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Brandon Thomas situation unprecedented for NFL, teams

Thomas Getty Images

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wisely has decided not to risk injury during private workouts, due to the experiences of tackle Brandon Thomas, who tore an ACL while showing the Saints what he can do.

But what about Thomas?  Who pays for his surgery and rehab?  Who compensates him for the income lost as a result of the injury?

As one source with knowledge of the situation recently explained it to PFT, it’s an unprecedented situation.  Which means there’s no guidance or established practice or anything else to lead the parties through this.

Unfortunately for Thomas, his case will create that precedent.  And it will serve as a tangible worst-case scenario for players and agents faced with the question of whether to attend private workouts.

Those who want to see Clowney tumble down the board and into their clutches undoubtedly will seize on his decision to whisper to reporters under the cover of anonymity that Clowney’s decision provides further evidence of his alleged laziness.  But before any scouts try to push that agenda, they should ask themselves whether they’d advise their own son to risk injury by working out for teams without compensation or protection, especially after spending the last three years practicing and playing and doing all the other stuff necessary to position himself to get eventually paid without compensation or protection against an injury that could wipe it all out.

Good for Clowney and good for anyone else who takes a stand and refuses to risk injury without real protection.  Here’s hoping someone provides Brandon Thomas with some sort of protection for injuring himself during what amounts to a job interview.

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46 Responses to “Brandon Thomas situation unprecedented for NFL, teams”
  1. crubenst says: Apr 14, 2014 9:53 AM

    Doesn’t he just sue the Saints insurance company since the injury happened on their property?

  2. touchdownroddywhite says: Apr 14, 2014 9:55 AM

    It will be very ugly if they hang him out to dry. I’m sure that while the NFL doesn’t have a precedent for this, there is one. I’ve had to travel for job interviews, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. What would happen if I crashed the company provided rental car and injured myself during my travels? Surely there are laws in place for this kind of thing.

  3. savocabol1 says: Apr 14, 2014 9:56 AM

    You want a guy to workout for you? Fine, you have to pay any bills relating to injury.

  4. whodat5150 says: Apr 14, 2014 9:57 AM

    Hopefully, my Saints will step up to the plate and and take care of his medical needs. And if he’s not drafted, they should at least bring him in as an undrafted FA and put him on the practice squad for the upcoming season. C’mon Saints, do the right thing by this kid.

  5. marthisdil says: Apr 14, 2014 9:59 AM

    Don’t a bunch of players take out insurance policies to cover them between them leaving college and joining the pros – just for this type of case?

  6. colv says: Apr 14, 2014 10:00 AM

    Agree, and the NFL will not set a precedent by helping him either. Hope they do and I’m wrong. The years of college ball, scouting and miles of tape should be enough for teams. Personal interviews to distinguish character, yea. I don’t know his personal background, hopefully his parents have him on their health insurance.

  7. uwsptke says: Apr 14, 2014 10:01 AM

    The NFL isn’t going to want these private workouts to stop like this, but putting the risk entirely on the team that’s working out a draft prospect is still going to make some teams hesitate. The NFL will have to fund some sort of insurance policy to at least cover the player medically. Compensating lost wages is much more tricky since it’s completely subjective. Every year there’s a guy with a 2nd-3rd round draft grade that slips to round 5 or later.

  8. MedicFL1 says: Apr 14, 2014 10:03 AM

    This pretty much just changed the way things will run in the future.
    Teams will want an”as-is” contract while players must require coverage against current/future earnings….w/ an “acts of God” clause.

  9. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 14, 2014 10:04 AM

    Just another gap in the system, but nobody associated with the NFL or the NFLPA or the NCAA or the USA seems to have any motivation to look out for these youngsters. They are on their own and often foolishly taking advice from their agents or other people that don’t know how to help them with this conundrum. If I’m Brandon Thomas and my agent convinced me to do this, then I’m telling the agent to compensate me or I’m getting a new agent. Or anybody else that is supposed to be looking out for my best interests can all go find a new client if they can’t figure out how to alleviate this problem.

  10. boobsanders says: Apr 14, 2014 10:05 AM

    The Saints should pay those bills. The kid did what they wanted him to do, then he gets hurt and the Saints staff just takes the next plane out of town, leaving him behind with one knee shot and plenty to pay for those bills that he can’t afford (yet). But this is the NFL under Goodell. It’s more important to figure out how to play as many games as possible in the UK so his own pockets get filled.

  11. fdugrad says: Apr 14, 2014 10:08 AM

    I don’t know if he was working out at the Saints’ facility, but if he was, shouldn’t the Saints pay for the operation and rehab? I suppose it’s a more complicated situation, however, common sense points to Saints.

