Lawyers for the family of the late Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson and others had asked for a delay until after objections are weighed at a Nov. 19 fairness hearing. They believe the deal remains "shrouded in secrecy." However, Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody denied their request on Thursday.
The lead lawyers who negotiated the minimum $765 million deal oppose the delay. They argue that many of the nearly 20,000 former players need the money quickly.
The proposed plan would pay $1 million or more to retirees with the most severe neurological problems, such as Parkinson's disease. They are a small fraction of the cases.
The average award for Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia is expected to be about $190,000. The NFL's actuaries expect approximately 6,000 men — or 28 per cent of all retired players — to be diagnosed with serious enough cognitive problems to qualify for an award.
The settlement may not be finalized by year's end. Brody will take written briefs on the objections raised through Dec. 11.
The NFL, with $10 billion in annual revenues, has agreed to pay at least $765 million into the fund over 65 years, and more if needed. The settlement addresses thousands of lawsuits that claim the NFL failed to properly treat on-field concussions for many years. Current players are not included in the litigation.
Objections have been raised by some retirees likely to miss out or have their awards reduced because, they say, they did not get a diagnosis when their symptoms first appeared, or suffered other medical conditions that affect award calculations.
Some leading brain trauma experts have also criticized the plan because it does not compensate men who exhibit mood swings, aggression and other behavioural problems they link to repetitive brain trauma.
Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011 at age 50, is one of dozens of former NFL players diagnosed posthumously with the brain decay known as CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The settlement includes baseline testing and monitoring for former players without neurological symptoms.