Earlier today, we brought you a story about how Rick Spielman said the situation with the potential “tolling” of Teddy Bridgewater’s contract is an NFL problem and not something that the Minnesota Vikings are able to do directly. After doing a little digging of our own, and thanks to the work that a couple of folks from other outlets have done, we might have a little more clarity on this.
Now, let’s start by looking at Article 20, Section 2, of the current NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, something that people on this site have seen enough times that they can probably recite it from memory.
Physically Unable to Perform: Any player placed on a Physically Unable to Perform list (“PUP”) will be paid his full Paragraph 5 Salary while on such list. His contract will not be tolled for the period he is on PUP, except in the last year of his contract, when the player’s contract will be tolled if he is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game.
Now, as we know, Bridgewater was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP) at the start of Training Camp, and remained there into the start of the regular season. As we’ve been over numerous times, when a player begins the regular season on the PUP List, NFL rules mandate that the player in question must remain there for the first six games of his team’s season. Bridgewater did that, as he was cleared by doctors on 16 October, and started practicing with the team on 18 October, a few days after the Vikings’ Week 6 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
What the NFL appears to be, potentially, wanting to dispute is whether or not Bridgewater was medically able (but not necessarily cleared by doctors) to practice prior to that. To that end, the NFLPA has stated that they will have access to all of Bridgewater’s medical records and other documentation that they would need.
If the verbiage of the CBA is applied to the letter here, I’m not sure how much of a difference Bridgewater’s medical status at any given time would make to their case. The CBA says that if a player is not able to perform football services as of the sixth regular season game, their contract will be tolled. The rules of the National Football League, which the NFLPA agreed to at some point along the way, say that any player that starts the season on the PUP List has to miss the team’s first six games. Therefore, he was unable to perform football services as of the sixth regular season game, whether he was healthy or not. But, that’s why there are lawyers and arbitrators and more lawyers and other people that get paid a whole lot of money to figure out stuff like this.
Had Bridgewater been ready to go at any time during Training Camp, does anyone really think that the team wouldn’t have activated him? I would have to think that Mike Zimmer would have wanted him on the roster at the earliest possible time, given the affinity that he’s expressed for Bridgewater on several occasions.
Based on the reporting of Courtney Cronin of ESPN (her story is linked above), it sounds like any sort of grievance that Bridgewater and/or his agent would potentially have in this matter would be a grievance against the league, not against the Minnesota Vikings. According to several sources that I reached out to with this question (under the condition of anonymity. . .man, I don’t think I’ve ever used that phrase before), the Vikings are not going to actively pursue the tolling of Bridgewater’s contract. They are going to defer to the decision of the NFL Management Council, which is headed up by Harold Henderson and represents the teams in matters relating to the CBA.
(If the name Harold Henderson sounds familiar, he’s the person that heard Adrian Peterson’s appeals during that whole fiasco in 2014 that we won’t be re-litigating here.)
Also, Cronin’s article tells us that there’s no timeline for settling any sort of potential grievance that may arise from this, but one would think that it would get taken care of prior to the start of NFL free agency. The “legal tampering” period starts on 12 March, and players can start signing with teams on 14 March. If Bridgewater’s contract situation isn’t figured out by then, he’s going to be sidelined from talking with anyone, and by the time it does get resolved, the game of quarterback musical chairs might not have any seats left.
The Vikings could make all of this completely moot by offering Bridgewater a deal before any of this becomes an issue. Of course, they should probably hire an offensive coordinator first and see what they think of the quarterback situation and which of the Vikings’ four current signal callers they like the best. Hopefully that decision will also be coming here fairly soon.
So, Reader’s Digest version:
- The Bridgewater contract situation is going to come down to the league vs the players union, which always ends well for everyone involved
- The CBA says one thing, but the NFLPA could attack this from a different direction
- We don’t know when and we don’t know where this will be resolved
- The Vikings are not the ones making the decision about whether Bridgewater’s contract will toll
Again, only about six more weeks of this. Hopefully less.