Do NFL Players Still Get Paid if They Get Hurt?

While the NFL entertains fans and fosters competition, it’s first and foremost a business. Teams are structured to win and make money, and the elite players who represent those teams are the commodities. So when one of those players goes down with an injury, it affects the entire organization.

Within the NFL, there’s a fair shot that most players will incur some kind of injury during their playing careers. That’s why many players insist on certain clauses within their contracts to guarantee payment even if an injury occurs.

When an NFL player gets sidelined with an injury

Zack Moss of the Buffalo Bills lies on the field after getting hurt
The Bills’ Zack Moss lies on the field after getting hurt | Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

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One of the most devastating things an NFL player can go through is to be labeled an “injury” prone player. Constant injuries and missed playing time is a sure way to get squeezed off the team. Considering most players have worked their whole lives trying to make it to the NFL, the result of an injury can be heartbreaking, not just for their morale but their wallet as well.

Former NFL player Marc Lillibridge explained his experience with an injury in the NFL, as Bleacher Report details. He said after returning from surgery for a herniated disc in his neck, he entered the locker room to find another player putting on his jersey. Lillibridge said:

“I distinctly remember showing up to the facility to get treatment a week later. I walked into the locker room to change clothes and saw another player putting on my jersey. Except the jersey was not mine, it was now his. I was just a number chewed up and spit out that fast.”

While that might be one of the more extreme circumstances, it shows how disposable most NFL players are in the minds of the organization. That’s why it’s important for players to protect themselves starting with their contracts.

A lesson on NFL contracts

Signing an NFL contract is probably the most exciting time in a player’s career. They’ve finally made it and have hit the pinnacle of the sport. But what happens if they get injured? Do they still get paid? Well, it all comes down to the fine print.

The legal language within a contract can be confusing, but Bleeding Green Nation has simplified it and broken it down to make it easier to understand. Player contracts usually consist of the following — salary, guarantees, options, and bonuses.

Salary is the amount of money a player receives each year. So when a big contract is signed and reported at 3 years for $30 million, it might mean the salary is $10 million/year or structured for the player to receive less in year one and more each year after. Basically, it all depends on the team’s salary cap and how much they can afford to take on that year.

The important part for the player is whether a guarantee clause is included or not. A guarantee means just that, the player is guaranteed XX amount of money, even if injured. A Quora forum also suggests implementing a guarantee clause for declining skills and salary cap. 

Betting on yourself

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Many players like to bet on themselves and have options included in their contracts. Options give the team the choice if they want to keep the player for another year or let them go. They often sell them to players by asking if they believe in themselves and are willing to bet on their own play. Confident NFL players with big egos find these options hard to pass up, feeling their tremendous play will lead to more money.

It’s no doubt that the NFL is a big business and sees players are disposable commodities. That’s why it’s extremely important for those players to protect themselves through their contracts. Football won’t last forever, but the money they make through a solid contract will.