Preseason games may be meaningless to fans, but they’re very real to players. One wrong tackle can cost a player an entire season, and even then, players are at risk of massive penalties.
Tennessee Titans running back Dion Lewis is the latest player to be hit with the league’s fury, as a play where he lowered his helmet — but didn’t receive a penalty — against the New England Patriots cost him $28,075.
Fine: #Titans RB Dion Lewis was fined $28,075 for unnecessary roughness in the Aug. 17 game, this one for lowering his helmet.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 26, 2019
That fine is so large that it’s actually almost three times as much money as Lewis will make during the entire preseason. According to the NFL’s CBA, veteran players receive a stipend of $2,000 per week for the five-week stretch between the start of training camp and the week before the first regular season game.
Yes, Lewis will be fine financially. He’s earned $11.1 million over his eight-year career and is scheduled to make more than $4 million in each of the next three seasons. But that salary is spread across the 17-week regular season, not the “meaningless” preseason that hardly pays him.
Several players are losing money in the preseason
Lewis isn’t the only player to receive this penalty this preseason either. Third-year San Francisco 49ers safety Adrian Colbert was popped with the same fine earlier in the month, as was Cleveland Browns undrafted rookie J.T. Hassell.
Hassell’s case is particularly alarming since he is unlikely to make the 53-man roster — or potentially even the practice squad. It’s understandable for the league to want to enforce its rules even when games don’t count, but Hassell is going to be charged tens of thousands of dollars to try out for a football team.
These fines aren’t slaps on the wrist either. That $28,075 can pay for a car or much of a child’s college tuition. As long as the NFL does not pay its players significantly for its lengthy preseason, it should at least consider cutting down on the more frivolous fines, especially for players who may not be able to easily afford them.
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