(Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Pay Us for the Preseason!

It's a necessary evil, and the risks—injuries that could cost a player his livelihood—are considerable. The least owners can do is open their wallets and give us peace of mind

By
Richard Sherman
· More from Richard·

This league is a fraternity; you never want to see a brother go down. That’s what makes this an especially hard summer for NFL players, with the number of ACL and other season-ending injuries we’ve seen so far. It’s a tragic reality of this game: Injuries happen in every walk of our lives, from minicamp non-padded practices in June to 11-on-11 sessions in August. Yet there’s one injury scenario that makes me cringe more than any other: preseason games.

Why preseason games? Take the case of Stevie Brown, the Giants safety who tore his ACL over the weekend. I don’t know Brown well, but it’s difficult to put into words how disheartened I felt when I heard about his knee. This is a guy who had a great season last year and was on the verge of becoming a name in this league. He was risking his body in a game that, in a sense, doesn’t matter. The Jets beat the Giants 24-21 in overtime, and it didn’t impact the regular season record and shouldn’t have impacted Brown’s job. One thing it didn’t impact? His wallet. That’s right: Preseason games aren’t part of our contracts, and the game checks don’t arrive until after Week 1 of the regular season (veterans get a weekly stipend in the neighborhood of $1,500).

But Brown was playing his best football, intercepting a first-quarter pass only to take a dive on the return, clutching his knee. Now he’s done for the season. Same for Dustin Keller, the Dolphins tight end who blew out his knee in Week 2.

season-injuries

The easy answer to the problem would be to scrap or shorten the preseason. We’re pros; many of us have been playing this game for more than 15 years. What do we need a month of fake games for, right?

Wrong.

The preseason isn’t just invaluable to rookies and practice squad candidates; it’s a testing ground for the starters. Want to know what we’re made of in Seattle? Watch our first defensive drive last week in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers came out in a no-huddle—surprising to us, but not a shock after seeing it on film and playing Peyton Manning the week before. Rodgers found Jermichael Finley over the middle for 22 yards on the sixth play of the drive for a first down, and with our backs at the North end zone, we shut them down. Brandon Mebane got a stop and Rodgers threw incomplete twice, with the Packers settling for a field goal. Giving up three points was a net loss for us, but it was a small victory in a moment of adversity; a real confidence builder. The game made us better as a football team, and in Seattle, we play every game like it counts, so I wouldn’t trade any of them. (People think that’s an exaggeration, but it’s the truth: It’s such a competitive environment under Pete Carroll; I’m an All-Pro and I still feel like I’m fighting for my job every day.)

All told, there’s only one way to soften the blow of injuries like Brown’s: Either make the experience more affordable for fans, or pay players for the risks we’re taking. Now, I hesitate to complain about money. We all make a really good living playing this game. Yet there’s a certain economic inequity at work here. Logically, if a Seahawks fan has to pay over $375 dollars for club seats on Thursday when we play the Raiders in the final preseason game, and the beers in the 300 section still cost the standard $8, and the owners are still pulling in near the same amount they would for a regular season game, why shouldn’t players get the same cut we’ll soon earn when the games count?

If teams believe these games aren’t relevant enough for us to be paid to play in them, charge the fans comparative prices. What would that look like? Well, teams will spend about $135 million on their 53-man roster this year—an average $2.5 million per player, per year. My $1,500 preseason check constitutes close to 1% of the average weekly game check. Using the same math (and logic) can you see any team or ticket broker charging $3.75 for that club seat?

Me neither, especially not when 74,000 Packers fans are willing to pay full price to see Aaron Rodgers play one quarter of football.

So the only solution is to cut the players in on the profits. It wouldn’t make the injuries to Brown and Keller stomachable, but it would be less frustrating if they were getting more than per diem checks for their troubles. Contrast that with the $50 million each NFL team makes per year on ticket sales for 10 home games. With all 32 teams playing two of those games in the preseason, that means some $160 million of NFL ticket revenue is earned on the backs of men earning a relative pittance who, if catastrophe strikes, may never see another game check.

Yet it’s something we don’t talk about in locker rooms. It’s far easier to complain about rule changes and $40,000 fines for illegal hits. Plus we’ve got a Super Bowl to chase and football to play—of both the paid and un-paid variety. Meanwhile, the men who run the NFL undermine our contribution to the paramount bargaining chip: the product.

