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Former NFL Player Sues League Over Pension Dispute

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An NFL player wants the league’s disability plan to pay up after he says a severe helmet-to-helmet hit left him unable to work.  He filed suit in Baltimore Monday.  Mike Hellgren has new details.

In this lawsuit, Eric Shelton–who played for the Panthers and the Redskins–says he has memory loss, blurred vision and a host of other medical problems.  His lawyer says the NFL isn’t doing enough to support injured players.

Two years ago during a preseason scrimmage, running back Eric Shelton suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit that ended his career.

“He’s been paralyzed from time to time.  He suffers loss of vision, migraine headaches,” said his lawyer, Cy Smith.

The NFL recently clamped down on these dangerous hits, leveling big fines against players. 

A WJZ investigation just last year explored how dangerous they are.

“What concerns me is the repeated trauma.  I’ve had three concussions,” said Ravens center Matt Birk.

But in this new lawsuit, Shelton claims the league now won’t pay him what he’s owed in disability.

“It wasn’t until we got involved that they said they would give him a lower level of pension,” said Cy Smith.

Shelton will receive $110,000 a year but believes he’s entitled to the maximum, $224,000.

The NFL responded, saying, “The lawsuit requests that Mr. Shelton be placed in the highest category, which in part applies where a player is unable to work immediately following his NFL career.  Mr. Shelton worked at a pharmacy until April 2009.”

“He tried to work at a Walgreen’s for a couple of weeks.  He’s a proud man who’d rather be paid to earn a living,” Smith said.

While the NFL is now trying to educate players before tragedy strikes, Smith says it needs to do more for those who become victims on the field.

“When players are seriously injured by those dangerous types of hits that the NFL keeps talking about, then they have to step up,” Smith said.

Shelton is 27.  From his home in North Carolina, he called the lawsuit sad but necessary, saying the NFL says one thing but does another.

Shelton has the same lawyer who won a case against the NFL pension plan for the family of former Steelers great Mike Webster.

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