Million-Dollar Sports Injuries
On July 30, 2011, the Indianapolis Colts decided not to mess with success. They renewed the contract of star quarterback Peyton Manning who, in a fit of generosity, agreed to five more years of service for a mere $90 million. He didn’t need to be the highest-paid player in the National Football League, he said, and he would make do with the same $18 million a year that Tom Brady squeaked by on.
It turned out to be a better deal than anyone realized. On Sept. 7, 2011, after problems recovering from neck surgery he had undergone four months earlier, the Colts disqualified Manning from appearing in the upcoming season opener. The next day, he was back on the operating table. Although the team didn’t put Manning on injured reserve, he would be out of commission for an unspecified period of time that could go on for months, if not the whole season.
Whatever happens, the team still has to keep paying his salary. Even if Manning spends the entire 2011 season out of commission, he will still receive the $18 million he would otherwise get for his services on the gridiron. This happens almost any time a professional athlete is injured during the season. The only question is how much money the teams will have to pay while the athlete recovers. In most cases, the costs can run into the millions of dollars.
What are some of the most notable multimillion-dollar sports injuries? Click ahead and find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 4 October 2011
Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz already had a long and illustrious career when his team decided to extend his contract for another three years in 2007. The contract guaranteed him $14 million for 2008, as well as $13 million if he completed 200 innings in 2009.
Smoltz was put on the disabled list in April 2008 due to an inflamed right shoulder. He stayed there for the rest of 2008, leading Forbes magazine to conclude that the injury sidelined him for almost three quarters of the season, costing the team more than $10 million.
Not that long ago, the New York Knicks’ assistant general manager, Allan Houston, was an active member of the team. While he played with them, he distinguished himself as a consistently high scorer. So when Houston’s contract came up for renewal in 2001, signing him again seemed like a no-brainer — even if the $100 million price tag seemed a little steep.
What no one foresaw was the bevy of knee injuries that would afflict him during the 2003-2004 season, causing him to miss 32 games. Houston returned to the court but his pain was persistent and he only played in 20 games in the 2004-2005 season. Houston played his last game in December 2004 and announced his retirement in 2005. There was still the matter of his $100 million salary, all of which was guaranteed, and all of which he received for doing nothing but nurse a knee injury.
Nate Odomes was a defensive back for the Buffalo Bills and the Atlanta Falcons. He was also on the roster of the Seattle Seahawks but it would be misleading to say that he played for them since he never spent a minute on the field during a game.
Odomes signed a four-year, $8.4 million contract in 1993, but he seriously injured his knee just before training camp started in 1994. He remained on the injured list throughout the 1995 season as well, and did not return to the field until he joined the Atlanta Falcons in 1996. All told, the Seahawks paid Odomes more than $8 million for two inactive seasons and another two in which he played for someone else.
Pitcher Jason Schmidt was signed to the San Francisco Giants in 2001 and remained an essential component of the team until 2006, when he was wooed away by the Los Angeles Dodgers. They offered him a $47 million contract in exchange for just three years of service and, understandably, he took the offer.
Schmidt’s fortunes reversed almost immediately. He started only three games before incurring a shoulder injury that put him on the disabled list for more than a month. He tried to return but after three games he was sidelined yet again, this time for the rest of the 2007 season. Schmidt then missed the entire 2008 season. Al told, his injury prevented him from pitching in all but 10 games, only three of which were wins. Since every penny of the $47 million contract was guaranteed, Schmidt was paid more than $15 million per win.
LeCharles Bentley was a guard and a center for the New Orleans Saints from 2002 to 2005. Sports Illustrated named him 2002’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he won a spot in the 2003 Pro Bowl. Based on his solid record, the Cleveland Browns made him the offer of a six-year, $36 million contract.
Bentley’s entire career with the Browns started and ended on day one of training camp, when he tore his patellar tendon. Not only did this keep him from playing but it necessitated four surgical procedures to correct it. Two of those procedures were necessary to treat a staph infection that almost resulted in Bentley having his leg amputated. He was ultimately released from the team in 2008 without playing a single game, and for his trouble he was paid $16 million.
Rod Smith, a former wide receiver, graced the roster of the Denver Broncos for his entire 13-year professional career. For years, he was a reliable teammate with more than 1,000 receiving yards. In 2001, he became one of only seven players in National Football League history with back-to-back 100-catch seasons. By 2006, however, the repeated punishment of the gridiron had taken its toll, and Smith underwent complete hip-replacement surgery.
The surgery did not go as planned, and in 2007 he was forced to undergo another procedure, prompting ESPN to speculate whether it would spell the end of his career. Smith formally announced his retirement in 2008. The team was still on the hook for one more year of his contract, however, eventually paying him his $3.5 million annual salary.
Eric Chavez is a Gold Glove-winning member of the New York Yankees’ infield. He started with the team in 2011 after more than a decade with the Oakland A’s. Despite its reputation as a frugal organization, the A’s signed Chavez to a six-year contract extension in 2004 worth $66 million, an unprecedented sum in the team’s history. For a while, he was worth it.
In 2008, however, back pain put Chavez on the disabled list. He rejoined the team in May, but returned to the sidelines in July, this time with shoulder pain. He was placed on the disabled list again for back pain two weeks later. In 2009, he struggled through eight games in the entire season, and all told, the injuries kept Chavez out of the rotation for all but 64 games between 2008 and 2010. Altogether, the three seasons of Chavez’s part-time services cost the A’s more than $33 million.
Tom Brady is a quarterback for the New England Patriots who has played in four Super Bowls and holds the NFL record for single season touchdown passes. He joined the Patriots in 2000 and was an asset to the team until 2008, when a foot injury kept him out of the preseason games.
The situation went from bad to worse when Brady rejoined the team for the season opener. He suffered a severe knee injury in the first quarter that required surgery, and although he returned to full strength for the 2009 season he was out of the picture for nearly all of 2008. The knee injury ended up costing the Patriots more than $7 million in pay.
As of August 2011, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is a running back for the St. Louis Rams. From 2005 until then, however, he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had signed him to a $31 million contract right out of college. But in week four of season one, Williams developed ankle and foot injuries that compromised his game for years.
The real damage, however, came in October 2007 when he tore his patellar tendon, an injury that required surgery and raised serious doubts about his ability to return in the 2008-2009 season. Williams didn’t return to the field until the 2009-2010 season, and in the two seasons prior to that he had played in only 10 of 32 games. With an annual salary of $3.4 million, Williams’ injuries ended up costing the Buccaneers more than $4 million.
Gilbert Arenas is a point guard and a shooting guard for the Orlando Magic basketball team. Originally, he was a member of the Washington Wizards. As their 2007 season was drawing to a close, his medial collateral ligament was torn during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
When the injury occurred, Arenas was averaging 29.7 points per game. He didn’t return to the court for more than a year, an absence worth 66 games and more than $11 million to his team. He made up for it in 2008, however, when he signed a six-year contract extension for a mere $111 million — $16 million less than the maximum deal the team had originally offered him.