The Football Educator wants to completely clarify a situation that developed this past week when the Cleveland Browns decided to “raid” the Green Bay Packers Practice Squad and sign wide receiver Charles Johnson to their own 53-man active roster.
As per NFL Policy
A player signed to a Practice Player Contract remains a free agent in the National Football League; though he is not eligible to be given a tryout, he may terminate his Practice Player Contract at any time to sign an NFL Player Contract with any club. If a Practice Squad player terminates his contract at any time, the club is under no obligation to pay him for that week. However, a player under a Practice Player Contract with one club cannot sign a Practice Player Contract with another club unless the Practice Player Contract with the first club is terminated by the club.
The player shall receive three weeks salary of his NFL Player Contract at the 53-player Active/Inactive List minimum even if he is terminated by Club B prior to earning that amount; and
Club B is required to count the player on its 53-player Active/Inactive List for three games (a bye week counts as a game) even if he is terminated, traded, or assigned via waivers to another club or is signed as a free agent to another club’s 53-player roster or another club’s Practice Squad prior to that time. If the player is terminated from Club B’s 53-player roster and signed to Club B’s Practice Squad, he shall continue to count on the club’s 53- player Active/Inactive List but shall not count against the eight-player Practice Squad limit until the three-game requirement has been fulfilled.
If the promotion occurs with fewer than three games remaining in the club’s regular season, the three-game requirement shall not carry over into the next season.
As noted by ProFootballTalk.com
But because it’s the Browns, it couldn’t be that simple.
According to Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, the Browns discovered Johnson had a torn ACL when they gave him a physical, so they’re now placing him on the non-football injury list. He was signed last Saturday, but was inactive for Sunday’s game with the Lions. (Note – Evidently AFTER the Browns & Johnson executed the contract)
CBSSports.com would follow up;
Because Johnson was a practice squad player with another team, the Browns were unable to give him a physical until after they signed him. ***WRONG*** Since Cleveland signed Johnson from the Packers practice squad, the Browns are now stuck with him for at least two more weeks. Per NFL rules, a player that’s signed off another team’s practice squad has to be a part of the new team’s 53-man roster for at least three games.
Reality sets in
There’s NOTHING in the handbook stating a club is prohibited from giving a player a physical prior to signing him to their roster. They’re only forbidden to put the player through a “tryout”. In fact it states any player on a club’s Practice Squad remains a free agent, and 99.9% of free agent signings are accompanied with a contingency of “passing the club’s physical”.
The more likely scenario was Cleveland was in a hurry to fill the roster opening, get him immediately out on the practice field, and pushed the signing through the process (perhaps to keep Green Bay from blocking it) without completing their most primary obligation; ensuring the acquired player is healthy.
Two things immediately jump out
First – The media (ProFootballTalk.com and CBSSports.com at the very least) has erroneously reported this story to Cleveland and NFL fans from the get go, and it spread to other reporting sources without them doing their homework as well. You know who you are if you printed it as such.
Second – The Browns made a ROOKIE mistake by a front office that should know better, and to try and spin that they might have wanted the player anyway, or that the Packers hid the injury is just that… pure spin. The Browns weren’t obligated to be stuck with an injured player. Had they followed normal protocol and given him a physical BEFORE signing (as they fully had the right to do), he would have reverted back to the Packers and been their problem to deal with.
The real question is whether or not Cleveland steps up and reimburses Charles Johnson ANYTHING as a result of placing him on Reserve/Non-Football Injury? They have the latitude to pay all, nothing, or any where in between, of his minimum Paragraph 5 (it’s up to them).
Johnson was making the NFL standard Practice Squad salary of $6000 per week, injured or not. The “right way of doing business” would be to ensure he’s making at the very least just that as a Cleveland Brown.
Somebody should give Craig Domann (Johnson’s agent) a call.