Under league rules, the Baltimore Ravens would be within their rights to not pay linebacker Terrell Suggs for the games he will miss due to his Achilles injury. But, under the rules of the locker room, the players would likely frown upon such a decision against a respected teammate and leader.
League sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Suggs and Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters are facing a financial reduction in 2012. This would be a bad move for the Ravens. Suggs is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and has been a loyal soldier to the franchise. He's only missed three games in his nine-year career and he's played -- and played well -- through injuries. Suggs had two sacks in the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh four years ago despite wearing a shoulder harness. When a player has given this much to a team, it's poor taste to reach for his wallet when he is injured -- even if it's a business decision.
Still, the Ravens can place him on the Non-Football Injury list because he was hurt while away from the team. It doesn't matter if Suggs tore his Achilles while playing basketball (which were the initial reports) or practicing a conditioning test (which is what Suggs says happened), although saying it happened during the latter makes Suggs looks better.
He was injured outside a team-supervised workout, and under league rules, the team isn't obligated to pay him. Based on his $4.9 million salary in 2012, the Ravens could save $2 million if Suggs missed seven games on the Non-Football Injury list.
While the Ravens have the authority to take money away, it would be surprising for them to actually do it. Baltimore is counting on Suggs to be the foundation of the defense once Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. The Ravens certainly wouldn't take money away from Lewis or Reed. So, don't expect them to do it with Suggs.
In his first comments on Suggs' injury earlier this month, coach John Harbaugh said Suggs "will continue to be a huge part of what we are doing [and] continue to be a leader." This doesn't sound like the Ravens have any intention of reducing Suggs' paycheck. In fact, Suggs is thinking of getting more money. League sources told Mortensen that Suggs is contemplating a restructuring or extension of his contract when he is healthy that would reflect his status among the league's players after he was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Putting a high-profile player on the Non-Football Injury list wouldn't be unprecedented in the AFC North. It was just last year when the Bengals placed linebacker Keith Rivers on the Non-Football Injury list. Rivers later filed a grievance to recoup his salary, which likely factored in the former first-round pick getting traded to the New York Giants this offseason. This shows how putting a player on the Non-Football Injury list can cause bad feelings.
The Ravens don't have to make a decision on whether to put Suggs on the Non-Football Injury list until the start of training camp. Considering what Suggs has given the franchise for nearly a decade, it would be a bad move for the Ravens to take money away from him.