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They were Hall of Famers like Tony Dorsett, Super Bowl MVPs like Mark Rypien, and longtime backups like Don Strock.

In all, more than 4,500 retired players began suing the NFL two years ago, saying the league concealed what it knew about the long-term dangers of concussions and did not properly care for the head injuries that were long an accepted part of the game.

Under a tentative settlement announced Thursday, the NFL agreed to shell out more than three-quarters of a billion dollars, nearly all going to any former players - not just those who went to court - with dementia or other concussion-related health problems, even if the cause was not the very on-field violence that fueled professional football's rise in popularity and profit.

The deal stipulates that it is not to be considered an admission of liability by the NFL.

''It's a good day, because we're getting help for those who need help,'' Rypien told The Associated Press, ''and a sad day, because we didn't get this done earlier to help guys in the past.''

Rypien had two diagnosed concussions during 11 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL, including a championship with the Washington Redskins in 1992.

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