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NFL gets pressure on pensions

Advocates seek more for retirees, especially those who picked ill-advised option of early payouts.

June 26, 2007|Greg Johnson | Times Staff Writer

Though today's congressional subcommittee hearing will focus on NFL retirees' medical disability concerns, some former players also are pressuring their former league and union to improve old-timers' pensions.

Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley recently said that he used his most recent monthly NFL pension check to play the lottery -- and hit for $486, nearly three times what the former Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys star gets each month.

Now a retired businessman, he doesn't need the pension to survive. But the first player listed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is adamant that the NFL Players Assn. help less-fortunate retirees, particularly those who he said made an ill-advised decision decades ago to take early retirement at age 45.

The NFL union later dropped the option, but not before Adderley and more than 300 players, including more than 40 who are now in the Hall of Fame, chose it.

Former USC star and San Diego Charger Ron Mix was one. Mix, now an attorney in San Diego, needed the money to help cover medical bills when his wife became ill. The plan increased his monthly checks by about $80 to $147. "It sounds silly to think that an extra $80 per month would help, but at the time it did," the Hall of Famer said.

But few players, Adderley, Mix and others said, understood the trade-off. Checks grew smaller over time, with some falling to as little as $50 later in life. The NFLPA eventually increased those payments, but Mix said they still fell short of what some aging players need to stay afloat.

Mix acknowledges that players made the choice. "But if the NFLPA and league just increased their pensions to $150 a month for each accredited season, that would lift most of them to a livable existence."

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