Following each NFL season, the National Football League is now required to send to the NFL Players Association a list of all players who may be eligible for the Injury Protection Benefit.
The Injury Protection Benefit is a benefit available to a player if he meets the following criteria: (1) Suffers an injury in an NFL game or practice which causes him to be unable to play in all or part of the last game of the season of injury, or, which results in club-authorized offseason surgery; (2) Undergoes reasonable and customary club-required rehabilitation in the offseason following the injury; and (3) Fails the club’s preseason physical for the season following the injury and his contract is terminated.
“This is a substantial victory in our continued efforts to serve the players and protect their rights,” said Tom DePaso, NFLPA General Counsel. “Timely annual access to the complete list of players who are physically unable to perform at end of season will aid the NFLPA in assisting players who are eligible for the injury protection benefit.”
The NFLPA filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board on March 23 in an effort to obtain the names of players who could qualify for the injury protection benefit under the new CBA. In October 2011, the NFLPA had previously filed a grievance with the non-injury arbitrator following repeated ignored requests for the information and ultimately pursued the NLRB claim to expedite process.
The settlement agreement between the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA requires that the NFL Management Council provide the NFLPA with a list of potential “injury protection candidates” on each of the 32 NFL clubs. For players who may be eligible for the 2012 Injury Protection Benefit based on a 2011 injury, the NFL Management Council provided the “injury protection candidates” list on the afternoon of June 13, 2012.
The injury protection benefit was greatly enhanced in the 2011 CBA. During the first year after the year of injury, a player is guaranteed 50 percent of his salary, up to $1 million, if a contract is in place for that year. The previous maximum was $300,000. The injury protection benefit was also expanded, and a player is now guaranteed 30 percent of his salary, up to $500,000, in the second year after the injury if he has a contract in place for that year.
For all future years of the CBA, the NFL Management Council will provide the “injury protection candidates” list by February 15 of each year for non-playoff clubs and by March 1 of each year for playoff clubs. A side-letter agreement setting forth the new procedures regarding the exchange of injury protection information will be executed and incorporated into the CBA. The side letter should be finalized by the end of June.
Should any club fail to provide the NFL Management Council with a list of players who may be eligible for the Injury Protection Benefit in any year, the NFLPA has the right to file an expedited grievance against the club to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement and side letter.
The NFLPA sought the injury protection information to ensure that all players receive CBA benefits to which they are entitled.
“It is important that the NFLPA obtain this information so that we can alert these impacted players about their potential eligibility for a valuable injury benefit,” DePaso said.
By Khalil Garriott