The COVID-19 procedures have prevented free agents from traveling to team doctors and team doctors from traveling to free agents. Which has created a situation in which doctors who may have never administered a physical to a professional athlete will be asking the free agent to turn his head cough and/or inducing a few spontaneous bars of Moon River.
So what happens if/when the player fails a physical implemented by Dr. Nick Riviera or someone of similar skill?
The NFL Players Association has given guidance to agents regarding optimal contract language aimed at giving the player maximum flexibility in the event that an outside doctor over whom the team has no control decides to put the kibosh on the physical.
“When negotiating the terms under which a free agent may receive a ‘neutral physician exam’ or an examination by the Club physician at a later date,” the email to all agents explains, “please keep in mind that if you expressly condition eligibility for any roster or signing bonus on passing such an examination, if your client fails such examination he may not be entitled to his roster or signing bonus yet remain under contract with the new Club.”
The NFLPA has recommended alternative language aimed at ensuring that a failed physical will result in the player becoming a free agent instead of remaining under contract but without eligibility for his signing bonus or roster bonus. Here it is: “Unless Club agrees to waive for all purposes the requirement that Player pass a physical examination, and notwithstanding any other provision of this Contract, as a condition precedent to the formation of this Contract, Player must take and pass a physical examination administered by the Club physician, or, if an examination with the Club physician is infeasible, a physician jointly selected by the parties in which case the jointly selected physician’s opinion shall in all respects be deemed to be the opinion of the Club physician.”
It’s possible that this is one of the reasons that the Tom Brady contract in Tampa Bay was delayed. Whatever the reason, the fact that he’ll undergo a physical today means that they have resolved those issues and are proceeding.