The NFL seized on the injury suffered by Broncos tackle Ja'Wuan James to explain to players (via a memo to all teams, telling the teams something they’ve known for decades) that injuries suffered away from the facility, even while working out for football reasons, can jeopardize a player’s salary, along with other benefits. On Thursday, the NFL Players Association fired back.
PFT has confirmed that the NFLPA sent an email to all players regarding the James injury, and the NFL memo regarding it. The memo was first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Media.
In the email, the NFLPA calls the NFL “gutless” for using a player’s serious injury as a “scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.”
“This memo is yet another sign of what they think of you and also affirms that they simply want to control you year-round in any and every way that they can,” the NFLPA tells its members.
Then comes the most important portion of the email, even though it’s buried deep in the message. “Despite the open threat of an ‘NFI’ designation, Ja’Wuan was working out to stay in shape under a program recommended to him by his coach,” the email contends.
This implies that the union may plan to challenge any non-football injury designation, based on the argument that, even though James was away from the facility, his injury was covered because he was following a workout regimen recommended by his coach (presumably, his strength and conditioning coach). A union source, when asked by PFT whether this argument will be made, pointed out that the Broncos haven’t placed James on the NFI list yet, and that the “reality is most of these types of injuries get resolved.”
While that may be accurate, James wouldn’t be forced to fight for his $10 million (and potentially more) if he’d suffered the injury at the facility. There would be no argument to be made that the injury wasn’t covered.
Here, the Broncos have the right to force the issue. James will have the right to file a grievance under the labor deal. Multiple sources have predicted that the argument will fail, that there’s no off-site protection against injury, despite the reason or type of workout.
Again, there would be no fight whatsoever if James had simply worked out at the team facility — especially if he was going to be conducting a training regimen recommended by the team.