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Report: Retirement board made payments in disability benefits to players

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By PFW staff

The NFL’s retirement board paid at least $2 million in disability benefits to players in the late 1990s and 2000s, according to an investigation by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and FRONTLINE. 

In the disability claim of Hall of Fame C Mike Webster, the board concluded that Webster and other players suffered brain damage from playing in the NFL.

The payments by the board were made to at least three former players. The new evidence supports the nearly 4,000 former players who have filed suit against the NFL for denying the risks of long-term brain damage.

“It’s pretty devastating evidence,” said Bob Fitzsimmons, who represented Webster in his disability claim but is not part of the lawsuit against the NFL, according to the report. “If the NFL takes the position that they didn’t know or weren’t armed with evidence that concussions can cause total disability — permanent disability, permanent brain injury — in 1999, that evidence trumps anything they say.”

League spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to the report that decisions by the retirement board “are not made by the NFL or by the NFL Players Association.”

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