Joel Bitonio wonders whether JC Tretter is being blackballed for his stance on player safety

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Colin Kaepernick may have some company.

Free-agent center JC Tretter, who also happens to be the NFL Players Association’s president, remains available, in the middle of August. Former Browns teammate Joel Bitonio suggests that Tretter’s role as a vocal advocate for player safety could be contributing to his ongoing unemployment.

“When you have a guy that’s top-five, top-10 at center in the league and he’s not on a roster, you know, and he’s the NFLPA president and maybe some of the owners don’t appreciate what he brings to the table on certain topics when he’s trying to protect player safety and things of that nature, it seems a little suspicious to me,” Bitonio said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “But, again, I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. I don’t know what his conversations have been with teams and stuff, but just from an outside perspective usually players that are close to the top of their game get picked up. Teams want to win in this league. So it’s an interesting topic, for sure.”

Teams want to win in this league. That was the excuse the Commissioner repeatedly gave for teams not signing Kaepernick. Teams want to win, so they would never fail to pursue a player who can help them win. (Unless they’re tanking, of course.)

The Browns cut Tretter earlier this year, saving more than $8.235 million in cap space. The Browns also lost center Nick Harris for the season on Friday night. The Bucs previously lost center Ryan Jensen, possibly for the year. There has been no serious suggestion that either team will sign Tretter.

None of this has stopped Tretter from doing his job for the NFL’s players. On Saturday, Tretter sounded off on the condition of the playing surface at Soldier Field.

A fourth-round pick in 2013, Tretter spent four years with the Packers and five with the Browns. He ranked 89th on the Pro Football Focus list of the top 101 players of 2021.

Would it be crazy to think that owners are shying away from Tretter because he has become an agitator to the oligarchs? Nope. That’s another reason why high-profile (and highly-compensated) quarterbacks should be more involved in union leadership. They’re far less likely to be blackballed, and they’re far more likely to take command of the rank and file if/when a line must be drawn in the sand — even if it means a work stoppage.

For now, it makes sense to pay attention to what happens with Tretter. If the goal is to keep him out of the league because he helps run the union, ignoring it makes it easier for the owners to pull it off.

39 responses to “Joel Bitonio wonders whether JC Tretter is being blackballed for his stance on player safety

  1. Don’t forget about Tebow too! Never allowed to start again at Qb after going 8-5 with a playoff win!

  2. He should be in a 49ers uniform yesterday; losing Alex Mack’s line calls is going to have an underrated effect up front for us. Cal-Berkeley grad to Cornell grad. (Jake Brendel and Dan Brunskill scare me in Trey Lance’s first year starting)

  3. He was cut to save cap space and I am sure they went to him to reduce the cap number and he probably said no. So the other obvious reason he is not signed is he is asking for more than teams are willing to pay. And now two, and possibly more teams, are hurting at center, so he has the leverage to get what he wants or close to it.

  4. I am sure the Union Leader thing has something to do with it, but perhaps the long term $10M+ per year he wants plays a bigger role. Soon their will be 1,184 unemployed NFL players. Many of them will have experience at Center and come for far less. A playoff caliper team that has a Starting Center go down to injury and then yes, he gets the call.

  5. Tretter was overrated, but at least he was an ironman in the middle. The bigger, stronger and faster defensible tackles coming into the league make veterans like Tretter expendable. And for GB to let him walk 5 years ago is something to consider. I would expect he will still get picked up this year but a team would need to be out of options.

  6. Might as well just wait until week 2 to sign guys so their salaries aren’t guaranteed.

  7. Sure, it has nothing to do with the fact that he is unable to practice through the week due to bad knees.

  8. I imagine the Browns are going to have to cut quite a few higher-salaried players to get the cash to pay Watson.

  9. This assumes the other owners care more about sticking up for their own than risking their star players tearing an ACL on those clumps of sod they call turf

  10. It’s probably his asking price otherwise he be a Buc or 49er by now! Good players remain on the street only due to their contract demands

  11. Unfortunately this seems to happen to every NFLPA president eventually. Not sure why it doesn’t happen to MLB, NBA, and NHL union presidents.

