(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.

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149 comments
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

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. 

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

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.

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. 

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...

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. 

HeroSun
HeroSun

As Rex Grossman said last week "We get paid (millions) to go to recess.  I love this @#$*ing game."  NFL players are treated like rock stars and pampered from the minute it's realized they have elite talent (usually in middle or high school).  They only work half the year and get an entire offseason of vacation time.  Whenever you bring up a players pay, the players always say the same thing.  "You can't judge NFL players the same way you judge other jobs because we have to make all of our lifetime earnings within an average 3 year span.  Normal jobs have a bigger window for earning."  I always think that's a BS answer.  Every one of us with "normal jobs" would love to only work for 3 years after college and then retire and never have to work again.  Also these players make more money in 6 months than most "normal jobs" pay in a lifetime.  And it's not uncommon for people to have to work multiple jobs in their lifetime.  I know, just because you play in the NFL, you would like to make all the money you would ever need in those 3 years (and lets be honest, if your smart with your money you already do), but if you end up having to take another job after the NFL I'm not going to feel sorry for you.   Again, you get paid millions to play a kids game.  So now Sherman is going to try and exploit the injuries of other players, and use it as leverage to get more money?  More money?  That's just sick.  All of these players are under contract.  Even the ones who get injured are still getting paid more than most "normal jobs" pay in 10 years.  They act like their job is the only one were people are susceptible to injury.  Wrong!  Manual laborers, emergency responders, soldiers... there are thousands of jobs where people put their bodies, health, and lives at risk every day, and I can think of none who get financially compensated as well as pro athletes.  No Sherman, you don't need to make more money.  In fact you are already way overpaid for what you do - Which is "go to recess".  

gmorkill
gmorkill

I find it strange people can hate someone they dont even know.

ae232
ae232

You are paid on salary. You are getting paid regardless of what you are doing, everyday of the week. If you're playing a pre season game or taking a dump at 2 in the morning, YOU ARE GETTING PAID. Shut up and play, Richard.

GrahamM
GrahamM

Womp womp, so much for your Stanford degree Richy .... You do get paid for the preseason, you joker. Under the 2011 CBA that you agreed with, players receive about half of all revenue generated, including preseason games. Also, no need to feel too bad for Stevie Brown's wallet. Once on the IR, his entire year's salary is guaranteed. So he's got that going for him, which is nice. Rich, learn your lesson and shut your mouth. All you're doing is making an ass out of yourself

Hendo
Hendo

He gets paid a salary per year, just like any other job. Just because there are only 16 checks does not mean he receives no compensation.

CraigWilliams
CraigWilliams

I totally agree with you. Pay the players or reduce the ticket and concession prices for the fans. During the preseason the owners of making "free money".

mickpatrick1
mickpatrick1

Take it up with your union representative, my man. If you're not being paid for pre-season work, it's because you signed a contract to that effect. No point in grumbling about the owners.

WillieJames
WillieJames

Pay the man they are the ones making you the money especially my Seahawks this offseason

Mech
Mech

All NFL tickets and prices are out of line. That said, the fact that your regular season pay doesn't get there until later is immaterial. Players can and do choose to receive their bonus and game money in different forms and at different times.  You are playing a game and getting paid huge sums of money. If some of those players were getting nothing for preseason it might be a point but all players whether they make the team or not get something. So to say you are not paid for the pre season is problematic and debatable. You are a great player, you get apparently $150K a week during the regular season,,,,,,, I think that's enough frankly. Those fans out there are not gonna sympathize with your plight of late checks.

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. 

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 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. 

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. 

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

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.

mystafugee
mystafugee

@HeroSun How stupid are you?  You act like these guys are set for life.  Most NFL careers are less than 2 years and yes they get paid a lot but considering taxes and the fact those contracts aren't guaranteed, that sets you up for maybe a decade (if you save well).  I'm sure these guys don't work out at all during the offseason and just sit there playing video games.  

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@gmorkill I find it strange that ignorant folks call people who disagree with other people "haters."  I don't hate him, I'm merely pointing out this his article is senseless. 

4clake4
4clake4

@ae232 Not if you have a career ending injury and are no longer able to be part of the team


Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@CraigWilliams But tthey're not, players are paid a percentage of the annual revenue (which includes preseason games), whether you pay that out in 16 checks or in 52 doesn't make any difference whatsoever.  The only people getting hosed with the preseason prices are the fans. 

4clake4
4clake4

@mickpatrick1 Well if he didn't sign the contract, he wouldn't be playing in the NFL

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?

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 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.

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. 

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

@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. 

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.

HeroSun
HeroSun

@mystafugee @HeroSun I don't think I'm stupid at all.  I do feel like, if a NFL player is smart with the money he earns and invests conservatively, he could be set for life.  But even if he isn't, my point was that many people today would love to only work for 3 or 4 years out of college and be financially "set for life", never having to work again. This is obviously what NFL players are wanting with their argument that they have to make their life earnings in 3 years.   But in many cases the NFL player may have to get another job after the NFL, and I don't feel sorry for them.  Maybe you feel my comment was Stupid because I didn't qualify it with data.  Ok, here it goes:

As for my personal qualifications I played football for 14 years, all the way through college.  I was looked at by NFL scouts until I missed most of my Junior season with a slipped disk in my lower back that happened during preseason weight training.  And I missed 6 wks of my Senior year with a broken jaw that happened in the first game of the season.  My brother in law went to Jets camp as a kicker but was cut before the season, and my uncle played DT for the Denver Broncos in the 70's but blew out his knee his rookie year, and never played again.  So I have limited experience with NFL recruiters and I've seen what camp contracts look like first hand.  Im no expert and maybe compared to you Im "stupid" on the subject.  But I doubt it since all of your claims about career length and pay are BS.  If not please let me know where you got your info.

Here are the actual numbers:

According to NFL.com the average career length for an NFL player is 3.5 years, but this is misleading as it factors in all of the camp players who are brought into training camp on a tryout basis and are cut when the teams get down to 53.

Average career length of players who make opening day roster = 6 years

Average career length of 1st round picks = 9.3 years

Average career length of players who make it to at least one pro bowl = 11.7 years

---

According to Forbes magazine the average NFL salary was 1.9 Million a year in 2012.

According to NBCsports, ProFootballTalk in 2013:

Training camp players are paid a minimum of $1,500 a week.

Practice squad players are paid a minimum of $5,700 a week 

(The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average US salary in 2013 of salaried workers is $776 a week for comparison)

Rookies minimum salary = $390,000

minimum for players with 1 year experience  = $465,000

minimum for players with 2 years experience = $540,000

minimum for players with 3 years experience = $615,000

minimum for players with 4-7 years experience = $700,000

minimum for players with 7-9 years experience = $825,000

minimum for players with 10+ years expereince = $925,000

According to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement this # with go up by $15,000 each year.  So next year the rookie minimum will be $405,000 for example.

(The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average US salary in 2013 of hourly employees is $37,500 a year for comparison)

So looking at the actual numbers and not the ones you made up, mystafugee, it does look like a player who is even making the league minimum for the average 3.5 years should be capable of living off his salary for more than 10 years if he's smart with his money.  Especially when you consider that he will make more in his rookie season than the average US worker will make in 10 years time.  But maybe you still find this all to be stupid?

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? 

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

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 

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