting point is the connection between all the different L.L.L.C.’S and the union? Where is the accounting for each of those entities and the money that is generated and where it ends up? I would like to see the documents and all operating agreements signed-why? It’s very important because unless you examine the capital accounts of the various L.L.L.C.’S, it tells you nothing about the arrangements and money flow to whom and where?

    As an aside, when I got hurt in 1978, I do not think you could find a hotter and more profile person to speak in Atlanta than me-where did all the speaking engagements go for me? Here you have an injured player, with lots of time and a jeopardized career, isn’t the union supposed to represent them before others?

    I have recently been diagnosed with permanent and irreversible brain damage, caused by playing with multiple concussions, yet I am expected to be responsible for making good, rationale decisions-and live with those decisions while being mentally incapacitated to such a degree that my cognitive ability, as documented by the brain scan, pet scan, labs, sleep study, and Dr.’s diagnosis, is impaired-then and now!

    The current players have no idea, not even a clue of how the game was played in the 70’s, because if they did then they would be fighting for us. I chuckled when I think how the public is horrified at the thought of the treatment Michael Vick’s dogs received-I can bet you Micheal is not chuckling-but if you put it in full context, they were treated better than we are to this day. The only difference is they did not shoot us, just left us maimed and crippled, after pulling us out of the fighting pit or should I be nice and say field. We were told point blank that concussions would have no lasting affects-bull. Why doesn’t the N.F.L. ride the current players around to visit the past players at the various clinics filled with players who are suffering from full blown dementia, Alzheimer, crippling arthritis, financially destitute, the price the spouse pays years down the road, etc. Instead of spending millions on riding kids around in some stupid bus for exercise-like they care-how many of those players on the buses exercise regularly with those kids now? See what I mean–no one is going to fight for us unless we do it ourselves-because they do not care!

    Jeff, I am with you but I want to share this one important thing! I am going to uncover the union’s dealings with or without you and if it is without, then I promise all of you that I will sign a confidentiality so thick it would choke an elephant, because no one is going to ride off my hard work and back. Everybody says they want to fight but my experience is otherwise.

    We need to change the playing field to one of our choosing! For instance-everybody wants to run to court-it’s about the dumbest thing you can do-how did it work out for the union? What about a whole new approach and have the respective attorney generals, F.B.I., I.R.S. comb the union’s books? See what I mean-put a crimp in somebody’s panties-if it’s war-there is no half way and it takes strategy and planning-not a bunch of malcontent hot heads.

    Some people may take this the wrong way but I am in; but only if there is a very well thought out and precise plan of action. Just like the game we played-we game planned but how many times did we have to adjust and say the heck with that-this is what is working. This is the same way-explore a lot of avenues because we do not know which one is going to bring the most pressure to bear. Let’s be smart but let’s act now-not after the battle-when the smoke clears and we hope they are going to be benevolent-what has the past taught us about that?

    In closing, you are to be commended for giving so much to us all!

    Ray Easterling
    Atlanta Falcons-1972-1980

  13. The problem that persists here is the fact that the current players forget the history that have made more money then even the best of the best of any retired player. But the one thing they should not ignore is the injuries that have taken there toll long after the cleats were hung up. Both money and insurace issues need to be placed with in the new CBA (if one is agreed upon) for the retired players that gave all they had to make the game what it is today. Jeff you know where I stand on these issues and you know you will always have my airwaves to broadcast these issues and anything else dealing with the retired players. If it comes to showing the toughness that the retired players played with, I say GO GIVE THEM HELL!!

    Priest Adler
    Host of Behind the Facemask

  14. Jeff,
    YOUR POST SHOULD BE THE “NFL ALUMNI” commercial that we are seeing on TV! If not, the Alumni Association should take out a full-page ad in USA Today, Sports Illustrated, etc.!!!
    P.S. Make sure you send a copy to 280 Park Ave, and to the front office of every one of the NFL teams.

  15. Jeff- brilliant breakdown of the disparity between current player benefits as opposed to the crumbs pre 93′ retirees earned from our paltry pension plan. You did, however, overlook one important factor we faced as players- potentially career ending injuries caused by dangerous legal rules back then.During my career I witnessed many players, both teammates and opponents, injured from crackback blocks, offensive line clips, headslaps, clothesline tackles, downfield bump-and-run mugging and wedgebusting feet first. We also played on dangerous surfaces(Astrodome,Buffalo War Mwemorial, Busch Stadium, etc)and many players sustained career ending injuries as a result of the aforementioned liabilities. Today’s protective rules greatly reduce a player’s chance of serious injury, giving him the opportunity to sustain his career.

  16. Jeff you just hit one out of the park with the latest post !There is not one single plausible explanation from the owners or the current players to not address the needs of the retired players in this CBA except the blinding effect of greed ! How else to explain a situation where the player agents have more respect and leverage in shaping the bargaining strategy then the men who made the game what is today ! For George Martin to not have an iron in the fire while people that only stand to benefit financially by pushing more money towards rookies that never played a down in the NFL is attributable only to Greed !The owners will be no less suspect if they don’t “walk the walk” on addressing the very real need of the alumni players ! They are quick to honor the legacy of great players or teams when the situation presents itself. March out a few players or teams from the past. and Put a few thousand more fans in the seats for those games. Make no mistake they are still mining every nickel they can from the sweat you guy’s left on the field !
    I never played a down in the NFL, had a chance to during the 1987 strike when I was contacted to play DL for the replacement Giants I told the chief scout for the Giants (who was a former player for the team) that if I was good enough to play in the NFL then it should be on the merits of my game but not on the backs of players who earned that play the game. Best decesion that I ever made. Well the same holds true today only it’s owners and the players on their way to the bank, who damn well better not try to walk over the backs of the players whose efforts made the game what is today ! So I think that I’m finally ready to strap that hat on my head and stand with you guys for whatever it takes to get this done.

