One-time Indianapolis Colts quarterback Art Schlichter has sued the NFL Player Retirement Plan in an effort to receive benefits he claims are being wrongly denied. Schlichter alleges he’s suffering brain injury as he serves time in a federal prison.
In his complaint, Schlichter alleges he “suffers from Parkinson’s disease and other neurological ailments as a result of traumatic brain injuries he sustained during his career as an NFL player. Such conditions are recognized as lifelong, permanent and on-going disease processes that affect such things as cognition, memory, learning, behavior, and susceptibility to addictive behaviors.”
Schlichter, 55, an Ohio State University standout who the then-Baltimore Colts picked No. 4 overall in the 1982 draft, proved to be an NFL bust. He became notorious for a gambling addiction that marred his NFL career, drug addiction, and a string of felony convictions. He most recently was sentenced in 2012 to more than 10 years in prison after testing positive for cocaine while on house arrest awaiting sentencing for his conviction in a million-dollar sports ticket scam. He is incarcerated in the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Institution with a projected release date of August 2020.
The NFL plan provides retired players health care, life insurance and other benefits determined in part on the number of their “credited seasons,” the suit says. The plan defines credited seasons as those in which a player was an active player on the date of at least three games.
Schlichter was suspended from the NFL in 1983, but the suit claims that because he was bound by his contract, he was prohibited from seeking employment with another team or football league. The league last year denied his appeal, according to the suit.
The suit contends that despite his suspension from the league, Schlichter “remained obligated, albeit unable, to perform football playing services under his 1983 contract with the Colts throughout the entire 1983 NFL season.
“Accordingly, (Schlichter’s) suspension did not change his status as an “Active Player for the 1983 NFL season” under terms of the plan, according to the suit. The NFL plan has yet to respond to the suit.
Schlichter played from 1982-1986 with the Colts and Buffalo Bills and also played briefly in subsequent years for teams in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League.
The suit was filed in state court in December but removed to the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Jan. 6. The case before Judge William T. Lawrence is Arthur Schlichter v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, 1:16-CV-61.