Kelechi Osemele fine is the beginning, not the end, of his fight with Jets

Mike Florio

The battle lines were drawn on Friday. On Saturday, the situation officially turned ugly. It’s likely far from over.

When Jets offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele refused to practice on Saturday due to the contention that his shoulder won’t allow him to do so, the Jets fined him for conduct detrimental to the team. Osemele reportedly, and obviously, will file a grievance challenging the fine.

So where does it go from here?

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Osemele is listed as doubtful for Monday night’s game against the Patriots, not out. If he refuses to suit up and play, that could result in another fine. If he refuses to practice on Wednesday, another fine. And so on it would go, until the Jets have fined him enough times to justify a suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the team.

And then, after the suspension, he’ll have to choose whether to practice and play, with the threat of another suspension looming.

Although the Jets have been publicly silent since both Osemele and his agent went public on Friday, there are two potential explanations for what’s happening: (1) the Jets are brazenly and blatantly trying to force a player who has a legitimate injury to practice and to play; or (2) they’re not.

Let’s apply some common sense to the situation. Osemele was benched after the first three games of the season. That’s when the shoulder injury came to light. Team doctors think he can play. He has exercised his right to a second opinion. And the labor deal makes it clear that “[a] player shall have the right to follow the reasonable medical advice given to him by his second opinion physician with respect to diagnosis of injury, surgical and treatment decisions, and rehabilitation and treatment protocol,” after the player consults with the team physician and consider the team physician’s recommendation before making a final decision.

So if the Jets are digging in, it means that they’ve decided to ignore the collectively bargaining procedures for respecting the conflict between the first and second opinions, or there is no conflict. If there is no conflict, it means that, medically, Osemele can practice and play, but perhaps he doesn’t want to practice and play because he’d prefer to get surgery now because he wants to be healthy when the Jets cut him in the offseason and he hits the open market.

Then there’s the question of whether Osemele received Toradol shots that would allow him to play in the first three games of the season with a shoulder injury that the team didn’t disclose. If that’s true, the Jets would be facing discipline from the league for not disclosing the injury. As the Jets learned the hard way in 2009, when then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre wouldn’t quit citing an undisclosed partial biceps tendon tear to excuse his poor performance down the stretch with the Jets in 2008, the league can and will impose significant financial penalties if injuries are hidden.

So if Osemele truly did get Toradol shots for an undisclosed shoulder injury, that’s something he needs to continue to talk about, over and over again, in order to get the Jets scrutinized for hiding his injury. If he doesn’t continue talking about it, maybe he didn’t get Toradol shots for his shoulder.

However it plays out, the fight is just getting started. Unless Osemele chooses to practice and to play, there surely will be more fines, and eventually there will be suspensions. An arbitrator eventually will work it all out. And at the core of the case will be whether the first opinion and the second opinion from the doctors who examined Osemele’s shoulder determined that he’s able to practice and to play.

Which brings all of this back to common sense, in light of the current climate of player safety. Either the Jets are ignoring the collectively-bargained medical rights of a truly injured player, or the player is taking advantage of the sensitivity to health and safety to pressure the Jets to put him on injured reserve so he can get his surgery now.

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