Cardinals defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin spent last season on the practice squad and is just hoping to make the 53-man roster as a minimum-salary player this season. Which means $21,000 is a lot of money to Lumpkin.
So it’s going to be painful for Lumpkin that he was fined $21,000 for roughing the passer in last week’s preseason game against the Raiders. Lumpkin struck Raiders quarterback Matt Leinart in the head and neck area, and Leinart suffered a finger injury when he fell and had to leave the game.
The rules are the rules, and Lumpkin did commit a penalty, but the rules make player fines a lot more severe for players like Lumpkin than for the NFL’s highest-paid players. A $21,000 fine will be the standard this season for roughing the passer, and it will be the same for every player, regardless of whether he makes the rookie minimum of $390,000 or whether he has a contract that guarantees him tens of millions of dollars.
Preseason fines aren’t actually collected unless the player makes the regular-season roster. For Lumpkin, the collection of the $21,000 will come in installments, because if he makes the team his weekly paychecks will be less than $21,000 after taxes. Lumpkin also has the ability to appeal his fine as excessive because it represents more than 25 percent of his weekly pay. But it seems unfair to fine a guy even 25 percent of his weekly pay in the first place, especially when it’s the preseason and he hasn’t started earning that weekly pay yet. A $21,000 fine is pocket change to some NFL players, but it’s a small fortune to Lumpkin.