The NFL announced on Monday that it is filing a grievance against the NFLPA, claiming that the union advised players to feign injury to gain leverage in contract negotiations.
The league announced the grievance in a memo that was reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The memo names NFLPA president and former Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter.
“Beginning this past summer and continuing through training camp, NFL Players Association leadership, including President JC Tretter, have become increasingly vocal in advising NFL players dissatisfied with their current contracts to consider feigning or exaggerating injuries to withhold service as a way to increase their leverage in contract negotiations,” the memo reads.
Running back negotiations became contentious this offseason as All-Pros Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Jonathan Taylor failed to secure long-term contracts. Barkley and Jacobs eventually signed one-year deals after being placed on the franchise tag while Taylor remains sidelined on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on the final year of his rookie contract.
Other high-profile running backs including Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry spoke out in support of their fellow players and reportedly joined a Zoom meeting to discuss how to improve the state of running back pay. Colts owners Jim Irsay criticized the running back complaints and meetings as in “bad faith” at the behest of their agents.
The NFL’s memo referred to that running back meeting.
“We have become aware of a formal Zoom hosted by the NFLPA with certain NFL running backs in which this advice was conveyed,” the memo continues. “This conduct is a clear violation of the union’s agreement to use ‘best efforts to faithfully carry out the terms and conditions of the [CBA]’ and ‘to see that the terms and conditions of all NFL player contracts are carried out in full by players.'”
“The union’s conduct is also reckless as any player that chooses to follow this advice and improperly withhold services under his player contract will be subject to discipline and financial liability under the CBA, club rules and/or the player’s contract.”
The NFLPA contested the memo in a brief statement, Pelissero reports.
“This is ridiculous and without merit,” the statement reads.
Tretter made reference to injures while discussing contract leverage on the Ross Tucker Podcast in July.
“You need to try to create as much leverage as you possibly can…”
— Ross Tucker Podcast (@RossTuckerPod) July 18, 2023
“You need to try to create as much leverage as you possibly can in any situation,” Tretter said. “And that’s the tough thing with the franchise tag, or being restricted in movement, is it decreases your leverage. But then you have to find creative ways to build leverage elsewhere.
“I think we’ve seen issues — now, I don’t think anybody would ever say there were fake injuries — but we’ve seen players who didn’t want to be where they currently are have injuries that made them unable to practice and play. But you’re not able to get fined, and you’re not able to be punished for not reporting.
“So there are issues like that. I don’t think I’m allowed to ever recommend that, at least publicly, but I think each player needs to find a way to build up leverage to try to get a fair deal. And that’s really what all these guys are looking for, is to be compensated fairly.”
Tretter did not immediately provide a statement after news of the NFL memo broke.