NFL Statement on Larry Johnson Ruling

The NFL released a statement on the outcome of the Plaxico Burress and Larry Johnson cases heard by NFL special master Stephen Burbank.

The main complaint the NFL has with the ruling is that Larry Johnson was allowed to keep 25% of his 2008 prorated signing bonus, or about $521,000. The Kansas City Chiefs argued that the current CBA allows the team to recoup 25% of the allocated portion of his prorated signing bonus due in 2008.

Today's ruling affirms the interpretation that signing bonus money can only be forfeited in the event of retirement or a holdout, which the NFL understandably has refuted below.

"Today's decision by Professor Burbank again underscores a serious flaw in the current system. It continues an unfortunate trend of permitting players who are suspended due to serious misconduct to nonetheless retain large bonus payments from their NFL teams.

"When clubs pay upfront bonuses as part of a long-term deal, they do it on the assumption that the player's ability to play will not be limited by his own unlawful activities. For that reason, the Plaxico Burress and Larry Johnson contracts expressly provided that a portion of their bonuses would be repaid if the player was unable to perform due to his own misconduct, as was the case for both players last year.

"Today's decision incorrectly holds that the current CBA bars such provisions. To permit players in these circumstances to retain the entirety of their bonuses, representing millions of dollars, is unfair to both clubs and other players, especially under the current salary cap system."

Johnson will have 30 days to appeal.

NFLPA lawyer Richard Berthelsen, who presented the case on behalf of Larry Johnson had the following to say after the ruling:

“We disagree with that portion of the ruling,’’ said Richard Berthelesen, the general counsel for the NFL Players Association. “But we have not yet decided as to what we’re going to do by way of appeal.’’

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