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NFL players could change their habits after an offseason injury cost Ja’Wuan James his job with the Denver Broncos and about $10 million in salary.
Players Association president and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter broke down the situation to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk):
“You’re tasked with working out year-round. And guys have always felt teams have their back when they’re training, working out for the season,” Tretter said.
“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.”
James suffered a torn Achilles working out away from the team facility and was placed on the non-football injury list. He was later released by the Broncos as they look to avoid paying him his $10 million base salary, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
The NFL stated in a memo that teams have “no contractual obligation” to pay players away from team facilities, but James is considering filing a grievance with the Players Association, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
James also used social media to call on the NFLPA to back him up after the situation:
Tretter is now offering his support, indicating to teams that there could be consenquences.
The seven-year NFL veteran also explained the pushback from teams could be a result of the recent trend of player autonomy.
“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.”
NFL players have seemingly taken more control of their careers as of late, with star quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers fueling trade rumors this offseason after disappointments with their own organizations. The majority of teams also chose to opt out of voluntary offseason workouts.
Tretter and other players are now looking for more support from the organizations when it’s needed.