As we explained on May 4: “If a player suffers any injury while doing anything away from the supervision of the team, the condition is regarded as a ‘non-football injury.’ As a result, the player’s team could choose to not pay the player until the injury has healed.”
It’s not a new concept, some discovery made while Mort was scouring through the fine print of the new CBA. Injuries and illnesses occurring away from the team facility are “non-football injuries” or “non-football illnesses,” respectively. And whether the team will pay the player always is optional.
The Patriots, for example, paid linebacker Tedy Bruschi when he missed a season after surgery to repair a hole in his heart that caused a stroke. Other players who have suffered illnesses or injuries unrelated to their employment surely have been stiffed, with little fanfare from the team that decided not to continue to issue game checks for a guy who can’t play for reasons unrelated to anything that happened in the line of duty.
As to Suggs and Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, a decision to not pay key players who claim they were injured while working out would be extremely unpopular, both with the affected players and with their peers. Even if Suggs injured himself playing basketball, many NFL players spend portions of the offseason playing basketball, with no objection from their teams. As to the Ravens, receiver Torrey Smith and other players (like defensive tackle Terrence Cody) participated in a charity basketball game in March. If the Ravens had a problem with that, the Ravens surely would have told them not to do it.
Or, at a minimum, the Ravens would have told every member of the team that they play basketball at their own peril.
Now, the Ravens and Eagles may attempt withhold salary at their own peril. Barring evidence that the injuries occurred while the players were engaged in irresponsible and/or reckless activities, any money the teams save will translate to far greater losses in locker-room goodwill.