Report: NFL Teams Put Clauses in Contracts for Failed Physicals Amid COVID-19

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2020

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 25:  General view of the NFL midfield shield logo during the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers won 27-16.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Some NFL teams have inserted "coronavirus-related provisions" into new contracts, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

Fowler said some contracts are "stating a failed physical will result in forfeited signing bonus money."

"It's uncertain how many teams are drawing this hard line, but several sources have encountered the provision when finalizing contracts over the last two days," the report read.

The Athletic's Katherine Terrell questioned whether a positive test for the coronavirus would mean voiding any money:

The NFL offseason hasn't been significantly affected as a result of COVID-19, with a number of major moves happening across the league this week.

However, ESPN's Adam Schefter shared a memo sent to all 32 teams outlining some changes to free agency. In-person visits were prohibited, and—particularly notable following Fowler's report—there were tweaks to the protocol for player physicals.

Players are free to undergo a physical in or near their home city, or decline the physical until a later date.

"The free agent player and club will remain free to expressly condition the player's entitlement to receive and retain any Reporting, Roster or Signing Bonus upon the player taking and passing a physical examination administered by the Club's own medical staff at the Club facility when that becomes possible," the memo said.

Fowler floated a hypothetical where a player's three-year, $30 million deal becomes a three-year, $20 million deal because he failed a physical, thus losing $10 million in guaranteed money.

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The impact of the coronavirus is much more noticeable among sports leagues that have suspended play temporarily to limit the spread of the disease.

This is an example of COVID-19's more subtle impact on the NFL.

Tennessee Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky noted the limited access to physicals is likely hurting the Carolina Panthers' ability to trade Cam Newton.

Newton underwent shoulder surgery in January 2019 and foot surgery in December. Any team interested in the star quarterback, who carries a $21.1 million cap hit in 2020, would presumably want to examine him before finalizing a trade but is unable to do so.