FOX Sports Exclusive
Tynes fighting Bucs over MRSA mess
Lawrence Tynes was informed Saturday he'll be placed on the non-football-injury list by the Bucs, which is their way of saying he has no proof the MRSA infection that began in his foot was contracted at their facility. The team has told Tynes it will pay his base salary this season — but by not putting him on Injured Reserve, it is denying Tynes certain other benefits to which he says he's entitled.
The Bucs' move also does nothing to ease the anger Tynes feels over what he believes was a misdiagnosis and mistreatment of his condition.
In an exclusive interview with FOX Sports on Saturday, Tynes broke his silence on the matter. He said the NFL Players Association is behind him and is preparing to file an expedited grievance in an attempt to force the Buccaneers to place him on Injured Reserve.
"This whole thing is wrong," Tynes said by phone Saturday afternoon. "My biggest emphasis is I don't want this to happen to any current or future player. I'm going to fight this thing as long as I have to, because this team should not be allowed to do this to players.
"If I drop a 45-pound plate on my foot while lifting weights in the weight room at the facility, it's IR. So I just don't understand how my situation is any different. I went to work, I kicked, I practiced, I cold-tubbed, I hot-tubbed, I showered for all those days there. I come up with MRSA and it's a non-football injury? They're basically trying to exonerate themselves of this, and I'm not going to allow it to happen."
When a player goes on IR, he's entitled to his salary for as long as he remains with his team. The player also receives an accrued season, full benefits and another season toward his pension. Players on the NFI list do not receive those added benefits.
Again, the Bucs are willing to pay Tynes' salary but are surely guarding against future litigation. If they put him on IR, the move could be construed as admitting Tynes contracted MRSA at their facility.
"Historically, other teams have done the right thing," Tynes said. "Other players who have had staph or MRSA, the appropriate designation is IR."
Tynes — whose wife took to Twitter on Wednesday to refute the Bucs' claims the kicker is "responding well" to treatment — said he elected to have a procedure July 30 to fix an ingrown toenail on his kicking foot. Four to five days later, he noticed his toe was red, swollen and oozing pus. Tynes said team doctors gave him antibiotics to fight an infection, but the medication wasn't working. He said he then went to get a culture taken on Aug. 9 and the results came back a few days later to reveal he had MRSA, a serious staph infection that, if untreated, can lead to a flesh-eating condition.
Tynes recently had a PICC line — a peripherally inserted central catheter – inserted to deliver antibiotics right to his system. He said he's dropped six pounds this week and expects to have the PICC line in his arm for another five weeks or so.
The Bucs, who declined comment for this story, have scrubbed their facility a few times since learning Tynes and guard Carl Nicks were dealing with MRSA. The team has said only that Nicks is improving and responding well to treatment.
Tynes wouldn't reveal the full details of how he believes he contracted the infection but said, "The individuals that have tested positive for staph or MRSA, we feel very strongly about where it came from."
Asked about a report the team's trainer, Todd Toriscelli, is dealing with MRSA, Tynes merely replied, "I'm not a doctor. I just feel bad he's been dealing with a serious infection of some sort for the past four months."
Tynes, 35, said he's been on six different antibiotics and has had three surgical procedures to remove the infection, which is in the joint of his toe. The infection surrounded the bone but wasn't inside the bone, he said. If the infection had gotten inside the bone, amputation might have been a possibility.
MRSA is a serious infection that spread among several Cleveland Browns in 2005. Browns Center LeCharles Bentley was in the hospital for several months after contracting the infection in his knee and nearly had his leg amputated. Bentley never played again.
Tynes, the former New York Giants kicker who has two NFC Championship-winning kicks on his resume and believes he has five or six seasons left in his body, said he's worried for his career.
"It is scary, I'm really scared," he said. "I'm scared for my health, primarily, but when you think about football, I was going to be the Bucs' kicker until I contracted MRSA. So yeah, I'm mad because I want to play football and I'm worried about my toe.
"I've had three procedures, I've had a PICC line, I don't know what else is next."
By that, he means health-wise. Professionally, a grievance is next. And while he doesn't blame general manager Mark Dominik for the decision to place him on the NFI list — "I have a lot of respect for Mark, but I feel like the decision is coming from somewhere else," he said, "because I felt like after our meeting they were going to do the right thing" — Tynes plans to put up the biggest fight possible with the team.
"It's the humanity of it — not accepting blame and then trying to sugarcoat it with the salary," he said. "That was their PR cover-up: 'At least you're getting paid.'
"That's not the point. It's wrong."