Ja'Wuan James' potentially season-ending Achilles injury sparked plenty of online discussion regarding his salary and whether he would be paid after suffering the injury away from the Broncos' facility.
The NFL clarified matters with a memo distributed to all 32 teams Wednesday and obtained by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
In the memo, the league reminded clubs an injury sustained while a player is working out outside of team supervision in a location that isn't an NFL facility is considered a non-football injury, meaning the injury isn't covered by the standard contractual injury guarantee. This highly important detail means James' $10 million salary for the 2021 season -- which was fully guaranteed for skill, injury and cap purposes -- is not guaranteed since the injury is considered a non-football injury.
While the decision is ultimately up to the team's discretion in how it handles compensation, James' injury means the Broncos can forgo paying him his $10 million salary for 2021, per the terms of his employment agreement. We'll learn how the Broncos decide in the weeks and months ahead.
The full memo can be found below:
"The media recently reported that Denver Broncos player Ja'Wuan James suffered a significant, potentially season-ending injury while working out at a private gym, away from the club's facility. Mr. James' $10 million Paragraph 5 Salary for the 2021 season was fully guaranteed for skill, injury and cap purposes. Several clubs have inquired about the contractual implications resulting from the fact that Mr. James sustained this season-ending injury while training away from the Broncos' facility.
"Injuries sustained while a player is working out "on his own" in a location other than an NFL facility are considered "Non-Football Injuries" and are outside the scope of a typical skill, injury and cap guarantee. Such injuries are also not covered by the protections found in paragraph 9 of the NFL Player Contract, meaning that clubs have no contractual obligation to provide salary continuation during the year in which the injury was sustained.
"By contrast, injuries sustained by a player while working out at a club facility or as specifically authorized by his club are considered "Football-Related Injuries." Under our agreement with the NFL Players Association, players that sustain "Football-Related Injuries" are entitled to significant protections, including: (i) payment of Paragraph 5 Salary; (ii) medical care; (iii) pension credit (if the player is unable to perform services for three regular season games due to the injury) and (iv) other benefits, such as Injury Protection, which will provide payments to players in seasons following the season of a career ending injury.
"According to the media coverage, several players have expressed surprise that Mr. James' injury was not covered by his Injury Guarantee, although this point has been made frequently in our discussions with the NFLPA about the offseason program. Clubs are encouraged to remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train in non-NFL locations."