The confusing status of Dolphins defensive end Phillip Merling has begun to acquire some clarity. But that could only make the situation ultimately more confusing.
Yes, Merling suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury while working out. No, it didn’t happen at the team’s facility.
As a result, the team could place Merling, the first pick in the second round of the 2008 draft, on the non-football injury list, and the Dolphins likewise could withhold his $600,000 base salary for 2010.
Per a league source, Merling suffered the injury while doing pass-rushing drills at a high school field. But since the injury didn’t happen while practicing with the team or working out at the team’s facility, the end result is that it’s no different that an injury suffered while falling in the tub or jumping out of a plane, or any of the various possible circumstances in between.
If the Dolphins, who aren’t generally thrilled with Merling at the present time due in part to his arrest for allegedly beating up his pregnant girlfriend, decide to park him on the NFI list and not pay him, the situation could prompt the union to push for changes to the rules, which would allow players to receive compensation if injured while exercising.
Then again, what is “exercising” for these purposes? Bengals offensive lineman Jason Shirley suffered a season-ending injury playing basketball, something many players do to stay in shape. Shirley has been placed on the NFI list.
Moreover, a chance to the rules would permit players who suffer injuries doing stupid things, like playing flag football in an adult “Y” league, to claim that it happened while lifting weights at home, in preparation for the season.
It remains to be seen whether the Fins put the screws to Merling. The fact that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, represents both V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells and coach Tony Sparano could help, but it possibly won’t help enough.