  17. ron Pritchard

    Jeff, thank you brother for those words of wisdom. Ethics and morals are the right words not entitlement. You have done all of us pre-93ers a great service through your pen! Ron Pritchard

  18. Enjoyed this article. I don’t understand the current player mentality that doesnt realize that anything bargained for retired players, is really a benefit to them as well as they are, as we were, one play away from being an alum of the NFL. Such short-sighted thinking has always hurt our union and the retired players as well as the current union leadership, need to get their collective acts together and tell this story in the court of public opinion. The average fan does not think that the current players percentage is higher because it is distributed among 1700 players on an unequal basis while the remainder is split among only 32 owners. Further, the fact the George Martin has not entered the fray on behalf of the Carl Eller group to protect our rights is equally as ridiculous. Ending the funding of 21 year old millionaires that have never played a down in the NFL is a start. But but educating the public and the current players on how unequal the playing fields are for them and tthose that went before them is troubling, if not downright criminal.

  19. I agree we will get left behind and it is criminal.(SOLUTION) The H.O.F.players at the end of the induction ceremony need to stand up take off the gold jacket and announce to the world that they will not put the jacket on until the N.F.L. owners take care of the pre. 93 retired N.F.L players with Medical, Disability , Pension that starts at age 55, and is equal to BASEBALL , BASKETBALL,. I hope that our teammates and friends will do the right thing . I hate to think that they are afraid to stand up and be counted for their teammates ,How many have to die, or kill themselves, or destroy whole families,fighting for medical benefits. OWNERS DO WHAT IS RIGHT TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE THAT MADE THE GAME.

  20. ron Pritchard

    Dave is right on spot! I Would like to see the response by the NFL owners, if the Hall of Fame guys would actually not do anything with the league until the owners make the right ethical and moral decisions concerning the pre-93 guys. The problem is “the brotherhood generally will be once again divided by the lure of money” Out goes the One Team cry when money and ego get in the way of truth. Dave’s suggestion is one of the true leverage points that , I believe, would work for us. I would like to see the owners explain that scene to the public!

  21. reggie rucker

    If we have to fight, that would be the easiest part of the struggle. We were taught by the best, the NFL, so if we don’t get what we are entitled to…game on!!

  22. Either in the CBA or court… way or the other. It has to be brought to a head and sooner than later for some of the older players. It’s been ignored for too long.

  23. Mike Davis Raiders 1977-87

    Well said by all. I like the thought process by all you men that have posted your concerns, thoughts and heart felt feelings in these issues that are far reaching and has & will have effect on us and our families.
    Where do you start in the barganing process that deals with Pension, Benefits & Disabilities? First off you make sure there is retension of all Benefits etc..Meaning not taking one iota of what has been earned & barganed for away from the players.
    In this 21st century we find ourselves still faced with 20th century thinking in the ways of those thinkings as projected by the NFL Owners & of Course Us..You & Me.

    Face it men, New law must be written to correct the ill”s we all suffer. Case in point..The Carl Eller / Tom Brady Lawsuit has been enjoined..To Sever it will force a decision on the Active players And I quote, to carry us and for us to trust them to do so. Futher, The Carl Eller lawsuit if severed will go on for years. Please don’t read me wrong!!! I have my complete focus on complete support of what we’re doing as a body of Retired players, complete & 100% in support, Period!
    I bring these items to light because it’s old tactics the NFL continue to employ.

    I read & hear the phrase, “Fight” Going to Battle” & “Game on” I’m cool with all that, I have been on the frontlines forever and refuse to budge off, A lot of you I know, A lot of you I don’t know that’s no differece to me, I will fight for all of you just as I would if you were my family..And in Family, we all have in this case to much in common, Let’s stay the course never veer.

    A few months back, The idea came from Lou Piccone about taking ad’s out in major news papers, Now that idea has surfaced again. Jeff your post has explained, demostrated and proven The have & The have nots. I think the common public needs to see this info. Heck I have neighbors think I made 10 mill a year in the 1980’s…What a rip!!! In any case, If this is something to do, I’ll pledge $200 to the cost.

    Not to be morbid, Someone said since the CBA talks began last year over 200 of our fellow players have died.
    Men will their widows and or serivors be cared for? Did they have to die? could help from the NFL benefits could have prolonged their lives? Let’s stop asking such questions, Let’s push and get the answers we will know and that is Increases across the board in all Benefits & pension , health care and the like.
    I’m talking real increases that makes a real difference for all Pre 1993 players.
    May God Bless us all.
    Mike Davis
    Raiders 1977-87

  24. jeff, keep up the good work !!! dad played on the bill 48-49 and the eagles 50- 54 he’s 86 living in fla. with health problems , I SURE HOPE HE IS STILL LIVING TO SEE SOMETHING DONE , but i don’t think it will happen. my fingers are crossed for all the tough guy players from back in the day i know dad is one old tough football player i think that is why dad is still here he is just to tough, i dont think their are to many left that played in the 1940s thumbs up to all guys !!!!!!! jack sutton son of bud sutton

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