The Rams did something they arguably didn’t have to do with sixth-round receiver Bud Sasser. Instead of rescinding their rights to him after learning that he has a heart condition that they believe will prevent him from playing, they signed him to a contract, paid him a $113,737 signing bonus, and then waived him with a non-football illness designation.
“We did some extensive studies after the draft,” coach Jeff Fisher told reporters on Thursday, via a transcript prepared by the team. “They’re very extensive, as you can imagine, and it was determined and concluded by numerous physicians that he had a pre-existing condition that we don’t feel will allow him to play. . . .
“He was a non-Combine guy and that happens sometimes. Our team physicians, outside physicians, other specialists recommended that he not play. It was a pre-existing condition. We agreed to terms. He got a signing bonus. We’re just going to see what his future holds.”
Sasser’s agent believes the future holds the possibility of Sasser playing. Along with the present.
“He has a very small case of the diagnosis given in St. Louis, he is at little to no risk, he should be able to play,” agent Scott Thield told the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune, via veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer. “The doctor told Bud he in fact knows there are others in the league playing with this same issue.”
Thield claims that Sasser received a second opinion from doctors at the Mayo Clinic, who cleared Sasser to play. And there’s no doubt Sasser wants to play.
“It sucks. I would like to get out there and play,” Sasser told the Tribune. “There’s nothing like sitting back and watching, I’ll tell you that much. If the opportunity comes up, I’ll happily take it. As of right now, I don’t really have an idea where to go from here.”
Sasser will be exposed to waivers, and another team could claim the balance of his contract, with the Rams already paying the signing bonus. If he’s unclaimed, Sasser will be placed on the Rams’ NFI list, which means he will be unable to play this season. It’ll be up to the Rams whether to pay his rookie salary of $435,000.
If there’s any team remotely interested in Sasser, it essentially would cost nothing to claim him on waivers, bring him in, check him out, and make a decision on whether he should be cleared to play. If he’s not, the new team would waive him like the Rams did, and the worst-case scenario is that he’d be placed on NFI list and not be paid.
It’s impossible to know Sasser’s worst-case scenario from a financial standpoint without knowing whether the Rams would pay him while on NFI — and whether the claims him on waivers would do the same, if he fails a physical there, too.
From a health standpoint, the worst-case scenario is obvious given that the condition involves a fairly important organ. On one hand, the player/patient should be permitted to make his own decisions about any health risks he may or may not have. On the other hand, at some point teams need to protect players from themselves.