Earlier this year, Dolphins defensive end Phillip Merling allegedly punched his pregnant girlfriend. Now, the team could be hitting Merling right in the man purse.
In the wake of the news that Merling suffered a season-ending Achilles’ tendon tear while working out on his own, the Dolphins reportedly are considering the possibility of placing Merling on the reserve/non-football injury list. (We reported on the possible tactic last Friday.) In turn, they would not be required to pay Merling a single penny of his $600,000 base salary.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins are negotiating with Merling’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, the possibility of a compromise that would result in Merling taking a reduced payment. Young, unproven players routinely are compelled to include “split salary” provisions in their contracts, which cuts their pay in half if they land on injured reserve due to an injury suffered during training camp or the preseason. It would seem fair, arguably, for Merling to get half of his pay.
The fact that Sexton also represents Dolphins V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells and coach Tony Sparano likely will make it easier to work something out.
Either way, look for a decision to come soon. The Dolphins open training camp on Friday, and they’ll need to account for Merling’s roster spot. Unless and until they put him on IR or NFI, they’ll have to count him toward the 80-man limit.
We’re still troubled by the ability of a team to stiff a player who suffers a serious injury while working out on his own. The problem remains, however, that a rule requiring teams to pay players who are hurt while engaged in training activities away from the team would give the players an easy way to explain away any non-football injury as something that happened while exercising.