JC Tretter: Players are watching Ja’Wuan James situation closely

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The Broncos released tackle Ja'Wuan James after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon away from the practice facility. The team’s effort to circumvent a $10 million salary guaranteed for skill, injury, and salary cap will surely lead to litigation. The rest of the league’s players will be paying close attention to the James situation and others like it that may arise.

“You’re tasked with working out year-round,” NFL Players Association president and Browns center JC Tretter told Albert Breer of SI.com. “And guys have always felt teams have their back when they’re training, working out for the season. So players are watching this closely to see which teams aren’t going to have players’ backs. And doing this also disincentivizes guys working out. If you’re going to hold this over my head, and I don’t want to get hurt, well, then I’ll play myself into shape, and protect myself and money.”

Embedded in that quote from Tretter is a thinly-veiled threat. Teams that don’t have their players’ backs when they’re training for the season may have a harder time attracting free agents.

And while Tretter has a point, it’s one thing to cover a player who suffers an injury while working out beyond the confines of the offseason program, such as during the six weeks between the end of OTAs and the start of training camp. It’s quite another to cover a player who deliberately avoids working out at the team facility during the offseason program, especially when the player chooses to work out away from the workplace as part of an on-the-fly effort to secure concessions that could have been sought during formal collective bargaining.

“You really just want to feel like your team would have your back in that situation,” Tretter told Breer. “And then on top of that, you read this memo where it sounds like the league is basically pushing teams to throw injured guys under the bus.”

That’s precisely what the league did, and the league sent that message before James suffered his injury. James, given his social-media reaction to his Friday release, apparently didn’t realize the full extent of the risk he was taking by not working out at the team facility.

Some think James may pursue recovery of his $10 million salary not only from the Broncos but also from the NFLPA. The union possibly would then point a finger at the player’s NFLPA-certified agent, arguing (clumsily) that the agent should have told James not to do what the NFLPA told him to do.

For players who are watching the James case closely, they should also closely consider their own circumstances. Some players can suffer a serious injury at Planet Fitness and not lose a penny. Others will end up being treated like James. It’s critical for every player to assess where he lands in that analysis before deciding whether to continue to assume the full financial risk of an off-site injury.

“I think it’s coming down to control,” Tretter told Breer. “You’ll do what we tell you to do, when we tell you to do it, how we tell you to do it. They haven’t really heard players tell them no before. And now they have had the vast majority tell them no, and I’m sure it grinds some gears on their side. This is about getting to the status quo for them, even though I think we could all realize there’s a better way.”

Embedded in that quote is everything the players need to know about their current circumstances. This effort, which has resulted (per the union) in only 38 percent of players showing up for offseason workouts, constitutes the giving of a middle finger to the league. It therefore exposes the other 62 percent to the possibility of getting a middle finger in return.

Could James ultimately get some or all of his money from the league, the union, and/or his agent? Sure. But he’d get 100 percent of it without a fight if his injury had happened at work.

29 responses to “JC Tretter: Players are watching Ja’Wuan James situation closely

  1. It’s so hard when the constant desire to do less ends up costing you money.

  2. Uhh, they’re watching…and as James himself has said, it’s the NFLPA he’s watching to see if they have his back…not the team who would have had his back if he was working out at a team facility.

  3. It’s a job. There are rules. I would be upset with the players association. They told everyone to stay away if I’m not mistaken and they should have explained all the risks that entailed. Now they act like they are shocked. Do players have th teams back when hey feel they have out performed their contract? Does Aaron Rodgers have the Packers back? He is made at their drafts, well ok but you make what 30m a year? That sounds like a lot of having his back to me.

  4. They should be watching you and your buddies at the NFLPA. Telling the players to skip these workouts was irresponsible from the get go. Like the great Michael Scott once said, “you expect to get screwed by your company, you don’t expect to get screwed by your girlfriend”…

  5. So he opts out during Covid then gets injured while working out away from team facilities. The team is suppose to be loyal to him while he has done the exact opposite for over a year?

    Sucks to say it, but players should learn from this.

    Karma is a….

  6. JC Tretter is merely trying to save himself after the NFLPA gave players unbelievably moronic guidance.

  7. If the injury had happened in February, it would probably be a non-issue. James likely would have gotten paid, and still had a job.

    But the NFLPA decided to pick a fight about OTAs. James went along with that fight. And now he’s paying for it.

  8. The NFLPA acted irresponsibly by directing their members to avoid returning to team facilities. THEY should be the entity protecting the members, financially, not teams who’s recommendations are not being followed.

  9. Has nothing to do w the teams having your backs, bud. It’s about the union having your backs. That’s why unions exist in the first place.

  10. This is a game of chess, not checkers. I hope that each player is being given the best advice for them on this matter because this seems to be a circle of conflict of interest if you exclude the team. Do agent-player-Union leadership all want things that align, maybe. But agendas seem to be served here, and some players beyond James may make foolish decisions and reap the whirlwind unnecessarily where a little planning may have avoided any loss of $ by the players at all.

  11. I think it is about control, but that’s reasonable. They’re not paying guys millions of dollars a year to decide how they feel like playing football. They’re investing in a system that works best when players take part in it. 22 freelancers would be a train wreck.

    To think it’s unfair to have to take part in a guided and monitored system in order to become fantastically wealthy for playing a game is irrational to the extreme.

