Jets In Feud With Offensive Lineman Refusing To Play Through Shoulder Injury [Update]

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Two doctors have told Jets offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele that he needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, Osemele says. But the Jets believe the 30-year-old left guard can play through the injury and postpone surgery until the end of the season, and are reportedly planning to fine or suspend Osemele for conduct detrimental to the team if he doesn’t practice this weekend. Osemele last played in a Week 3 loss to the Patriots, and hasn’t practiced in two weeks due to the injury.

Osemele was acquired via trade from the Raiders in March. Per reports, Jets team doctors and one outside specialist believed Osemele’s shoulder injury to be a pre-existing condition from his time in Oakland and determined surgery could wait until the year’s end. Osemele’s agent told The Athletic that the need for surgery has to do with Osemele’s pain levels. While Jets doctors provided Osemele with the painkiller Toradol before each of his three starts, Osemele found the doses did not sufficiently relieve his pain.

At issue, likely, is the $5.79 million remaining on Osemele’s $9.85 million base salary. The contract has no more guaranteed money on it, but if Osemele were to undergo season-ending surgery and be placed on the injured reserve list, the Jets would be required to pay him his entire base salary. Because Osemele has over four years of NFL experience and has never filed for termination pay before, he would be allowed to put in a claim for full pay if he were released at this point in the season. But disciplinary action for “conduct detrimental to the team” would preclude him from receiving termination pay in the event of his release.


NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that Osemele would undergo season-ending surgery, but Jets coach Adam Gase wouldn’t confirm that at his press conference Wednesday. “We’re still going through our process as far as what’s going on with his deal,” Gase said. Osemele says he’s currently waiting for the Jets to sign the requisite workers’ compensation paperwork. “It’s been about three weeks, so I’m just waiting for them to do that because they wouldn’t send my second opinion to my doctor,” Osemele told press on Friday. “That’s why it’s been taking so long. I’ve needed it since the bye week [Week 4]. We’ve known since then, so just waiting on that.”

Update (6:53 p.m. ET): Osemele missed practice Saturday and was fined by the Jets for conduct detrimental to the team.