Filing Formally Requests Comprehensive List of Players Eligible for Injury Protection Benefit
The NFLPA filed an unfair labor practices claim with the NLRB Friday in an effort to obtain the names of players who would qualify for the injury protection benefit under the collective bargaining agreement. The new CBA significantly expands this benefit to players who qualify, but the NFL has yet to turn over the full list of players who could be eligible. According to union sources, the NFLPA has asked for this list repeatedly from the League and in October, filed a grievance with the system arbitrator. The union hopes that the NLRB claim will expedite the receipt of players on this list.
This filing aims to address situations like those of players Hunter Hillenmeyer, who the NFL has refused to cover under the injury protection benefit.
The NFL has refused Hillenmeyer coverage despite an independent neuropsychologist concluding it was too dangerous for Hillenmeyer to continue his football career. The League cites the Commissioner’s “Return to Play” guidelines to exclude Hillenmeyer and a growing number of other players who have benefits or salary due to them under the 2011 CBA. Essentially, because Hillenmeyer did not display concussion symptoms during his end-of-season physical and his cognitive scores had returned to a baseline level, he was deemed ineligible for the injury protection benefit. So while an independent neuropsychologist recorded Hillenmeyer’s injuries sustained while playing together with his history of concussions means he risks serious or catastrophic aggravation or re-injury if he were to step on the field again, Hillenmeyer was denied a benefit explicitly for players “physically unable, because of a severe football injury in an NFL game or practice” to play in the last game of the season.
“I filed the (injury protection benefit) paperwork thinking it was a pretty open-and-shut deal. Now, I can’t point the finger directly at (Bears General Counsel Cliff Stein) or (former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo) because they might have just been following orders from the (NFL Management Council), but they could have just agreed to the claim and it would have been done,” Hillenmeyer told the Chicago Tribune.
“At first I was pretty upset — with Jerry in particular — that someone who had played above my pay grade for him for eight years would be getting squeezed like this on the way out the door,” Hillenmeyer continued. “In hindsight, given the murky and evasive correspondence from the league office, I would think that he was just following orders.”
Clubs report the names of players who fail end-of-season physicals to the League, but currently, the only way for the NFLPA to determine if a player is on that list is for the union to file an individual grievance on the player’s behalf. By gaining access to the list of players who are physically unable to perform at end of season, the NFLPA will be able to better serve its players and protect their right to access the injury protection benefit.