From the moment agent Blake Baratz characterized tight end Jermichael Finley as facing what amounts to a choice between taking Door No. 1 and a $10 million no-tax disability policy or Door No. 2 and returning to football for whatever pre-tax salaries and bonuses he can muster, it all seemed to be a little too clean and tidy and simple.
Insurance companies love to take money in; they hate to pay money out. Especially in $10 million increments. Unless Finley forked over a lot more as the premium in order to secure for himself the ability in the insurance policy to choose to retire from football even if he’s able to still play and collect the money, the insurance company won’t be zealously bagging up the cash if Finley decides to not play.
Ultimately, the language of the insurance policy controls what Finley can and can’t get. But the idea that he’s carrying around a $10 million golden ticket and the dilemma of cashing it in and retiring or giving it back and and continuing to play probably oversimplifies the situation.
One league source with direct experience pursuing disability benefits for NFL players explained that another player with a neck injury and a disability policy who received clearance from his doctor to play had to fight for two years to get the money. Ultimately, the insurance company paid up because the player had never received any other offers from NFL team after the injury. As a result, the source thinks Finley could end up trying to get the money — and eventually not getting it or at a minimum having to file a lawsuit.
In this case, Finley apparently has received multiple offers from the Steelers, whose team doctor performed the spinal fusion surgery on Finley and cleared him to play earlier this year.
“Pittsburgh have showed me a couple deals, but we all know the money ain’t what it’s supposed to be,” Finley recently told USA Today.
It’s entirely possible that Finley bought the Cadillac of disability policies, with language that lets him make the final decision between playing and not playing, even if he has been cleared to play and if he is receiving offers from teams that want him to play for them. It’s also possible that Finley bought a far more standard policy containing language that allows the company to keep the premium and the benefits.
Whatever the specific language of Finley’s policy, here’s hoping that he knows what it is and that he understands the real decision he’s facing. There’s a chance that, with clearance from Dr. Joseph Maroon and offers from the team the neurosurgeon works for, the decision already has been made.