Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Lawrence Tynes came into the 2013 season thinking that he'd have an NFL job, and that was a reasonable expectation. He had a career year for the New York Giants in 2012, making 33 of his 39 field goal tries, including nine from 40-49 yards, and three from more than 50 yards out. He signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers in mid-July after Connor Barth suffered an Achilles tendon injury in a basketball game, and things were going well for him. Going well, that is, until Tynes and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks picked up MRSA staph infections in their toes. MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is an infection commonly spread in locker rooms, and it's particularly resistant to antibiotics. The Buccaneers sanitized their facilities twice after the infections were discovered.
Tynes underwent surgery in late August to try and alleviate the infection, but it apparently didn't take. He then went home to Kansas City and received a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) in order to fight the infection with a more aggressive course of antibiotics. In the meantime, the Buccaneers signed veteran kicker Rian Lindell and placed Tynes on their Non-Football Injury List on Aug. 31, ending his season.
There were already complications surrounding that decision. Tynes' wife Amanda sent this photo out over Twitter on Aug. 28:
Then, there was the matter of Tynes' place on the NFI list, and what that means. The NFI list is for players who sustain season-ending injuries as a result of things that happen off the field and away from team facilities. Thus, it would seem that the Buccaneers are abdicating responsibility for any part Tynes' time at their facility would have played in the infection.
On Saturday, Tynes opened up to FoxSports.com's Mike Garafolo, and said that he will fight this particular designation.
"This whole thing is wrong. 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."
While the Buccaneers will have to pay Tynes' entire $840,000 salary for the season, he will not receive an accrued season on the NFI list per the league's collective bargaining agreement. Nor will he receive benefits, or another season added to his eventual pension.
This puts the team in a difficult legal situation. Had they placed Tynes in injured reserve, they would essentially be admitting that the condition ending his season happened while he was under the franchise's care, opening the door to potential litigation. But in bypassing IR, the Buccaneers have invited the ire of the Tynes family, and a possible grievance from the NFL Players' Association.
"It's the humanity of it — not accepting blame and then trying to sugarcoat it with the salary," Tynes told Garafalo. "That was their PR cover-up: 'At least you're getting paid.' That's not the point. It's wrong." Several players in the Cleveland Browns organization contracted MRSA from 2003 through 2008, and at least two -- offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley and receiver Joe Jurevicius -- received financial settlements from the team after filing lawsuits. Bentley was particularly affected by his staph infection -- he was worried for a time that he might lose a leg, and he never played football again.