ESPN reports and league sources have confirmed that the grievance hearing in which quarterback Daunte Culpepper will attempt to gain his freedom from the Miami Dolphins will be convened June 29 in New York. Representatives from the two sides will present their cases to arbitrator John Feerick. The former dean of the Fordham Law School and a veteran arbitrator, Feerick ruled last summer in favor of quarterback Steve McNair in a similar grievance against the Tennessee Titans. It has not yet been determined who will represent Culpepper at the hearing, but it is believed that one of the attorneys for the
NFL Players Association will present his argument. Culpepper serves as his own agent. Miami officials may possibly be represented by the NFL Management Council, which is essentially the league’s labor arm. On Tuesday afternoon, the NFLPA, at the request of Culpepper, intervened in his dispute with the Dolphins and filed the grievance on his behalf. Union general counsel Richard Berthelsen said at the time that the NFLPA had asked for an expedited hearing, and that request was honored.
Last year, the hearing for McNair was not convened until five weeks after he had filed his grievance. It then took Feerick about two weeks to issue his ruling and a similar timetable for resolution is expected in the Culpepper case. Shortly after Feerick ruled for McNair, the veteran quarterback was traded to Baltimore.
One major difference does exist in the situations of the two quarterbacks: The Dolphins have not attempted to completely bar Culpepper from their complex, as the Titans did last year with McNair. At this juncture, Culpepper is still free to use the team’s facility to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right knee.
Miami officials, who indicated that they will not release Culpepper and instead will continue their efforts to trade him, have declined comment on the grievance. The union has pointed out that the standard contract in the NFL calls for players to remain in excellent physical condition and to prepare for the season, but that Culpepper is being denied that right, since the Dolphins will not allow him to practice.
Culpepper is under contract through the 2013 season and is due a $5.5 million base salary for 2006. Miami officials have already indicated they would probably accept a late-round draft pick for him in a trade. A frustrated Culpepper, who was rendered expendable by the Dolphins’ acquisition of veteran quarterback Trent Green last week, has said he will not accommodate a trade by restructuring his contract.
Any team who is interested in Culpepper, who in 2004 enjoyed one of the greatest statistical seasons in league history but who tore three ligaments in his right knee in October 2005, would almost certainly want him to rework his contract.