AB Says No Football Without Old Helmet

Antonio Brown has reportedly told the Raiders that unless he can wear his old helmet, he will not play football again. Brown was one of a handful of players whose preferred helmets were banned by the league this offseason. (Tom Brady also has this problem.) I'm not sure why he's taking it out on the Raiders when it's a league rule. But this is kind of nuts. The league isn't going to overturn a player safety rule for just Antonio Brown, a guy who doesn't even know that if you're going to sit in a cryogenic freezer you need to wear socks.

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68 comments, Last at 25 Aug 2019, 12:59am

2 I don't often feel any…

I don't often feel any sympathy for NFL plutocrats, but guaranteeing tens of millions to nutjob employees has to have its frustrating moments.

7 Guanraneed conraxyras

Your comment hirs on one od many reasons why guaranteed contracts wonf work in NFL. Imagien signinf someone to guaranteed  $100 milloion contrsct for 7 years. You thjnk Yoenis Cespedes stepping into a hole and furthering putting offf his return to baseball was weird? NFL pplayers will look for holes to fall into. A guy lkle Brown might vanish for a seaaon and reappear im February saying he had beem kidnapped by sasquatch fsmily and had to eat berries, birds, fishx and various furry woodland creatures that those big hairy ape thimgs collected.

14 While the moral hazards of…

While the moral hazards of guaranteed contracts are there, I still feel bad that the nfl is only sport with largely non guaranteed contracts. Sure, player's can mitigate this by front loading most of the contract in the form of signing bonuses, but team's by in large do not want to pay that and the nature of nfl careers and replaceability means they have the leverage in bargaining power.


I think it would be best for everyone to just say - all contracts are guaranteed. In that situation, the Raiders would be much more reticent to hand a contract to someone like AB. 

18 While team options in…

While team options in contracts are far, far, more frequent in the NFL, compared to the other major team sports, they certainly are not incredibly rare in those other leagues. Football is just a very violent game, with a hard salary cap, so heavily frontloaded contracts are a predictable and rational feature.

22 I think the guaranteed…

I think the guaranteed contracts point is a little bit of a red herring.  Teams are willing to pay for guaranteed contracts, just not for as much as non-guaranteed ones.  The trade-off for the player is to get the higher potential amount, even if it's not guaranteed.

Matthew Stafford signed for "five years, $135 million" - but "only" $92 million is guaranteed, and per Spotrac, the Lions have a good "out" point after three years.  Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, did sign a fully-guaranteed contract, but for three years and $84 million.  I'm guessing that if Stafford had prioritized "a fully guaranteed" contract, the Lions would have obliged... but for something in the three years, $92 million range.

23 The problem I have is your…

The problem I have is your picking Stafford and Kirk cousins, two players who play a position that has a lot more bargaining power than the majority of other players at other positions. To use your two examples, if a team is bargaining with an average player, they can have the best of both worlds... Negotiating a minimal signing bonus in exchange for fewer dollars at the back of the contract since a player will likely trade twice as much in the back end of the contract for more guaranteed upfront (all made up numbers, I'm just hypothesizing).

Were this a competitive market, I would simply accept this as a optimal outcome even if I didn't necessarily like the results personally. However this is a very weird Monopoly monopsony problem. 

As I've mentioned in other places, the effect the rookie wage scale had is it dramatically raised the wages of all of the premium players and especially the quarterbacks, giving them even more bargaining power. I'm just of the mindset that if all contracts were guaranteed, it would be a kind of backdoor subsidy for the elite players to the average ones. and under the assumption that we want all players to have equal bargaining power, this is a trade-off I'd be willing to accept. 

25 Fair point on the QBs having…

Fair point on the QBs having more bargaining power, I didn't really think about that.  My theory is still that teams *would* give guaranteed contracts, you would just see lower totals.  When a safety signs a four-year, $40 million contract, with $25 million guaranteed - my guess is the player would have been able to sign a three-year, $25 million guaranteed.  But of course, the player will bet on himself still being good enough to get that extra $15 million.

26 Let me illustrate with an…

Let me illustrate with an example:


Russel Wilson signed a four year 140 million dollar extension with 107 million in guaranteed money. 77 percent of his contract guaranteed

Zach Martin signed 6 year 84 million dollars with 40 million in guarantees, ~50 percent of his contract guaranteed

Joe Looney signed a 2 year 2.1 million dollar contract with 250k in guarantees. 12 percent of his contract is guaranteed.

