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Ex-players want to depose NFL over concussion deal

Seven retired NFL players requested permission to question the league in connection with brain-injury deal

In the latest dispute over the proposed NFL concussion settlement, a group of retired players has asked a federal court for permission to question the league about brain injuries and the negotiations that led to the deal.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on Saturday, the request to conduct limited discovery described the negotiations as a “black box to all but the select few who participated.”

The seven retired players behind the motion want to depose NFL representatives about matters that include whether the league “misled players, coaches, trainers and the public and actively spread disinformation” regarding brain injuries and how many players it expects to develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The players also want to question Christopher Seeger, lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs, and two other plaintiffs’ attorneys involved in the settlement. Last week, Thomas Demetrio, the attorney who represents the family of late Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, also filed a motion to depose Seeger about the settlement negotiations.

Saturday’s filing questions why players diagnosed with CTE after the deal’s preliminary approval in July aren’t compensated and why payouts are cut 75% if a player suffered a stroke or brain injury unrelated to football.

Last week, the court released two actuarial reports that project three in 10 retired NFL players will develop cognitive problems. The reports, made public in response to questions by attorneys and ex-players over the settlement negotiations, assessed the financial viability of the settlement when payouts were capped at $675 million. The cap has since been removed.

But Saturday’s filing pointed out that those reports, one commissioned by the NFL and the other by the plaintiffs, were completed after U.S. District Judge Anita Brody rejected the initial settlement in January.

“[The reports can’t] be the actual studies on which the settlement was based,” the filing said.

The seven retired players, who lost a bid last week to have a federal appeals court intervene in the deal, also seek a variety of documents, including all drafts of the settlement agreement.

"Our focus remains on finalizing this agreement so that retired NFL players can soon take advantage of its benefits," Seeger said in a statement.

An NFL attorney didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

While players have an Oct. 14 deadline to opt out or object to the settlement, the seven retired players want the discovery request granted in time to provide information for the Nov. 19 fairness hearing that is the next step before the deal can be approved.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:47 p.m.: Updated with statement from Christopher Seeger.

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