  12. nyfootballgiants says: Apr 14, 2014 10:17 AM

    I think that there should be an agreement with the teams to take out short term policies to cover against major injury (to protect the teams from frivilous lawsuits, and to protect the athlete from risk).

    These policies will only cover the workouts – and would be relatively inexpensive – and would allow the athletes to work out without risk.

    I assume that the teams would do the physical before putting them through the drills, in order to establish a baseline (and protect them from getting hit with a previous injury).

  13. bworacle says: Apr 14, 2014 10:21 AM

    Clowney’s problems are mental not physical. He’ll do more damage by interviewing than he will by not working out.

  14. philyeagles5 says: Apr 14, 2014 10:26 AM

    There’s enough on film. These workouts are pointless.

  15. pfatl says: Apr 14, 2014 10:27 AM

    If only there was a product you could purchase that could protect you against your risk exposure from injury based on your perceived value… if only… you know something that would ENSURE that even if you were hurt, you would be paid… IM SURE someone could figure out IN SURE terms, how to fix this problem.

  16. campcouch says: Apr 14, 2014 10:35 AM

    The injured player should automatically become the last pick of the team that he was working out for. Since draft position isn’t guaranteed for a player nor is getting drafted,at worst he should be signed at the rookie minimum for a year with a 2nd year option. He can rehab and then get some playing time if he chooses to remain with the team.

  17. oakfolk says: Apr 14, 2014 10:37 AM

    The NFL really lack foresight to not see something like this eventually happening.

  18. quirtevans says: Apr 14, 2014 10:38 AM

    “Doesn’t he just sue the Saints insurance company since the injury happened on their property?”

    Well, first of all, you don’t sue the insurance company. You sue the Saints. Then insurance is forced to defend them.

    But second of all, sue them for what? You have to have a cause of action. The mere fact of injury isn’t sufficient. Suppose he’d had a heart attack while walking through the front door? Does that mean the Saints have to pay his medical bills?

    The most obvious cause of action would be a tort for negligence, but there’s no allegation, so far, that the Saints did anything negligent.

    Morally, the Saints (or the NFL) should cover his medical bills. But legally, I don’t see a basis, unless they do so voluntarily.

    This is why prospective draftees should have insurance.

    In a more reasonable world, the NFL would buy an insurance policy to cover everyone invited to the combine and all private workouts. So far, that’s not the world we live in.

  19. clarencewhorley says: Apr 14, 2014 10:38 AM

    Hoping my Patriots grab him in the 5th or 6th or potentially with our compensatory pick and stash him on IR for the year (like the 49ers did with Lattimore and Tank Carradine last year).

  20. bearflagfan says: Apr 14, 2014 10:51 AM

    This is definitely something the NFLPA should work out with the NFL, even if its a COBRA-like offer of insurance (which I believe by law he should have been offered).

    Thomas’ injury didn’t occur while he was on vacation. Presumably the drills he was performing were requested by the Saints on the Saints behalf on Saints property. However the Saints might want Thomas to sue so they could settle rather than enter a player contract with its accompanying hit on their salary cap.

  21. stew48 says: Apr 14, 2014 10:54 AM

    It is hard to imagine this is new to NFL. However, has anyone asked either (or both) the NFL and Saints if they are going to underwrite his situation?

  22. sandersmarcus10 says: Apr 14, 2014 11:00 AM

    NFL teams have college practice film, game film, coaches recommendations and insight, scouting reviews, senior bowl, north/south games, combine and pro days and they still want private workouts, just dont understand it. I can see private interviews to really get to know a person but a private workout every week is just putting yourself in harms way.

  23. tremoluxman says: Apr 14, 2014 11:08 AM

    I agree with what Florio said in an earlier post. If I was a player, I wouldn’t submit myself to the NFL’s dog-and-pony show. I’d say, “Look, you guys have 4 (or however many) years of game tape on me. Going through the Underwear Olympics won’t show you anything more. I’ll answer any and all questions in one-on-one interviews, but running around doing drills? No.”

  24. FinFan68 says: Apr 14, 2014 11:12 AM

    I believe the player is the one with the risk so the player would be responsible for this kind of stuff. There are insurance policies available and it is not right to complain about the consequences of choosing not to purchase them. Players can also work out agreements with teams for these types of situations. This is not new or a unique situation at all

  25. chooch2720 says: Apr 14, 2014 11:15 AM

    The NFL will look into this to see what can be done. But basically all it will become is that the teams will buy extra insurance with the insurance companies to cover any injuries that occur during the workout(but there will be a clause if a player gets drafted that the money he earned though insurance until signing his contract be offset by his salary- on salary not medical bill). Win for the Insurance Company

    But this guy will get drafted, signed to a contract, receive medical treatment from the team that drafts him, be placed on IR for his rookie year and then start off the offseason training program with his team next year.