  12. Why pick him up now? There will be cheaper Centers available after the next couple cut downs. I’m sure his asking price is out of range for the teams like the Browns and BUCS who are up against the salary cap. He’ll get signed when he signs for $5 Mill or less.

  13. Of course he’s being blackballed, the owners don’t like signing guys who speak their mind.

    See: Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Cole Beasley…. the list goes on

  14. With Harris down for the year, people are talking about JC Tretter returning to the Browns. That is NEVER going to happen. Why? Logistics. Deshaun Watson’s hands in the crotch of the President of the NFLPA on every play just simply is not going to work out.

  15. There is no reason to dream up excuses. The guy can’t stay healthy, can’t practice (just came out on game day) and if you sign him now his veteran contract for the season is guaranteed. There is no shortage of teams that would take a chance on him. Just not until after week one.

  16. It’s all about the money he wants. The reason GB let him walk. Probably the same reason Cleveland let him walk.

  17. minime says:

    August 14, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Want to be safe?
    Don’t play football

    No one said safe, they said safer. Every type of transportation you use has improved since the 1st to get safer. Besides that its obvious you dont actually read since the latest talking point was bad field conditions.

  18. The combo of him being unable to practice due to his knees and the likelihood that he doesn’t want to play for the vet minimum are more likely the reasons he hasn’t been signed. He could be someone that is signed after week 1, when their salary is not guaranteed for the year.

  19. Bucs have an adequate replacement for Jensen, and they STILL don’t know that he won’t be back by playoff time. (Still swelling, can’t yet be determined if the ACL is gone)

  20. He doesn’t practice. Plays on one leg. With the local CLE sports media saying he was never truly healthy during his time there. And he was cut to save CLE $8+ million on the cap.

    Sorry, but this is looking for something to be outraged about where none is needed.

    He will get his chance. It just won’t be for the 8 figures he is looking for.

    And if I got a young starting QB who can’t get reps in during the week with his starting Center, then I will take my chances with a younger guy who will practice and who can be developed at half the cost.

    The rest is noise.

  21. Don’t ever compare JC Tretter to Colin Kaepernick. Tretter is a better player, and more importantly a better man, than Kaepernick.

  22. Tretter played 4 years for the Packers and 5 for the Browns. Tretter was a good player for the Packers but couldn’t stay healthy (played in ~2 seasons worth of games over 4 years) so they drafted All-Pro Corey Linsley. It’s remarkable that he’s been able to play in every game as a Brown, but yeah, the guy has bad knees.

  23. It’s not impossible considering Tretter was one of the best centers in football last year despite barely practicing due to his knees.

    That being said, two possible other scenarios:

    -Retirement doesn’t sound bad to Tretter but he’s willing to come back, but only at a certain price and nobody has hit that price yet. Wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.

    -Tretter just doesn’t want to go through the grind of training camp and is waiting until we get closer to the season. Tretter is a smart, experienced player that no doubt keeps himself in good shape. He’s one of those guys who could get away with not going through a full off season with his team.

  24. Or, Maybe the owners are just mad at how staunchly he is defending deshaun watson and the sickness he has perpetrated on the world…

  25. Good points in the article. Bitonio seems to be fair in judgment since he said “from the outside it appears” this way but that he is not in the room with JC Tretter when he is talking to teams, so he cannot conclude definitively. With all the emotionally politicized drama and conspiracy theories, Bitonio’s approach to handling information appears to be honest and does not go past the information that he has access too. I wish he could educate the masses in this technique. We have known, but it continues to be seen that the NFL (aka the owners) wants the appearance of accountability in public relations but not where the rubber meets the road.

  26. Who is this Joel B guy?? All of a sudden he’s become the mouthpiece for the Browns. Maybe you can share your salary with him since you feel so bad. How would that work out for you.

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