Deshaun Watson is serving an 11-game suspension.

Syndication Akron Beacon Journal

Report: NFLPA claims collusion over guaranteed contracts

The NFL Players Association alleges the league and its teams colluded to keep players from receiving fully guaranteed contracts.

In a report published Tuesday, The Athletic said that on Oct. 20, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash sent a confidential memo to team executive leadership notifying them that the NFL had filed the claim.

The memo, obtained by The Athletic, includes comments from the NFLPA’s filing. The basis centers around quarterback Deshaun Watson signing a fully guaranteed contract with the Cleveland Browns and the players association anticipating “fully-guaranteed contracts would now become the competition driven norm for the top players in the League, including quarterbacks, negotiating new contracts.”

Pash said in the memo the NFLPA alleges “NFL owners and/or League executives discussed not agreeing to any additional player contracts with fully-guaranteed salaries” before, after and at the owners meeting on Aug. 9.

The Browns gave up a bounty of draft picks to acquire Watson from the Houston Texans in March and signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract. The move, at the time, was seen as especially curious given that Watson was the subject of two dozen civil lawsuits filed by women who accused him of sexual impropriety during massages.

While no criminal charges were filed, the NFL suspended him 11 games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and fined him $5 million.

Arizona signed Kyler Murray and the Broncos re-upped with trade acquisition Russell Wilson, but those lucrative deals were not 100 percent guaranteed. Negotiations between the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson have reportedly been hung up on that very detail — whether his deal would be fully guaranteed.

Pash said the NFLPA is asking for an arbitrator to award damages and allow “certain quarterbacks who have been adversely affected by the collusive agreement to terminate their current player contracts. We are aware of no evidence supporting these collusion claims, which we will vigorously defend.”

One NFL executive told The Athletic there was no agreement organized among owners.

“They don’t need to collude to do that,” the unidentified executive told The Athletic. “The Browns are the only team willing to do that. Everybody else knows that it was a terrible contract.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; A general view of Ford Field before then game between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA president calls for ban on turf at six stadiums

If the NFL wants to assure safer playing conditions, it needs to require immediate changes to the turf at some stadiums and make other modifications, players association president JC Tretter said.

Tretter, in a post on the NFLPA’s website on Saturday, called on the league to ban the slit film playing surface, saying it has led to “statistically higher in-game injury rates” compared to all other surfaces for non-contact injuries and injuries to the lower extremities, such as ankles and feet.

Seven teams currently play home games in stadiums with slit film turf, according to Tretter: New York Jets and Giants (shared stadium), Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

“Player leadership wrote a letter to the NFL this week demanding the immediate removal of these fields and a ban on them going forward, both in stadiums and for practice fields,” Tretter wrote. “The NFL has not only refused to mandate this change immediately, but they have also refused to commit to mandating a change away from slit film in the future at all.”

An ESPN report on Tuesday said a review of non-contact injuries to the knee, ankle and foot is “roughly the same on natural and artificial playing surfaces,” adding the “numbers contradict anecdotal observations this season from a wide swath of players, agents and coaches who have called for the league to convert all surfaces to grass in response to a series of high-profile injuries on artificial turf.”

Green Bay Packers pass rusher Rashan Gary sustained a torn ACL on a non-contact play at Ford Field in Detroit last Sunday. After the injury, his teammate, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, tweeted: “I think it’s time y’all take some of the money y’all make off us and invest in grass fields for every team around the league. The turf is literally like concrete it has no give when you plant.”

Tretter also called on the NFL to no longer allow games to be played “on fields with clear visual abnormalities.” He cited the field in London earlier this season as having an uneven seam and substandard grass turf in a pair of exhibition games.

“We should not be playing on anything but the best-quality playing surfaces,” Tretter said.

And lastly, Tretter said the NFL needs to “clear the excess people and dangerous equipment” from the sidelines during games.

“We have seen too many injuries because of this issue, and it really should be a simple fix,” Tretter said. “Give the players their space to perform.”

The NFL did not immediately respond to Tretter’s memo.

–Field Level Media

Sep 29, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is taken off the field after suffering a head injury following a sack by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou (not pictured) in the second quarter at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: NFL, NFLPA interview Tua Tagovailoa on Tuesday

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is being interviewed Tuesday by representatives from the NFL and the NFL Players Association regarding his Week 3 concussion check, NFL Network and the Washington Post reported.

The league and union are conducting an investigation into the circumstances that led Tagovailoa to return to the field early in Week 3 after exhibiting concussion-like symptoms.

The NFLPA has already fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who cleared Tagovailoa to return to that game, per reports, for making “several mistakes” in the process of evaluating the third-year quarterback.

The investigation could be completed as soon as the end of this week, and the NFL has said its findings will be made public.

Tagovailoa was injured in the second quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 25. He stumbled to the ground while beginning to leave the field.

