Herb Adderley, a retired NFL star who played for Vince Lombardi, called the $28 million verdict two Am Law 200 firms won in late 2008 on behalf of retired NFL players a bigger deal than all three Super Bowls Adderley won as a player — combined.

Flash-forward 18 months. Two separate classes of retired NFL players have sued the two firms, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and McKool Smith, alleging that they left some retirees out of the settlement and blew the chance for much greater damages, according to a copy of the complaint. The original class action accused the NFL players’ union of intentionally excluding retired players from licensing deals, including the ultra-lucrative deal through which the video game maker Electronic Arts purchased the right to use player names and images in its popular John Madden franchise. The union, represented by Dewey & LeBoeuf, denied the allegations, but a sympathetic jury delivered the $28 million verdict, which was to be distributed to about 2,000 retired players. (The two sides eventually settled for just over $26 million.)

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