NFL players are paid handsomely, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a good Christmas bonus like the rest of us. One player who recently got one to help spruce up his holiday season? Los Angeles Rams‘ linebacker Dante Fowler, previously of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The genesis of Fowler’s bonus was a bit unusual, however. It wasn’t necessarily for performance or contract incentives. It was one he had to have a little help to win.
Dante Fowler career overview
Before we look at how Dante Fowler scored some extra Christmas cash, let’s look at how he ended up with the Rams. Fowler played collegiately at the University of Florida, a school known for producing its fair share of NFL stars. His pro career began with the Jaguars, who selected him with the third overall pick of the first round in the 2015 NFL draft. Here are some of the numbers he’s amassed over his brief but impressive NFL career so far:
- 62 games played
- 27.5 sacks
- 102 solo tackles
- Six forced fumbles
Fowler played two whole seasons in Jacksonville before being traded seven games into the 2018 season. He’s been with the Rams ever since, and the 2019 season was something of a breakout year for Fowler. Heading into the season finale, he has 11.5 sacks for L.A., which is a career-high to this point. In recent weeks, Fowler’s time with the Jaguars came back into the spotlight.
How Fowler lost $700K in fines…
Via his Twitter account, Fowler stated he was fined over $700,000 by the Jaguars during his time with the team. According to Fowler, those fines were due to him not attending offseason rehabilitation treatments the team deemed mandatory. Fowler didn’t see the fines as being fair in any way, shape, or form, and appealed them. Here’s what he had to say about the team – and more specifically, former Jaguars executive Tom Coughlin — fining him so excessively:
“It was clear as day, just according to the rules,” Fowler said. “That was the initial thing I told the guys. I just brought that to the table, like, ‘You can’t do this at a certain time.’ ‘I shouldn’t be able to get fined during the offseason.’ Things like that. That’s all it was. As long as I was able to get the money back in the offseason that I got fined, I was fine with that.”
Fowler said that contesting the fines forced him to miss several activities with the Rams, as he had to show up to the hearings.
…and how the NFLPA got back Dante Fowler’s money
The NFLPA intervened on behalf of Dante Fowler, filing a grievance on his behalf. The NFLPA and Fowler were successful in recouping the fines:
“According to a letter the NFLPA sent to players Monday, the union said the jointly-appointed arbiter ruled that off-season activities are ‘strictly voluntary’ and no NFL team can make those activities mandatory. Teams are barred from requiring players to rehab or attend medical appointments at team facilities in the off-season or pre-training camp period.
Per the NFLPA’s letter, Fowler was fined 25 times for more than $700,000. The union said it was ‘just one of the many grievances we had to file to protect our players from the Jaguars’ actions” and “puts a stop to the blatant overreach by the Jaguars.'”
The NFLPA’s letter also steered players away from signing with the Jaguars. The reaction to the overturning of the original fine was swift: Fowler received his money back, and the Jaguars fired vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin. It was clearly meant to be damage control.
It was an unmitigated win for Dante Fowler and a rebuke to the Jaguars’ way of doing business. Fowler also felt his pocket get a bit heavier for the holiday season. It was a win for his wallet as well as his principles.