I realize we are comparing different positions, but the ratios are what matter. My argument is, as you go down the bargaining power ladder, more and more you are forced to give up in total contract for what you get in guarantees. Is that fair? In my opinion where injuries are random and affect great players and bad players with(approximately) the same probability, no its not. Why should Wilson be insulated far more than Joe Looney when the risk of injuries remains the same. Does Wilson deserve to be insured for a higher percentage of his contract than Looney because he's a more valuable player? 


32 "Fair" has very little to do…

"Fair" has very little to do with bargaining power. Wilson gets a higher percentage guaranteed for the same reason he gets paid more, and for the same reason qbs rarely are holdouts; because it would be much more painful for the Seahawks to have a poor working relationship with Wilson, compared to other players.

36 "Fair" here was referring to…

"Fair" here was referring to the ratio of the guarantees. I have no problem if, in absolute terms, he receives more in guarantees and total contracts. Its the ratio that irks me. If Wilson were to suffer an unfortunate career altering injury(let's hope not), he is insured far more as a percentage of his contract than either Looney or Martin. And here is where I say its unfair. All players should receive the same ratio of guarantees because all are bearing approximately the same risk( yes its more complicated than that - Wilson plays more snaps, but then he's protected more by rule changes etc etc, but the point remains).  

39 People "should' get whatever…

People "should' get whatever they can convince other people to voluntarily give them. Wilson gets a higher ratio from the people who manage the Seahawks because the people who manage the Seahawks, quite rationally, think it is more important to maintain a conflict free relationship with Wilson, compared to that of other players on their roster. 

41 I don't understand why the…

I don't understand why the ratio needs to be the same - it's not really in any other sport, or even many other "normal" fields.

Two MLB players could sign the following deals:

A) five years, $150 million deal;

B) three years, $90, with team options for $30 million each in years four and five.

Those are both totally plausible deals, and no one really says the second is unfair.  Rather, as Will points out, they would just say that it indicates that teams are more willing to trust that player A will remain worth $30 million per year longer than player B.

This isn't even unique to sports.  Some people will have base salaries of $60,000, while others in the same field have a base of $50,000 with a $10,000 performance-based bonus.

40 I don't think the ratios…

I don't think the ratios matter as much as you think.

In almost every case, it seems like teams are willing to guarantee an amount of money that they foresee the player being worth.  Zach Martin would be perfectly within his rights to ask for $65 million guaranteed (77% of the $84 million total), but I don't think many teams would give it to him.

Looking at Spotrac, Martin's yearly cash goes:

2018: $22 million

2019: $10 million

2020: $11 million

2021: $11 million

2022: $11.841 million

2023: $13.5 million

2024: $14 million

A few things stand out.

One, I don't understand how this is "six years, $84 million" (Spotrac even calls it that), when it covers seven seasons and sums to $93.341 million.  Even after six years, it sums to $79.341 million, so... I don't get it.

Two, the dead cap hit drops to $8 million after three years, at which point, Martin will have earned $43 million from this contract.  You could easily report this contract as "three years, $43 million, with team options to go up to seven years, $93 million".

My only point is that the guaranteed contract talking point is a bit of a red herring.  If the NFL did choose to do away with "non-guaranteed" contracts (which would be unlike the other major US sports leagues), Martin wouldn't be getting a six year, $84 million contract, he'd be getting something much more like three years, $43 million (or four years, $54 million).

42 I agree, which is why I…

I agree, which is why I called it a hidden subsidy from Martin to Joe Looney. To answer Will above as well, were this a free market, I would have 0 problems with this and simply chalk it up to a negotiating equilibrium. But its not a free market, its this weird quasi monopoly quasi monopsony world where leverage is sort of spread out all over the place in subtle and not so subtle ways.


My basic point - a player assumes all of the risk of a injury when the contracts are not guaranteed. Those with bargaining power are able to tilt that risk further away by bargaining up the guaranteed money. Lower rung players cannot even though they have the same chance of injury. 


