Tuesday Thoughts

Some thoughts on a couple of recent injuries that have flown below the Brett Favre radar this week.…

Tyrone McKenzie, a third-round pick by the Patriots, suffered a torn ACL in mini-camp last week. And Stanley Arnoux, a fourth-round pick by the Saints, tore his Achilles tendon, also in minicamp. In theory, if the Patriots and Saints were so inclined, they could try to negotiate differently when it comes to hammering out contracts for both players prior to training camp. However, the union has been vigilant in requiring agents to obtain injury-protection forms before players participate in minicamps or any other offseason activities that require some activity. The forms state that teams will negotiate with players as if no such injury occurred. Chances are extremely high that McKenzie and Arnoux signed such forms prior to camp.

The verbiage of these forms, although appearing to be standard, has now become a negotiation in itself, especially for first-round picks. Agents want language reflecting an increase off last year’s picks, a locked-in number based on this year’s picks, or any other sort of protection. Teams do not want to be boxed in by contracts from other teams and would like to leave it as broad as possible. The premise is the same: The player will not be disadvantaged at the negotiating table by participating and becoming injured in mini-camps and offseason workouts.

At the Packers, I would always point to the ultimate case of fairness in this regard. The team’s first-round pick of the 1994 NFL Draft was Aaron Taylor, a player who suffered a season-ending injury in his first mini-camp. Not only did the Packers treat him as if the injury never occurred, he received a four-year deal (preferable to the five-year deals that first-rounders usually sign), which allowed him to enter free agency a year earlier than almost all first-round players. With this precedent of extreme fairness, I never met any resistance at the Packers about the wording of our injury-protection forms.

The forms are actually good liability mechanisms for the teams as well. For instance, in the event a player suffered a severe injury in mini-camp or workouts – such as something truly career-ending or even life-threatening – the team would only be liable for the amount described in the forms, pegged at the place where the player was drafted. The limited liability aspect of these forms would protect the team from catastrophic events.

McKenzie will be paid a contract reflecting the 97th player taken in the 2009 Draft (he was also the first compensatory selection in the draft).

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