Do NFL Players Get Paid When Injured?

In the high-stakes world of professional football, NFL players not only put their bodies on the line every game but also face the risk of injuries that can have significant financial implications. The complex nature of NFL contracts, a combination of guaranteed and non-guaranteed money, adds a layer of uncertainty to the financial well-being of players, particularly when they find themselves on the injured reserve list. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of NFL contracts, discussing guaranteed and non-guaranteed money, the financial impact of injuries, tax implications, agent fees, and more.

NFL Contracts: An Overview

NFL contracts are among the most intricate and heavily negotiated agreements in the world of professional sports. These contracts determine the financial terms of a player’s employment with a team, encompassing details such as salary, signing bonuses, incentives, and the structure of payments. However, not all money in an NFL contract is created equal, as contracts typically include both guaranteed and non-guaranteed components.

Guaranteed vs. Non-Guaranteed Money

The key distinction in NFL contracts lies between guaranteed and non-guaranteed money. Guaranteed money is the portion of the contract that the player is assured to receive, regardless of performance or injury. This can include signing bonuses, fully guaranteed salaries, and other guaranteed roster bonuses. On the other hand, non-guaranteed money consists of elements like base salaries that are contingent on the player making the team’s active roster.

Injury Guarantees

While many contracts feature injury guarantees, the level of protection varies. In some cases, a player may have injury guarantees that cover a portion or the entirety of their salary in the event of an injury. However, the specifics of injury guarantees are highly negotiable, and not all players enjoy the same degree of protection. Some contracts may only provide injury guarantees for certain types of injuries or during specific phases of the season.

Injured Reserve and Salary Continuation

When a player is injured and placed on the injured reserve (IR) list, their team must decide whether to pay the player’s full salary or negotiate an injury settlement. In some cases, players on IR may receive their full salary, particularly if they have injury guarantees in their contracts. However, teams may also choose to negotiate a settlement, which involves a lump-sum payment to the injured player in lieu of the remaining salary.

Tax Implications for Injured Players

Understanding the tax implications of NFL contracts is crucial for players, especially those dealing with injuries. The tax treatment of a player’s income can vary based on factors such as where the games are played and the player’s state of residence. In the case of injury settlements, the tax consequences can differ depending on whether the payment is characterized as salary continuation or a one-time settlement. Players and their financial advisors must navigate these complexities to ensure optimal tax planning.

Agent Fees and Financial Planning

NFL players often enlist the services of agents to negotiate contracts and navigate the complexities of the league’s financial landscape. Agents typically charge a percentage of the player’s contract as their fee, ranging from 1.5% to 3% or more. While agents play a crucial role in securing favorable terms for their clients, players must be mindful of the impact of agent fees on their overall earnings. Additionally, injured players need sound financial planning to manage their finances during recovery and potentially uncertain playing futures.

Long-Term Impact on Career Earnings

Injuries can have a profound impact on a player’s career trajectory and earnings potential. For players with non-guaranteed contracts, significant injuries may result in the termination of their contracts, leaving them without the financial security they anticipated. Even for players with guaranteed money, the long-term effects of an injury can hinder their performance, reducing their market value in subsequent contract negotiations.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

The terms and conditions of NFL contracts are not solely determined by individual negotiations between players and teams. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) plays a crucial role in shaping the landscape of player contracts. The CBA outlines rules regarding salary caps, contract structures, and other important financial aspects of the league. Changes or updates to the CBA can impact how contracts are negotiated, including provisions related to injury guarantees.


Navigating the financial intricacies of NFL contracts, especially in the context of injuries, requires a deep understanding of the terms, guarantees, and potential risks involved. While some players benefit from robust injury protections and guaranteed money, others face the uncertainty of non-guaranteed contracts and the financial implications of significant injuries. As the landscape of professional football continues to evolve, players, agents, and teams must adapt to ensure fair and equitable financial arrangements that consider the challenges and uncertainties inherent in the sport.

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