  12. He should be in the running for the Joe Flacco Money-For_Nothing Hall of Fame.

  13. The players are once again holding the owners responsible for their own unions failure to get them the best deal possible in the last CBA that THEY THE PLAYERS VOTED FOR!! If they wanna whine and complain they should be directing it at D.Smith for his FAILURES at the bargaining table. That’s it…End of Story

  14. I honestly have a hard time wondering why you would choose to work-out anywhere other than the team’s facility. Top-notch equipment and trainers…you’re obviously being paid to do it…it’s let’s your employer see the work you’re putting in…

    If someone has or had serious concerns about COVID then that’s one thing, but what are those concerns, really? Are you afraid to work out with a trainer or spotter? Because if so it makes little sense to do the same thing at a different facility.

    Conversely the player’s point makes sense: don’t tell me I’m expected to work out (maintain a specific physical condition) as a condition of my employment, and then tell me that I get my pay cut for doing that exact thing, in a way that (at the time) was consistent and following the civil/legal authorities recommendations and protocols.

  15. I don’t understand why the NFLPA claims it’s unsafe to workout at a team facility during OTAs but somehow think it’s safe to hold regular practices at the same facility.

  16. There is a big difference between injuring yourself, say driving a motorcycle that you’re not allowed to do. But these guys can’t work out in the off-season without getting their “contract” revoked if they get just. What a crock. What happens if they come into camp out of shape? Again their “contract” gets canceled. Think about this next time a player wants a new deal and everyone starts crying about how you should honor your “contract”

  17. interesting concept…your employer doesn’t pay you if you get hurt outside of work…nflpa that’s what the rest of us deal with on a day to day basis

  18. If the players want the owners to “watch their backs” then they need to drop kick the union through the goal post of reality, for it is the union that advised against attending OTA’s at team facilities without explaining the risks. In doing so, the Unioin took the risk, not the team nor the players, But the dice came up seven. They crapped out and can’t change the rules after the fact.

  19. James should sue the union. He has grounds. If nothing else it will be fun to watch the union try do defend itself by saying it is James’s fault for listening to them.

  20. To me there’s a significant difference between staying in shape in the offseason and deliberately avoiding working out with the team because your union told you not to. The players were warned, it’s on the Union at that point.

  21. In most cases I’m about as liberal as it gets. But unions in today’s economy are ridiculous. They were necessary when you went to the steel mill and lost an arm and were told tough luck 100 years ago. Industry, and basically, as a result, the middle class, does here long ago because a guy with the know-how to build an entire car is forced to only turn one type of screw in one specific part.

    Then there’s pro sports unions. Don’t get me wrong – team owners and captains of industry are NOT generally good people and only care about what’s there’s. I’m also one who never likes the argument “stick to sports” or “you don’t deserve millions to play a kid’s game.” Capitalism is capitalism. What does drive me nuts, though, is when pro athletes don’t want to do extra work. I played at Army and would give almost anything to be able to play football as long as my body would allow. But, wah, we don’t get enough time off??? Your job is your body in the off-season. Teams have the best training staffs in the world. Take two weeks vacation like the rest of us and get your ass to your team’s gym.

  22. It’s usually hard to get all the players to agree on one certain thing, therefor, it’s always been tough to organize a strike among players. And, when it comes to a bunch of millionaires threatening to strike over money issues, hard working American/NFL fans stop supporting the players, and side with the owners. But this issue stinks to high Heaven, and every player, and a huge majority of the fans will support the players. The players have a very weak union, and the owners have gotten used to having everything go their way. Often, the fans agree with the owners. This time the owners, or at least the Broncos, have gone way too far. I’m guessing some of the owners are already trying to solve this issue before it gets any uglier. I mean, it’s not like the guy was out riding a mini-bike, or doing something careless. He was working out for football. Nowadays the pre-season is very short, and the guys are supposed to report to camp in shape. In the old days. the pre-season was long, and the players worked themselves into shape once they arrived at camp. Punishing players for working out is the exact opposite of what every coach wants to see. They should be rewarding guys for working out. I realize the Broncos are currently having ownership issues within the Bowlen family, but this case could be very costly to the other 31 owners. I’m not a fan of the union leadership. Not even a little bit. But this isn’t about the union. This is about the players and the owners. Yeah, you hope the players wake up some day and get new leadership, but you still, you can’t abuse your players. I can’t say anything bad about the other 31 teams. But if they think this is a new trend, there will be some problems. This will get the attention of all the top QB’s, and they won’t turn their backs on the other guys. Believe me.

  23. If you are under contract for a big signing bonus and a $10 million dollar contract you need to show up. Move your family and do whatever. The team should not have paid him and should have gotten other bonus monies back. The NFLPA is the one that gave him horrible advice. Let them MAN UP and deal with it.

  24. If I get hurt outside of work and couldn’t do my jib for a year, my company would not pay me. I am tired the whine we hear from those with the most opportunities. JJ should have insurance and once healthy he can go compete for another job. This like high school when the football stars always wanted special treatment. Forget them.

  25. These players are like children. They want to go do whatever risky behavior they want to do and think they will just be paid anyway. These teams OWN your body because you signed a contract to be available to play sans an on the field or inside the facilities injury. It’s like the military, whereby hurting oneself purposefully is, in fact, damaging government property. I know it sounds overbearing, but in most cases these athletes are getting paid millions of dollars to be able to perform and thereby be sensible about taking care of their bodies. When they don’t, I don’t think it is unreasonable for the team to not pay them. There are consequences to some things still in this country.

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