161 comments
scp1957
scp1957

Such sad innumeracy, coming from a man who is neither so stupid nor so unschooled as to be forgiven it. Think it through, Richard. This isn't a question of mo' money, because the CBA defines your COLLECTIVE entitlement as a % of the defined gross income of the league. There are only 'x' amount of dollars; therefore, putting substantially more of them into preseason games will reduce the amount available for in-season compensation. 


In fact, what this would do is encourage a lot of preseason cap maneuvers, many of them with perverse results. Add four, or even five, preseason game checks to the existing seventeen of them? So, does EVERY JAG on the 90-man roster get full-size game checks for his contributions as a summer-time tackling dummy and scout-team QB? Okay, buddy. Of course, that's money that your rotational DTs and O-linemen sure deserved more than those guys did. (I'm sure that they'll understand; after all, the little bit that you'll lose means nothing to a guy who's pulling down tens of millions, guaranteed.)

laughingtwo
laughingtwo

Might as well. They charge you the same price for the ticket as a regular season game.

scp1957
scp1957

@laughingtwo Irrelevant, really. The season-ticket holders get the best seats, for which the teams will charge what the market will bear, on an annual basis. They're the price of not risking having to pay outrageous dollars on the secondary market, should the Raiders or the Browns somehow, miraculously, be in contention nearing season's-end. The swells, many of whom are just corporate suits or small businessmen, looking for cost certainty and availability, should those tickets actually prove valuable in terms of goodwill, later in the year. Or, who are marking their territory, against the day when having those tix will merit bragging rights, as their friends scramble to get an in. 


Who, in their right mind, pays list for single pregame tickets, after all? Either they go unsold, or they're 'gifted' to poor kids or fundraising raffles. Chill.

WaltDittrich
WaltDittrich

Personally, I'm of the opinion to lower the preseason to two games, and increase the regular season to eighteen games. By also putting another "bye" week, this helps everyone by extending the NFL season to twenty weeks.

This will also help Mr. Sherman's argument in getting paid for at least some of the preseason (albeit by eliminating two of the games). 
Many commenters are stating that the NFL salaries are annual sums, so it makes sense to include the preseason as part of that sum. However, if you're cut before the season starts, many if not most players, wouldn't get paid. Not everyone has a guaranteed salary.


Walt D in LV

scp1957
scp1957

@WaltDittrich Sure, and you've almost got it right. What's missing is a acknowledgment of the fact that those preseason games don't really merit much compensation, because NOBODY is actually paying real money to view them. (Other than the lonely souls who show up and pay the confiscatory sums for watered-down near beer and fake cheese nachos.)

AlexSivret1
AlexSivret1

People on this article are so stupid... All he's saying is that the players should get paid for the preseason games. They only get paid their signing bonus and then the rest of the checks are for playing in the weekly games. What happens if Kevin Kolb is released because of his concussion? What happens if a rookie is cut because of an injury and he gets paid nothing? He doesnt want more money, he wants more checks. Big difference. Oh and he's only getting paid 500k a year, if he only plays 3 years and didnt go to stanford he couldnt live off the money he made. 

EZHawk
EZHawk

@Ilovemesomeme @AlexSivret1  

Class salutatorian - 2nd smartest guy in his class. You're the din bulb here, dude. 1 minute research would've given you that answer.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@EZHawk @Ilovemesomeme @AlexSivret1 His article doesn't make any sense.  If want more money, negotiate a larger annual sum.  Don't even know how or why you know he had the second highest GPA in his class.  Do you stalk him? 

gobears51
gobears51

@Ilovemesomeme @AlexSivret1 It is obvious that you do not know anybody in the league, nor do you know how NFL contracts work. This is not the NBA or MLB, where every annual contract is guaranteed against injury. In the NFL only a few player contracts are guaranteed against injury. These are your Manning's, your Brady's any of those superstar players who signed mega contracts. So, it is believed that they can do without a check for the preseason. But what about the undrafted free agents? These guys received a joke of a signing bonus and have to take advances from their agents or other loans to cover living expenses through training camp and PRESEASON. So, if an undrafted rookie free agent signs a contract with a team, for the rookie minimum of 3 years $1.44 million plus a $5,00.00 signing bonus, makes it through training camp, plays in all 4 preseason games, gets hurt on the last series of the preseason, and is cut with a contract that has no guaranteed money guess what, for all of his time and effort, he only made $5,000 from his signing bonus, This is because the annual salary that many of you are crying pays a player for the year, well guess what? It does not go into effect until the 1st game of the regular season. What Mr. Sherman is saying is, the NFL contract is flawed and for those who did not sign a mega deal with the contract rhetoric that guarantees payment against  injury, like the one he is currently under, being a 5th round  draft pick. You can have your entire annual salary taken because you tore your ACL in the preseason and was cut. How fair is it to these players who just get in the league, or are journeymen trying to find a place to fit in, who tears an ACL in an unpaid preseason game and is cut, never seeing a dime of the million dollar contract they signed? The players need to be paid for this labor during preseason games. He is not thinking about himself, he is thinking about those who he know will never see any type of contract money. Just three years ago, he found himself in the same situation that many late round draft picks face; not knowing if he would ever see the contract money  he signed for.  Maybe it is because he went to Stanford, he has an idea of how this system works. While you obviously do not and are probably making arguments base on a couple of comment you read from other misinformed people. You can double check my data, It's solid. 

