TAMPA, Fla. — NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said his organization has filed a grievance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on behalf of Lawrence Tynes for “the manner in which that player and perhaps other players’ safety was handled by the team” in connection with the kicker’s MRSA issue.
In August, the Bucs revealed that Tynes, a nine-year veteran, contracted the serious staph infection on his right foot during training camp after dealing with a lingering ingrown toenail. Tynes was signed to replace Connor Barth, who tore his right Achilles’ tendon in July, but Tynes was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list Aug. 31 when the Bucs trimmed their roster to 53 men.
“It’s obviously the beginning of the grievance process,” Smith said. “We will look forward to working with the league to try to see what the facts are, and most importantly, take steps to make sure they and every team are protecting our players.”
In addition to Tynes, Bucs guard Carl Nicks contracted MRSA after he developed a blister on his left foot that became infected. Nicks, a two-time Pro Bowl player, missed Tampa Bay’s first two games before declaring himself “MRSA free” on Sept. 11.
The Bucs treated their facility for MRSA in August, and no other cases of the infection have been confirmed.
Meanwhile, Smith also addressed the issue concerning quarterback Josh Freeman, who admitted Monday night in a statement that he lives with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Earlier Monday, his medical information was leaked in a report that revealed he’s a Stage One participant in the NFL’s drug program.
Smith said the NFLPA is “sufficiently concerned” to begin an investigation into how Freeman’s information was leaked. Last Wednesday, the Bucs benched the five-year veteran in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. Freeman was declared inactive Sunday and watched Tampa Bay’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals from a suite at Raymond James Stadium, three days after he gave an unauthorized interview to ESPN in which he said a trade would be best for him.
“We have a collective-bargaining agreement that mandates and protects confidentiality and privacy,” Smith said. “If we believe that any member of the team management or anyone from the league has deliberately taken steps to thwart that privacy and to breech that confidentiality, this union will take every step and file every grievance and pursue and law to rectify that. We believe that it’s important to maintain the confidentiality. I appreciate the manner in which Josh has handled this personally, because he is a good, young man. But this issue is a bigger issue about what’s right with respect to the relationship between players and management. When those issues come to bear, this is a union that will stand up for its players.”
Smith visited the Bucs’ facility Tuesday as part of a previously scheduled stop to discuss routine items with players such as benefits and new NFLPA programs. But the timing gave him a chance to address the Bucs’ growing concerns off the field.
“I believe that the league has the same interests that we have in trying to determine what happened,” Smith said of the Freeman situation. “I look forward to working with (NFL commissioner) Roger (Goodell) and people from the league in order to conduct that investigation. But on behalf of our players, it’s also important for all of our players and fans to know that our system works if people abide by the rules. If we have a concern that the rules have been intentionally broken, no one is going to be exempt from the consequences.”