But after the Dolphins initially announced he was being evaluated for a head injury, Tagovailoa passed the concussion protocol and returned in the third quarter. He said after the game he hurt his back, not his head.

Four days later, he was swung to the ground by a Cincinnati Bengals player and his head and upper back hit the turf hard. His hands displayed the “fencing response,” a sign of a concussion. He was stretchered off the field and was evaluated at a Cincinnati hospital. He was released later that evening, flying back home to Miami with his teammates.

Tagovailoa has already been ruled out for Miami’s Week 5 game against the New York Jets this Sunday as he recovers from the concussion.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) lays on the field after apparent injury against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: NFLPA wants probe of Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion check

The NFL Players Association plans to initiate a review of whether the Miami Dolphins followed the league’s concussion protocol when allowing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to return to Sunday’s game, ESPN and NFL Network reported.

Tagovailoa left the game against the visiting Buffalo Bills with 2:19 left in the second quarter. Bills linebacker Matt Milano shoved him to the ground for a roughing-the-passer penalty, and the back of Tagovailoa’s head hit the turf. He was wobbly and stumbled to the ground while running off under his own power.

Tagovailoa ended up returning for the Dolphins’ first possession of the third quarter.

After the game, the Alabama product said he hurt his back on a quarterback sneak earlier in the game.

“But for the most part, I’m good,” Tagovailoa said. “Passed whatever concussion protocol they had.”

Tagovailoa was able to stay in for the rest of the game. The Dolphins held off the Bills 21-19 to move to 3-0 and into sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

As part of the collective bargaining agreement, “the NFLPA, the NFL Management Council or any player involved in an alleged failure by a club employee or other member of a club’s medical staff to follow any of the mandatory steps required by the NFL’s Concussion Checklist shall each have the right (independently or collectively) to bring forward a complaint about such alleged failure to the Representatives, which complaint shall be submitted in writing.”

The executive director of the NFLPA and the NFL’s deputy general counsel for labor are required to resolve the complaint no later than three weeks following its filing, which can result in disciplining a team if appropriate. If the sides do not agree on a resolution after three weeks, it can go to an impartial arbitrator.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for yards behind Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter (64) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Chubb 1

Free agent JC Tretter retires, will focus on NFLPA role

Free agent center JC Tretter is retiring from the NFL but plans to maintain his role as NFLPA president.

Tretter, 31, spent eight years in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns, who released him in the offseason due to a knee injury.

“My time on the field may be over, but I’m not stepping away from football,” Tretter said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to doubling down on my work as NFLPA President and pushing for more progress on behalf of the great players of our game, past, present and future.”

Tretter started at center for the Browns for the past five seasons, regularly missing practice due to knee issues but absent for only one game during that span.

He said in a social media post that his goal was to “stop playing when I wanted to — on my own terms.”

Under Tretter’s direction, the NFLPA and NFL meted out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and he helped players navigate the pandemic-impacted seasons of 2020 and 2021.

Releasing Tretter saved the Brown $8.25 million on the 2022 salary cap. Nick Harris was promoted to the starting role and suffered a season-ending knee injury on the second play of the preseason opener against Jacksonville.

Instead of re-signing Tretter amid public clamoring to bring him back, the Browns promoted backup Ethan Pocic to the first-team offense.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson received a six-game suspension from former judge Sue L. Robinson.

Syndication Akron Beacon Journal

NFL appeals 6-game suspension of Deshaun Watson

The NFL filed an appeal of the six-game suspension recommended for Deshaun Watson, putting itself in position to ultimately decide the punishment the Cleveland Browns quarterback will receive over accusations of sexual misconduct.

Former U.S. district Judge Sue L. Robinson, picked by the league and the NFLPA as an independent disciplinary officer, said Monday that Watson should be suspended six games without pay for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.

While the union vowed to accept whatever ruling Robinson issued, the league had three days to file an appeal, which came Wednesday afternoon.

The league said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will assign a designee to hear the league’s appeal. That person will issue a “full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

“The NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon,” the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.

Robinson wrote Monday that though the penalty is the “most significant ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”

According to reports, the NFL was pushing for an indefinite suspension that would last through the 2022 season. The NFLPA and Watson have vowed to sue if he is suspended for the season.

Robinson found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a season-long or indefinite banishment.

“The NFL may be a ‘forward-facing’ organization, but it is not necessarily a forward-looking one,” Robinson wrote. “Just as the NFL responded to violent conduct after a public outcry, so it seems the NFL is responding to a yet another public outcry about Mr. Watson’s conduct.

“At least in the former situation, the policy was changed and applied proactively,” she wrote. “Here, the NFL is attempting to impose a more dramatic shift in its culture without the benefit of fair notice to — and consistency of consequence for — those in the NFL subject to its policy.”