4clake4
4clake4

@Ilovemesomeme Preseason games are NOT part of their contracts, if they were, the players would be paid during the preseason, not just the regular season. Also, I think that the NFL player knows more that you about NFL contracts.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@AlexSivret1 He specifically states "Preseason games aren't part of our contracts."  He wants more money.  Not more checks.  And yes, preseason games ARE part of your contract.  Your salary is an annual sum.  Who cares how many checks it comes in? 

And it really makes no difference if he went to Stanford or not, he clearly wasn't in class, that's a pretty dim bulb there. 

DSLOCK
DSLOCK

@Ilovemesomeme @AlexSivret1  Who do we see playing preseason games... PLAYERS that are trying to make the TEAM... CUT more checks for them....that is what I got out of the article. People are so focused on him they dont even open their damn eyes... Oh he will get more money..

4clake4
4clake4

@Ilovemesomeme If, an NFL player says that "Preseason games aren't part of our contracts, they are NOT part of their contracts. How dumb can you be?

scp1957
scp1957

@gobears51 @Ilovemesomeme @AlexSivret1 Actually, he made roughly $19K. In 2014, that's 32 days worth of OTAs at $175 a day; two weeks of preseason at $1,125 per week; four preseason games at $1,500 each; plus, the $5K signing bonus. (The first three numbers come from different sources, so this is my current best guess of what MIGHT be correct.)

scp1957
scp1957

@4clake4 @Ilovemesomeme Unlikely. I've read several accounts, written by player agents, which suggest an appalling level of functional ignorance among their clients, in regard to their own finances. Not that the anecdotal evidence, from the nation's bankruptcy and divorce courts, don't tell the tale even more eloquently.

KennethLyle31
KennethLyle31

football people. sherman stating his opinion. good insight. 

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

To me it's pretty simple, just negotiate a better salary when you sign.  Your pay isn't per game (even if that's when you receive the checks) your pay is for a year of service and everything that goes with that..  Do you get paid during the offseason when you're (hopefully) working out everyday and staying in shape?  It's no different.  You know what a year of work in the NFL entails, if you want more money for that year of service have your agent negotiate you a better contract with more annual pay. 

screwkatrina
screwkatrina

A very well reasoned and thorough argument.

It would be a lot more effective if most of the populace didn't work real jobs. Try telling the restaurant manager, or the school teacher (neither of whom have the potential to make 100k let alone some of the bigger salaries the NFL offers) how hard it is to be a nfl player.

Many of us go through long training programs, including college that WE paid for, just to then have to suffer through unpaid internships and salaries that for the first few years don't even meet minimum wage.

The we put our body on the line argument looses its appeal when you think about the other jobs that all require people to put themselves in dangerous situations(firemen/police/school teachers). And what about those of us in high suicide professions?

Sorry,  mister Harrison, I enjoy watching you play(except when you play the saints), but I consider the preseason your unpaid internship and have little sympathy

Kaultar
Kaultar

@screwkatrina 

1. who is Mr. Harrison? 

2. None of the points you made have anything to do with sports figures and how much (over-paid or not) they get.  An undrafted guys trying to make the team gets hurt and he's done working just like the rest of us.  Shouldn't they be paid for your amusement in preseason?  Most jobs don't require you to contemplate full paralysis just to get hired.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@Kaultar @screwkatrina They get paid.............if you read the article you'd see that.  As I stated in my previous post, if you want more money, negotiate a more lucrative contract. 

