Former Patriots doctor altered treatment to recoup player bonus money, NFLPA alleges
The union filed a grievance on behalf of Jonathan Fanene, claiming the Patriots aimed to recoup bonus money by messing with his treatment.
The National Football League Players Association has filed a grievance against the New England Patriots and former team physician Thomas Gill, claiming the organization purposely changed the medical treatment of a player to regain bonus money, per Sally Jenkins and Rick Maese of the Washington Post.
Jonathan Fanene, a defensive end who spent seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, came over to the Patriots in 2012 as a free agent and was signed to a three-year deal which included a $3.85 million signing bonus.
Despite passing two physicals, Fanene sustained a knee injury and was ultimately released in August 2012 by the team due to arthritis in his left knee. The team claimed Fanene did not make the club aware of the condition and later tried to recoup the bonus.
The grievance only became public because it was brought to light during the lawsuit by former players over the usage of painkillers in the NFL.
In the grievance, the NFLPA claims the team attempted to sabotage Fanene’s medical treatment by delaying any surgery on the knee, a procedure Gill never performed. The letter also states the team tried to persuade Fanene into retirement.
Fanene ultimately accepted an agreement with the Patriots. The agreement does not allow Fanene to discuss the topic and also prevent him from filing a civil suit against the team or Gill.
NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith stated that he could not comment on the grievance, but was alarmed with its contents, per the story.
“It makes serious allegations about the integrity and independence of a team doctor providing medical care to a player,” Smith said. “The allegations would suggest behavior that is completely inappropriate. I will look forward to seeing what the league intends to do as far as investigating this pursuant to their personal conduct policy.”
For Gill’s part, he claims that while he did send an e-mail to head coach Bill Belichick with the phrase “trying to put together a case” but says the context is not correct. The NFLPA wanted Gill dismissed following the incident, but he remained with the team until resigning in April. Gill claims his resignation had nothing to do with the grievance.
In the grievance, the NFLPA claims Belichick told Gill to play “four corner offense” in hopes of stalling while figuring out a course of action with Fanene. This is something Gill backs up, but again questions the context of, per the Washington Post.
“Coach Belichick sent an e-mail that said something about ‘let’s play some four corners here,’ which I think had to do with the timing,” Gill said. “It’s vague to me at this point. . . .
“He was saying let’s slow this process down till we can figure out what’s going on with Jonathan. Coach was talking about a day or two of trying to figure things out.”
Gill was involved in some other high-profile issues with players, including his treatment of tight end Rob Gronkowski. After breaking his forearm in 2012, Gronkowski returned to the field only to re-break the arm, requiring four surgeries to fix it. Gill was also on the medical staff for the Boston Red Sox from 2005-11 and misdiagnosed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who had four broken ribs. Gill’s position was eliminated by the Red Sox in 2011.