    Bottom line this is like the Lattimore situation last year where an injury or injuries took the player from the mid to late 1st/early 2nd rd to being a 3rd day pick and the team going to get a steal by picking him and putting him on IR for a year. Which = him getting paid the rookie minimum this year.

  26. oreo51 says: Apr 14, 2014 11:17 AM

    The reality is a lot of kids get hurt during their conditioning programs prior to the combine. They get hurt in college. It is all for the NFL. Where does the teams liability begin?

  27. liquidchaoss says: Apr 14, 2014 11:21 AM

    Sure hope he got Aflac.

  28. sarcasm says: Apr 14, 2014 11:26 AM

    The NFL, or the NFLPA, or both jointly should have some form of insurance in place for players and these workouts, & the combine. Just as the schools should have some form of insurance in place if said workout occurs on a pro day.

    Complicated situation. Feel for the guy.

  29. joeknowsnada says: Apr 14, 2014 11:31 AM

    Okay, normally I am always on the side of the player or prospect. Here, I will not be.
    The player CAN refuse to work out. The Agent gets paid to protect the player, both from himself and from the NFL teams demanding workouts. I don’t think the teams can be held responsible, unless the conditions under which the player was put thru his paces were unusual – bad surface, rainy day, extraordinary drills, etc.
    My point – it’s called a private workout, but, it’s also a try out. So, let’s say the player survives the workout. Gets drafted. Goes to OTAs, rips ACL or Achilles there and then. Team would pay him, more often than not; he is their employee or contractee. Team then gets nothing out of him for a year or two. Is THAT fair?
    Can you really blame the tryout or private workout for the injury? If it happened then, it could also have happened privately, when the player was lifting, or running, or doing drills with a personal trainer. It’s all luck of the draw. I hate when people say that, just because there is someone around who can pay up, and who asked the player to perform, that, suddenly, they are, then, responsible for anything that happened to the player on that particular day. What if the player tripped on his way out to the venue and twised his knees, and tore his ACL? Is that the team’s fault? What if the player collapses and dies, god forbid. Is that team responsible? I think not.

  30. jswheeler says: Apr 14, 2014 11:32 AM

    Don’t a bunch of players take out insurance policies to cover them between them leaving college and joining the pros – just for this type of case?

    Only the smart ones do.

  31. buzzardpointlookout says: Apr 14, 2014 11:36 AM

    Rule #1: Once your college career is finished, get insurance against this exact thing before you work out anywhere. Better yet, get insurance while you are still playing college ball.

  32. darthsaint says: Apr 14, 2014 11:45 AM

    First off, I hope the NFL handles this situation by putting into place a clearer process for if and when such things happen. As a player you take on some of this risk, there are no two ways about it. But at the same time, you are performing for an NFL team at that point, no longer performing for your university. You have officially started with the professional side of this game.

    Second, I hope my team does the right thing by this young man and helps him with his rehab. I’m not sure the Saints are on the hook for his yearly salary per se. But there should be some level of compensation to ensure he has the ability to rehab and prepare for either a FA contract or to be drafted.

    If drafted or signed by another team, that obligation then shifts to that new team. Seems fair…I hope he heals quickly.

  33. txtuff says: Apr 14, 2014 11:55 AM

    Clowney only got 3 sacks last year because he didn’t want to get hurt, now doesn’t want to work out because he doesn’t want to get hurt.

    Dude its football and you are supposed to be the best player in the draft? Man up and at like it!

    Man I hope the Texans don’t take this guy.

  34. pixelito says: Apr 14, 2014 12:04 PM

    The Saints should be held accountable for every dollar he won’t get to earn in the NFL.

  35. clashpoint says: Apr 14, 2014 12:21 PM

    Knee surgeries are getting better and better. There are guys in the NFL now who have torn one knee multiple times, or even both knees, and have still become very productive players. I think/hope someone will take the kid anyway late in the draft and figure that while they won’t get much this year, they’ll get a high round talent cheap for next year.

  36. CKL says: Apr 14, 2014 12:24 PM

    I’ll be the dumb one: what happens when a player gets hurt in one of the post college career games like the Senior bowl, or at the Combine? Whatever is the procedure for covering those injuries would be at least the starting point since they are all after the college career is over, but before a pro team drafts them.