4clake4
4clake4

@Ilovemesomeme @Kaultar @screwkatrina Those undrafted free agents can't just negotiate a better contract, they're undrafted free agents for christ's sake. What Sherman is saying is the NFL contract system is flawed and those rookie players playing in preseason games that make the owners millions of dollars need to get paid in case of a season or career ending injury

Kaultar
Kaultar

It's strange many of the posters here think this is just about Sherman.  He's not making near the NFL average as a 5th round pick but his idea about paying players would help the late round rookies and undrafted guys the most.  His idea about lower ticket and concession prices would help fans.  Why many of the posters would hate on this I don't know.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@Kaultar Because it's not realistic.  The PA just got done negotiating for a new CBA.  Not to mention, if I'm the NFL, I say fine, instead of getting 17 checks during the RS, you now get 21 of them, four in the preseason, and 17 during the RS.  End of story.  Their salary isn't negotiated on a per game basis, it's negotiated as an annual sum. 

EJBelton
EJBelton

@Ilovemesomeme@Kaultar He didn't do a very good job of explaining it in layman's terms, but 21 checks instead of 17 is exactly what Mr. Sherman is advocating.

scp1957
scp1957

@4clake4 @Ilovemesomeme Sure it does. The league's revenues are some $9 billion for the regular and postseasons combined and a large buttered popcorn for the preseason. The truth of that is in the secondary ticket market. Preseason Giants games do NOT cost $3,000.

jspell11
jspell11

So many negative comments, without much logic behind them. An NFL player is getting paid a set amount based on their contract, and Sherman isn't saying that contracts should be bigger. A preseason game is just as risky as a regular season game to a player. Instead of getting paid 16 times throughout the year, divide the contract by 20 and pay the players the same amount for preseason games. Players would make the same amount, but would be compensated for the risk they are taking. It shouldn't take a Stanford degree to figure this out. 

4clake4
4clake4

@Ilovemesomeme Even if that is the argument that he is making (which he is not), the way the current contract system works, the preseason doesn't play into their contracts at all 

scp1957
scp1957

@jspell11 There are 53 mouths to feed during the regular season, plus the occupants of the MASH units and the tackling dummies on the practice squads. On the other hand, during the preseason, there are NINETY mouths to feed, share-and-share-alike. 


The 2015 NFL rookie minimum salary is $435,000. Adding the preseason game weeks, while keeping the bye-week game check, would require a payment of $20,714 to each additional marginal player, per game. 


During the regular season, full pay, at varying compensation, goes to each of the players on each team's 53-man roster for that week; plus, on average, perhaps 7 additional players, on IR. Those 60 players are 30 fewer than would presumably be eligible to share in Mr. Sherman's preseason largesse. 


30 extra players x 32 teams x 4 preseason weeks x $20,714 per minimum game check = $79,541,760 


Now, tell the guys who play the games that matter that their pot-of-gold must be reduced by roughly $80 million each year. From whose hide shall we take it? I make it a pay cut of roughly $35,700 per year, on average, for the guys who play the games which actually matter. 


So, pay the summer scrubs roughly $20 grand each per preseason game week, while cutting the average annual compensation of the other guys, who might actually play a game which someone will bother to watch, roughly $35 grand per year. 


Since we're assuming that the minimum salaries won't be cut, all of the difference will have to come from the mid-tier guys, perhaps costing each upwards of $100K per year. ("The Hell you say!")

BrianTumminelli
BrianTumminelli

I find it ironic Sherman writes this article about wanting to get paid in the preseason the same week fast food employees go on strike to make enough money to survive. Perspective...

PlauDD
PlauDD

@BrianTumminelli He is speaking from HIS perspective that is what his articles are for, to give us a look into the players' perspective. 

P2M
P2M

Workout Bonus, Roster Bonus, Signing Bonus, All before one preseason game played. Blame Union or Vote to extend Regular Season, Rookies and walk ons need $$$ during preseason not Veterans

P2M
P2M

RosterBonus?

twlvthwoman
twlvthwoman

Judging by the comments, it looks like Sherman's article accomplished what he intended. Love you Bro! GO HAWKS!

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

Sherman you are a reason so many people have so little respect for professional athletes other than your jock skills.  You are so clueless it is ridiculous.  Take this up with your union, not the fans.  You expect fans to care?  Really?  You think $6K a month during preseason is chump change?  Talk about losing any real sense of perspective.  

Your union set it up as it is.  YOUR UNION.  So get a clue and try and show that you are not an idiot.  Oh and if you feel so strongly about injuries in preseason games, then vote to make them regular season games as the owners want. 

ColinProctor
ColinProctor

@randomdeletion the whole point of this column is to hear about what the players deal with. It's supposed to highlight the NFL from a players perspective. You need to calm down.

4clake4
4clake4

@randomdeletion $6k for a month is definatly not chump change if you continue to get paid for the rest of the year. If you get injured during the preseason and then don't get paid for the rest of the year then yes, $6k is chump change for a whole year

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