Basketball or not, Ravens could decline to pay Suggs after his injury
Some have attached a high degree of significance to the possibility that Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs suffered a torn (full or partial) Achilles tendon while playing basketball.
Technically, it doesn’t matter.
If a player suffers any injury while doing anything away from the supervision of the team, the condition is regarded as a “non-football injury.” As a result, the player’s team could choose to not pay the player until the injury has healed.
It doesn’t matter whether Suggs was playing basketball or running or jogging or lifting weights. Injuries sustained while a player works out on his own are “non-football injuries.”
That said, the manner in which the injury was suffered could cause a team to decide to not pay a player, especially if the player’s team has made it known generally among the players that, if they get hurt playing basketball, they’re on their own. But that would be a surprise. Many football players play basketball in the offseason, and most teams don’t complain because it’s better than having them sitting on the couch, eating pork rinds and watching bowling.
It would be a major surprise if the Ravens try to stiff Suggs, given that receiver Torrey Smith, running back Ray Rice (who technically isn’t under contract), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody participated in a charity basketball game in March.
Still, any player who hopes to find a way to stay in shape without risking his salary should work out only at the team facility. Any injuries that occur at the team facility are regarded as “football injuries,” and if the player can’t play in the coming season, he still will be paid.
Finally, as to the possibility that player contracts expreslly prohibit playing basketball, they don’t. The standard player contract states at paragraph 2: “Player will not participate in any football game not sponsored by the League unless the game is first approved by the League. Nor, while this contract is in effect, will Player play football or engage in activities related to football other than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury without first obtaining Club’s prior written consent.”
Though some teams could take the position that basketball is an activity that involves “a significant risk of personal injury,” that would not be a popular position in 32 locker rooms -- and it would likely be difficult to prove before an arbitrator that a player violated this language by doing something that thousands of young men (and women) do on a regular basis, with serious injuries being relatively rare.