NFL Players Association lead attorney Richard Berthelsen said Sunday that the union plans to file a grievance on behalf of Miami Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper that Berthelsen hopes will force the team to cut or trade Culpepper as soon as possible.
"This is similar to the Steve McNair case last year where Tennessee wouldn't let him come to work out at the team facility because they were afraid they were going to be responsible for his salary if he got hurt," Berthelsen said. "We filed a grievance over that and we prevailed, which helped ultimately force the trade of McNair to Baltimore."
Culpepper was barred from taking part in team drills during Miami's three-day minicamp this weekend. The Dolphins told Culpepper on Wednesday that they plan to trade him now that they have dealt for quarterback Trent Green.
Culpepper has said on three occasions that he will block any trade and refuse to renegotiate his $5.5 million base salary for this season, although the Dolphins have given him permission to speak with other teams about a trade. Culpepper said in a release Saturday that he had spoken with NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw about the matter.
Culpepper said he had been cleared by Dr. James Andrews and by Miami team doctors early last week to participate in the minicamp. The Dolphins' NFLPA player rep, Jay Feely, told South Florida media over the weekend that he spoke with both Culpepper and Miami coach Cam Cameron about the matter. Feely indicated that the Dolphins were keeping Culpepper out of team practice because of his surgically repaired right knee.
"He has to decide what's best for him individually. I know that Coach Cameron wants to do what's best for our team," Feely said. "I don't have a problem with the way (the Dolphins) are proceeding. If I did, I'd tell them."
Even so, Berthelsen said the contention by the union will be that a team can't hold a player and bar him from working out just to protect their rights to trade him.
"Under the provisions of the standard player contract, players are compelled to stay in excellent physical condition and be ready for the season," Berthelsen said. "How do you do that? By practicing with the other players on the team. If the team will not allow him to practice because they don't want to be liable for his contract, the team should release him. They can't keep exclusive rights to you just because they think you're worth a draft pick."
The Dolphins had no immediate comment on the matter. Cameron said after the team concluded its minicamp Sunday that there was no update on Culpepper's situation.
- Richard Berthelsen