The question is - are we better off with a world where Joe Looney makes lets say 1 million less but its all guaranteed and Martin makes maybe 30 percent less but its all guaranteed? I guess we won't know unless we do a broad survey but I just feel its inherently unfair that the most dangerous sport is the one where contracts are not fully guaranteed. Jon Wall is going to be paid every penny of his contract despite a torn achilles. 

43 It is simply inaccurate to…

It is simply inaccurate to imply that contracts in other leagues never have team options. They are not frequent, but not unheard of, either. In baseball, not surprisingly, they are most commonly seen in pitcher contracts, the position with the most random injury risk. In every sport, greater injury risk increases the chance of the contract having a team option, meaning the contract is not guaranteed. It is most common in the NFL precisely because the NFL has the injury risk which is highest, along with the hardest salary cap making an injured player under contract being most harmful to a team's chance of winning games, compared to other leagues.

44 I'm simply putting out a…

I'm simply putting out a suggestion that all contracts be guaranteed. That's not the same as abolishing team options, merely that whatever is agreed upon should be paid. How that would look in practice in a league with a hard salary cap is interesting. Contract lengths probably become a lot shorter and maybe the average compensation remains largely unchanged. Maybe there are far more incentive clauses. Is that a better league? I don't know, but I am arguing it would be a better league for most of the players in the nfl, as their bargaining power leaves them little in the way of negotiating guaranteed money. 

There are also ways to mitigate injury related cap hits from a team's perspective. Maybe amnesties or stretch provisions the way the nba does? 

45 If there are team options,…

If there are team options, then the contract is not guaranteed. That is what a non-guaranteed contract is; a contract which gives a team the option to get out of the contract at a certain future date or dates. It puzzles me to no end that so many people assert that all NBA or MLB contracts are fully guaranteed. This is simply not the case.

47 Again, this is a…

Again, this is a misconception. NFL contracts typically have many more exit dates for the team than an NBA contract, when the NBA contract has them at all, and thus the NFL contract typically front loads more cash at signing, but the mechanism is pretty much the same. The typical contract structure differences between the two leagues is nearly entirely due to the higher risk of injury in football, and a harder salary cap.

54 At a guess . . .

One, I don't understand how this is "six years, $84 million" (Spotrac even calls it that), when it covers seven seasons and sums to $93.341 million.  Even after six years, it sums to $79.341 million, so... I don't get it.

Without looking up the contract, I can't be sure, but my first guess would be that the last season is a team option with a $5 million buyout.

55 I don't understand how this…

I don't understand how this is "six years, $84 million" (Spotrac even calls it that), when it covers seven seasons and sums to $93.341 million.

It was a contract extension, adding $84M in new money and 6yrs in new seasons to his existing contract. Before signing this deal, he was under contract for $9.341M for the 2018 season (the 5th year option). This deal added 6 years and $84M, bringing him from 1 year $9.341M to 7 years $93.341M.

56 Depending on when the…

Depending on when the Cowboys decide to cut him, Martin's contract extension could wind up being:

0 new years, $22.7M new money (inf per year)
1 new year, $22.7M new money  (22.7M per year) + 8M injury guarantee
2 new years, $33.7M new money (16.8M per year)
3 new years, $44.7M new money (14.9M per year)
4 new years, $56.5M new money (14.1M per year)
5 new years, $70.0M new money (14.0M per year)
6 new years, $84.0M new money (14.0M per year)

So it's basically $14M per year for 3-6 new seasons.

(0 new years is if they cut him after the 2018 season, 1 new year is if they cut him after the 2019 season, ..., 6 new years is if he plays out the entire contract through the end of the 2024 season.)

3 I don't understand why the…

I don't understand why the NFL doesn't grandfather in those who don't want to play with the new helmets much like the NHL did with face visors. Yes, it's dangerous for the players. But I don't think the old helmets give any competitive advantage. Possibly limit keeping the old helmets to only those players with four years NFL experience. Brady may keep playing until he's 60, but most other players using the helmet will be out of the league in five years.

4 I'm sure the NFLPA doesn't…

I'm sure the NFLPA doesn't want to do that.  It flies in the face of their Player Safety agenda.  It's not about a competitive damage, it's about not meeting safety standards.  There's no reason for an NFL player to need to wear an 11-year-old helmet. 

6 Brown is an adult.  He's…

Brown is an adult.  He's capable of making his own decisions about the advantages and disadvantages of a helmet.  If he decides he wants to wear the old helmets, he should be allowed to do so.  And if he gets hurt, he has no one to blame but himself.