  37. abninf says: Apr 14, 2014 12:53 PM

    “Those who want to see Clowney tumble down the board and into their clutches undoubtedly will seize on his decision to whisper to reporters under the cover of anonymity that Clowney’s decision provides further evidence of his alleged laziness. ”
    =================================

    I guess his college coach made his statement because he wants Clowney to slip back into his clutch?

  38. hobiecat1 says: Apr 14, 2014 12:56 PM

    Private insurance is available. Maybe agents should offer it to their clients.

    If you’re a sure fire pick and don’t have much to gain from working out, don’t work out. If you’re a guy hoping to get drafted or possibly trying to make a move up in the draft…work out. Just weigh the cost of doing so with or without some sort of private insurance.

    Who knows by working out for a particular team, you may be able to help yourself choose your final destination.

  39. fringetastic says: Apr 14, 2014 12:57 PM

    Are they more likely to injure themselves doing a workout for a team than they are working out for themselves? I don’t think so.

    All these guys are working out all the time to be in shape. On Tuesday, a guy is either doing a workout for a team, or doing it on his own. Either way, the injury risk is there.

    So as long as they continue to workout, not doing it for teams is not logical.

  40. thelastwordyaheard says: Apr 14, 2014 1:06 PM

    this situation may be unprecedented, but it’s not at all unforeseeable ..it is, after all, football.. the fact that the league/teams/union do not have a plan in place for this exact scenario is inexcusable & embarrassing

  41. hobiecat1 says: Apr 14, 2014 1:17 PM

    A simple solution to me is to just have NFL teams require that the player carries liability insurance before being allowed to work out. Insurance for a day could even be purchased at the team’s facilities.

    It could be payed for by the team, the player or the agent. Basically depending upon how badly they want you to work out for them..or how badly you want to be able to work out for them.

    You can’t attend most sports camps without some sort of personal liability insurance policy.

  42. eceverett66 says: Apr 14, 2014 2:53 PM

    As for who pays for his surgery and rehab, we do. It’s called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” He either has his own, is on his parent(s) plan or is in violation of the law (unless the Emperor grants him an exemption).

    As to lost compensation, he may have some standing for action against the Saints (or perhaps his agent does), who will then turn it over to an insurance company for investigation, at which time the case will enter limbo, never to be heard of again (outside of denials by mail or petty courtroom maneuvers and a settlement to enrich the legal teams at a later date).

    Eventually, he will heal, sign a contract and if he performs, get paid; and then he will likely forget the whole thing (though his agent probably will not).

  43. randomcommenter says: Apr 14, 2014 3:46 PM

    Here’s a novel concept. He pays for himself. This was a voluntary workout. He wasn’t forced to do anything. It’s bad luck for him but why is that the Saints problem that he had an accident?

    I could see if there was something wrong with the turf that directly caused the injury but other than that, why should the Saints pay?

    When did we go off the rails where we are constantly looking for somebody else to pay for us?

    He should have had insurance and if he didn’t that’s on him and his agent.

  44. smuthe says: Apr 14, 2014 4:57 PM

    Players should have a general idea of where they’re going to be drafted based off mock drafts and talking with their agents. Approximate what that draft position would get paid based off previous years slotting (this is easier to do now under the new CBA), double it to be safe, get insurance for that amount in case something like this happens. You would think something like this would be common practice by now.

  45. reprocity says: Apr 14, 2014 8:14 PM

    So, according to Florio: Clowney shouldn’t have played last season AND shouldn’t be working out for teams either. If you were his agent he’d be a 2nd round pick by now!

  46. dancingkokapelli says: Apr 14, 2014 8:25 PM

    I must admit that I am extremely sympathetic for this young man, but isn’t the point of these pre-draft workouts meant to see if these kids can play at the next level? That means mentally and physically have what it takes to go from being a collage player to an NFL players where the game is much faster, and the hits are much harder. Assuming that the Saints didn’t have him do anything out of the ordinary that could be considered as reckless, I don’t see how it’s the teams responsibility to compensate this kid for his injury as far as loss of potential income. Who knows if the knee was already weakened by playing college football or from a pick-up game of basketball a few weeks earlier. I do think there needs to be some sort of insurance protecting these kids in the event that an injury occurs under these circumstances, but he’s not part of the Saints organization and other than possibly paying his medical expenses, I can’t see where they owe him anything more. And even that should be more of an NFL insurance program, and not fall on one team specifically. It sucks for him! But, if he really has what it takes to play at the NFL level there are plenty of great doctors these days that can possibly give him a chance to play again. But, whether he has what it takes to play at the professional level remains to be seen. Maybe it’s just pure bad luck! Or, a sign that he wasn’t built to play professional football.

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