Watson, 26, stood accused of sexual assault and inappropriate misconduct during massage sessions that took place between March 2020 and March 2021.

Watson settled 23 of the 24 sustained lawsuits he faced, including three announced on Monday by plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee. That includes a settlement with Ashley Solis, the first to sue Watson and the first to go public.

Though two grand juries in Texas decided not to pursue criminal charges against Watson, the NFL has been conducting an independent investigation to determine whether he violated its personal conduct policy.

Robinson’s ruling was made following three days of testimony in Delaware in June.

The Browns traded three first-round picks for Watson in March and signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract — with all money fully guaranteed. They have said Jacoby Brissett would the starting quarterback for the duration of Watson’s suspension.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with head coach Kevin Stefanski after minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in Canton, Ohio, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Browns Hof 4

Report: Watson, NFLPA plan to sue if suspended for 2022

Deshaun Watson and the NFL Players Association have already decided to file a federal lawsuit against the NFL if arbitrator Sue L. Robinson decides Watson should be suspended from the league for a full year, Yahoo Sports reported Monday.

It was reported in June that during Watson’s disciplinary hearing, the NFL was pushing for an indefinite suspension lasting at least one year.

Watson, now with the Cleveland Browns, was sued by 24 women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions when he played for the Houston Texans.

Watson’s camp reached confidential settlements last month with 20 of the 24 women who brought civil lawsuits against him. On Friday, attorney Tony Buzbee, who represented Watson’s accusers, announced that the Texans had reached confidential settlements with the Texans.

Watson has continued to deny wrongdoing, and in March two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges. But he still could be punished by the NFL under its personal conduct policy.

Robinson, a former U.S. District Court judge who was jointly selected to oversee the case by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, was expected to issue a ruling before the Browns report to training camp on July 26. But Yahoo reported Monday that Robinson’s decision might “overlap” with the start of the Browns’ camp.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for yards behind Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter (64) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Chubb 1

NFLPA re-elects J.C. Tretter as president

The NFL Players Association’s board of player representatives unanimously re-elected Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter as president on Saturday.

Tretter, who ran unopposed, secured his second two-year term at the NFLPA’s annual meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to once again lead our union,” said Tretter, 31. “My first term brought some unprecedented challenges, and it was an honor to work with our leadership and player membership to protect our wages as well as our health and safety. I am grateful to the Board of Player Reps for believing in me as we continue our efforts to advance the rights of all players.”

San Francisco 49ers center Alex Mack also ran unopposed and was re-elected to serve as the NFLPA’s treasurer.

Five new players were voted by the board to serve two-year terms on the executive committee: Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers), Ryan Kelly (Indianapolis Colts), Jason McCourty (Miami Dolphins), Brandon McManus (Denver Broncos) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Detroit Lions).

Four returning members of the executive committee were re-elected to two-year terms: Calais Campbell (Baltimore Ravens), Thomas Morstead (Atlanta Falcons), Richard Sherman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Michael Thomas (Cincinnati Bengals).

Tretter started 16 games for the Browns in 2021. The 2013 fourth-round pick has started 90 of his 111 games with the Green Bay Packers (2014-16) and Cleveland.

–Field Level Media

Jan 17, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; A coronavirus COVID-19 face mask advisory sign at a NFC Wild Card playoff football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL ends COVID restrictions, including testing and tracking

A memo sent to all 32 NFL teams on Thursday signals the end of all COVID-19 protocols, including testing and tracking for players and staff, per multiple reports.

All COVID-19 restrictions are “suspended” and can be restored if the NFL and NFL Players Association agree the need exists.

The memo states “current encouraging trends regarding” the pandemic led to the decision.

The NBA and NHL are still employing in-season restrictions as public mask mandates and vaccine orders are being peeled back across the country.

Included in the NFL pause are restrictions on facilities and training areas for players and staff that had been subject to close monitoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Kansas City Chiefs long snapper James Winchester (41) is wearing mask before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders as the CDC recommends wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should wear a mask covering unless they are under 2 years of age, and or having a breathing problems at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL COVID protocol change includes high-risk opt-out option

With reserve/COVID-19 lists filling up around the league, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced a new set of protocols on Saturday.

The changes include a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and the option for high-risk players to opt-out for the remainder of the season.

“The NFL and NFLPA have been engaged with our medical advisors to address the emergence of the new Omicron variant and how to stop the spread to ensure we keep everyone safe and complete the remainder of the season responsibly,” read the joint NFL-NFLPA statement issued Saturday.

The latest protocol updates follow a schedule shuffle that saw Saturday’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cleveland Browns moved to Monday, and two of Sunday’s games — Washington at the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks at the Los Angeles Rams — moved to Tuesday due to COVID-related personnel shortages.

–Field Level Media