Having said that, I have to wonder if this is just a smoke screen.  Perhaps, having seen behind the Raiders curtain a bit, he realizes that playing for them will ruin his legacy, like it almost did to Moss, and he's looking for a convenient excuse to exit stage left.  Or maybe he's just being a diva, just for the hell of it.  Who knows?

9 The fact that the class…

The fact that the class action lawsuit(s?) around concussions have traction means your first paragraph isn't really true.  The league is watching out for two things here: future lawsuits and public perception.

10 The predictable development…

The predictable development is that the former player's estate or legal guardian claims that he was already cognitively impaired when he chose to continue to use a defective helmet, thus suffering further brain damage, and the league was negligent in allowing him to do so.

If the guy wants to retire, because he isn't allowed to use an 11 year old helmet, let'em retire.

16 So, the NFL should just…

So, the NFL should just operate under the assumption that every player is suffering from serious brain damage, and is unable to make their own decisions, so the league should decide everything for them.  Gee, what could possibly go wrong with that plan?

17 Show up at a construction…

Show up at a construction site wearing a yarmulke instead of a construction helmet and tell the foreman you're a grown-up and should be allowed to wear whatever you like.  Or a forward army base wearing shorts and sandals.

You can call it a workplace safety issue, or if you prefer, a dress code issue.  Either way, the employing organization has the right to dictate what you wear.

27 I'm not questioning whether…

I'm not questioning whether they have the right to do it.  They certainly do.  I'm questioning whether it's a good idea.

You have the right to drink 10 bottles of hard liquor a day.  But doing so would be a very poor idea, and if drinking that much became common practice, the world would be a much worse place.  The same can be said for businesses treating their employees like children.

15 Well, if the NFL is just…

Well, if the NFL is just going to accept the notion that they are legally liable for every player injury, then they might as well switch to flag football right now.  There are no magic helmets that are going to prevent all head trauma.

28 You're missing my point.  No…

You're missing my point.  No matter what rules are in place, as long as it's tackle football, there is going to be a significant risk of injury.  And given that, someone must decide how much risk is acceptable.  Obviously, whoever makes that decision is then responsible for the consequences of that decision.  So the question is: Who should make that decision?

I think it's obvious, from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint, that it makes more sense for the player to decide, and thus, to be held responsible for any consequences arising from that decision.


61 There are plenty of…

There are plenty of dangerous professions where workers are required to signs waivers saying that their employer is not liable if they are injured on the job.  If, as you seem to be suggesting, the NFL is simply going to passively accept the idea that they are liable for all player injuries, then the league is doomed financially.

37 The rule makers make the…

The rule makers make the rules. They do that on behalf of what the nfl has agreed with the nflpa. But they are not going to quantify how much risk is acceptable. Risk is unquantifyable and unpredictable. 

And, that doesnt make them responsible for injuries. Sometimes the players themselves are responsible for their own injuries. Sometimes another player. And sometimes no one.

29 They shouldn't.  There are a…

They shouldn't.  There are a lot of bad laws in this country, but I'm hard pressed to think of a more idiotic, condescending, or paternalistic law than the one mandating adult seat belt use.

Even ignoring the impropriety of treating adults like children, there is the simple fact that the law accomplishes nothing of its stated purpose.  Anyone who wants to wear a seat belt is free to do so, with or without the law.  And as for those who don't, if they are willing to accept the small risk of being killed or maimed in an accident, why wouldn't they also be willing to accept the small risk of getting a ticket for breaking the seat belt law?

In fact, the only real purpose of the law is to let cops write more tickets.

35 "estimated belt use…

"estimated belt use increased from 82.5 in 2007 to 90.1 in 2016. ... Looking only at those passenger vehicle occupants who were killed and their restraint use known, 52 percent were restrained and 48 percent were unrestrained." Humans are not rational and make sub-optimal decisions all the time, Behavioral Psychology has documented many instances in which these decisions are made. 

62 There's not a shred of…

There's not a shred of evidence that the increase you cite was due to seat belt laws.  It could just as easily be due to people becoming more educated about the benefits of seat belts, or those annoying chimes in newer cars that go off whenever you're not wearing your seat belt.  That's the problem with most "social science" studies: no control group.

