You might call it the firework heard across the world. And when I say world, I mean the NFL and every football hungry American anxiously waiting for their favorite sport to return. Usually, this time of year is a dead time for the sport. It’s after the hype of the draft and the majority of free agency. It’s also before the over-saturated attention given to training camps that start in a couple of weeks. Few people foresaw that we would have not 1 but 2 major injuries to NFL players due to America’s birthday celebration.
I do believe that the forefathers had no idea that we would celebrate their victory with alcohol, secret pyro intentions, and stupid decisions but apparently it does happen. I do love the 4th of July. The weather is normally beautiful and it’s a laid back holiday. Most of us take solace in barbeques, setting off minor fireworks, and having a few beers but then others think it’s bright idea to put a mortar on your head near a fire source. Even the most responsible sometimes have accidents. It’s just not a hugely safe environment to add alcohol to starting fire. Things happen.
We have 2 very different examples. CJ Wilson is a 3rd year corner with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who at best is a role player. The kind of guy that has to fight every year to have the right to suit up and put food on his table. The type that either will make a career out of bouncing around to several teams as a role player or will drop out after another couple of years to open his own gym or coach division 3. He lost 2 fingers in a firework accident. As a corner, catching balls with 3 fingers on one hand will be difficult.
The other is Jason Pierre-Paul who is a much bigger name, better player, and has a won on the field. He happened to already be in negotiations with the NY Giants on returning to play for them. He also lost a finger and apparently has skin grafts on his forearms. JPP as he is known for short, should be physically OK. Due to his positon on defense, he can play without a finger. It will take an adjustment but he should be able to work through it. The skin grafts also might take some range of motion away but that is something he can also work through.
The interesting thing is the negotiation game going on between JPP and the Giants. Anyone who is anyone knows that the name of the game in negotiation is leverage. This is why players will flirt with other teams and get them to promise them certain things. It is so the player can go back to the team they really want to play with and say, hey, this team wants me, and they can then leverage to get the numbers they want. Apparently, the Giants had an initial $60 million offer on the table that they have now rescinded. According to sources, JPP wasn’t actually going to take this offer anyway so this might be posturing from the Giants to try to get JPP at a more discounted rate after the injury.
What is important to realize is that because this sport is a multi-billion dollar business, these individual players are living, breathing, investments. Just like Wallstreet, these teams want to do their homework. That is why they spend so much energy on the draft researching the players inside and out. If they are going to spend that much money they want to invest wisely. For the Giants, they wanted to invest in a JPP with 10 fingers and now he has 9 fingers. Due to his lack of common sense, JPP will be costing himself millions.
But where is this line between an investment and a human being? Most professional athletes will have clauses in their contracts that prevent them from doing extraordinarily risky things like skydiving or riding a motorcycle without a helmet, to help protect the teams. However, risk is a subjective term. To some people, jumping out of a plane is very risky. To others, being around people in social settings is risky. Setting off fireworks is a pretty ordinary endeavor. While I cannot speak to what was in JPP’s contract, technically right now he is not under contract because the other one expired. He is a man without a team. He is not violating his contract.
I think that as the sport grows and continues to earn more profit, we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, these are human beings. And where I completely understand using someone’s stupidity against them in negotiation for a contract, if someone falls while playing pickup basketball and sprains an ankle, should it really cost them millions? Apparently, in 2015 it will.