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NFL files grievance against NFLPA over advising running backs to fake injuries for leverage

When NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter suggested that running back fake injuries to create leverage without suggesting that running backs fake injuries to create leverage, it sounded like the union could have a problem.

It now does.

Via Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the league filed a grievance against the NFLPA last week, accusing the union of advising running backs to fake injuries as a tactic in contract negotiations.

Said Tretter, in July: “You need to try to create as much leverage as you possibly can. 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 say they 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.”

We wrote in the aftermath of the comments that running backs would be wise not to take the advice, for multiple reasons. We also wrote this: “Despite the accuracy of his remarks, it’s not something he should have said. His words could be used against him, against the union, or against specific players if/when a grievance or some other proceeding (like an unfair labor practice charge) ever arises on the question of players faking injuries.”

That has now happened.

It will be interesting to see whether the case cites the Colts’ experience with running back Jonathan Taylor as evidence of the dynamic in action. During the early days of the standoff between team and player, someone from the Colts (my guess: owner Jim Irsay) told multiple reporters via an off-the-record leak that the Colts might re-classify Taylor from the physically unable to perform list (due to a lingering ankle injury from football) to the non-football injury list (due to a supposed back injury from working out on his own). More recently, G.M. Chris Ballard said that Taylor has lingering pain in his ankle, and that the Colts will never question a player’s claim that he is experiencing pain.

The NFLPA might soon be experiencing a different kind of pain, as Tretter’s wink-nod effort to persuade players to milk injuries for financial leverage becomes the centerpiece of a legal fight.