64 It's funny you bring up …

It's funny you bring up "those annoying chimes", because that is a regulation that car manufacturers are required to follow.  Just like the regulation that people must wear seat belts.

38 Because car accidents bring…

Because car accidents bring a great amount or injuries that can easily be prevented by seatbelts.

Those little accidents bring a lot of cost and pressure in the healthcare.

And because most people behave like morons you need laws to protect them from their own stupidity.

49 When did you become my father?

If you aren't free to be stupid, then you aren't really free....



"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."

--- P.J. O'Rourke

53 If you have an accident…

If you have an accident without seatbelts and only drive 15mph you can have serious injuries. If you say that all the cost should be paid by the person having the accident then go for it. And I mean police and ambulance salaries, cost of blocked roads, people being late, recovery, etc etc. 

And then theres the thing of having an accident where it is someone elses fault.

If I am at fault in an accident: Am I, or my insurance, going to pay for your concussion and broken skull because you were to stubborn to wear a seatbelt? 

59 This is the basic tension in…

This is the basic tension in libertarian arguments; If society is unwilling to make people pay for their stupidity (e.g. refuse free ER treatment to someone who can't pay the cost of there injury), it's hard to argue that they don't have a right to regulate risky behavior. In the same way if the NFL is going to be sued into paying for players injurys under the premise that they are "too brain damaged to accept the risk" then they will have to enforce draconian helmet rules like this one. Personally I think courts are vastly too sympathetic to arguments made by people like to former NFL player class - but it's unreasonable to lay questions about the legal system at the feet of the NFL (just like it's unreasonable to ask the NFL to punish players for crimes that a court of law found them innocent of).

60 This is the basic tension in…

This is the basic tension in libertarian arguments; If society is unwilling to make people pay for their stupidity (e.g. refuse free ER treatment to someone who can't pay the cost of there injury), it's hard to argue that they don't have a right to regulate risky behavior. In the same way if the NFL is going to be sued into paying for players injurys under the premise that they are "too brain damaged to accept the risk" then they will have to enforce draconian helmet rules like this one. Personally I think courts are vastly too sympathetic to arguments made by people like to former NFL player class - but it's unreasonable to lay questions about the legal system at the feet of the NFL (just like it's unreasonable to ask the NFL to punish players for crimes that a court of law found them innocent of).

63 "Protecting people from…

"Protecting people from themselves" has been claimed as a justification by every tyrannical government in history.

As for the health care argument, obesity causes health problems.  Do we need laws forcing people to lose weight?

(That was supposed to be a reply to #38.  Not sure how it ended up here.)

68 So what?  People have many…

So what?  People have many reasons for not wearing seat belts, but regardless of the reasons, failure to wear seat belts leads to more need for health care.  It's the same story for obesity.  Regardless of the causes of obesity, it still leads to more need for health care.  Does that mean people should be punished for being obese, or not? 

58 You can't waive away…

You can't waive away responsibility for your actions that involve a 3rd approving you to do so.  If you and your friend decide to play "Let's shoot each other while wearing our homemade bulletproof vests, I'll sign a waiver!" that's not going to protect your friend when he accidently kills you.  It might take certain charges off the table, but the DA isn't going to go "Oh, the dead guy signed a waiver.  You're free to go."

If you work in an environment that requires certain safety gear, your employer can't just let you go without it, even if you want to.  When your foot is crushed OSHA isn't going to care that your employer granted your waiver to wearing steel-toed boots on the factory floor.

5 The day AB becomes an…

The day AB becomes an average player is the day his nfl career comes to an end. Such is what happens when you become perceived as a selfish me first diva.

24 It’s strange, I may have…

I may have missed something - correct me if I have, but I never recall any mention of Brown’s diva-like behaviour before last season. If there was, it certainly never affected his on-field performance. Seemingly either the Pittsburgh staff did an exceptional job of managing him over the years, keeping his erratic behaviour under wraps, or there really has been a sudden and marked deterioration. 

Perhaps we’ll see great production from him again once the games start, and this will all become a distant memory. But it sure feels like he is doing serious damage to his legacy (presumably the damage is already done in Pittsburgh...). Are there any other examples of HOF calibre players who suddenly went off the rails late on in their careers in this manner?