"Maybe they don't exist," he said. "Maybe they don't substantiate the 765-million (dollar) figure."
In a statement Tuesday, Seeger and Weiss continued to say that analysis from "economists, actuaries and medical experts will confirm that the programs established by the settlement will be sufficiently funded to meet their obligations for all eligible retired players. We look forward to working with the court and special master to address their concerns, as they rightfully ensure all class members are protected."
The NFL also released a statement promising to "work with the plaintiffs' attorneys to supply that information promptly to the court and special master."
The documents the judge has asked for could be significant and potentially explosive, some lawyers and legal observers noted. The documentation is believed to provide estimates about the number of former NFL players who are expected to incur various forms of brain damage -- figures the NFL may wish to keep private.
Warren Zola, a professor of sports law at Boston College, said he believes the documentation was "intentionally kept secret; it wasn't sheer ineptitude that they didn't disclose."
Seeger, in a statement, said the documentation is normally submitted before the hearing for final approval. He said he regarded it as "a positive development that Judge Brody has accelerated the timeline."
The ruling is a setback for both sides. If the judge remains unconvinced that the settlement provides enough money for all deserving players, the league and the players may be forced to renegotiate. It is unclear whether the NFL would support such a solution.
Even if the negotiators are able to provide sufficient documentation, a large number of "opt outs" -- players who reject the settlement -- would make it harder to keep the agreement alive. The NFL, for example, could conclude that it would be more costly to pay the settlement and continue litigation against those players who reject the deal.
Brody indicated that she had other concerns about the settlement besides money. In a footnote, she also questioned whether enough had been set aside for diagnostic testing and raised concerns about a provision that released the NCAA and other amateur football organizations from liability.
"I think it's a very significant ruling," said Jason E. Luckasevic, a Pittsburgh lawyer who filed the first case against the NFL with Girardi and represents more than 500 players. "It's been nearly half a year since this deal was negotiated and it took the court less than a week to say, 'No deal.' That's not very good for those who made the deal."
Tuesday's ruling brought out in the open some of the discord that has simmered since the settlement was announced last August. The class-action lawsuit consolidated hundreds of individual cases filed by more than 4,500 players who alleged that the NFL concealed the link between football and brain damage.