Ja’Wuan James tore his Achilles while working out, and since the injury did not occur at the Broncos’ team facility, Denver was able to cut the offensive tackle, voiding his $10 million contract.
Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton tore his ACL during a Friday morning workout, so now the Broncos won’t be able to trade him.
Mike Klis of Denver’s 9News has identified the villain in this story: the players.
“Perhaps this NFL players’ offseason boycott would have worked out better had its union made sure off-campus injury protections were in place,” Klis wrote. “The Broncos are now at the epicenter of the dark side of what could go wrong with organizing a player protest.”
Indeed, how dare the NFLPA urge its members to stay away from voluntary, team-organized spring workouts in the middle of a pandemic. How dare they turn their back on the grand tradition of organized team activities just because of a virus for which vaccination means lesser risk, but not immunity — ask the New York Yankees — with much still to be learned about the long-term effects of contracting the virus, whether vaccinated or not.
The NFL is acting as if players only work out during the offseason during the specific days during the spring when they are summoned to team facilities for the purposes of keeping the league relevant on a year-round basis. That’s all OTAs are.
Professional athletes are capable of doing their offseason work in their own hometowns and still show up to training camp in shape. Sometimes, injuries do happen. They also happen at the team-organized practices. To pretend otherwise is idiotic and nonsensical, and Klis even noted in his initial coverage of James’ injury that the team workouts that two-thirds of the Broncos skipped consisted of “conditioning and weight-lifting but no football-related drills.”
As of Friday evening, Klis wrote, “9News has been unable to reach Broncos player rep Brandon McManus for comment.” Could that be because, as Klis noted, the NFLPA obviously will file a grievance on James’ behalf, and it would be stupid for a player rep to comment about it at this stage? Maybe it’s because McManus sees Klis’ number come up on caller ID and knows that he’s dealing with a management water-carrier who last week — well before the Broncos made the move to un-guarantee $10 million of guaranteed money to James — described James as “the poster child for what could go wrong to players who boycott their team’s offseason workout program.”
Maybe it’s notable that when referring to guaranteed money, Klis habitually puts “guaranteed” in quotes. It’s accidentally honest, because, well, look what the Broncos are doing, but the point of using quotation marks that way is to indicate that “guaranteed” doesn’t really mean guaranteed, and players should know better than to cross management in any way, shape, or form.
The good news is that James’ surgery went well. He is not, in fact, a cautionary tale, a poster child, or a replaceable cog in the always-humming money machine of the NFL. He’s a human being, one who was injured while working to get better at his job, and he should be treated with more dignity than the Broncos, the NFL, and their media lackeys will ever show him.