The most disappointing and frustrating season of Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson's eight-year NFL career ended Wednesday when he was placed on the reserve non-football illness list after contracting viral pneumonia about a week ago.
The Eagles filled his spot on the 53-man roster by promoting fullback/tight end Emil Igwenagu from the practice squad. Igwenagu, a rookie free agent, is expected to become the 16th member of the Eagles to make his NFL debut tonight against Cincinnati.
Patterson's agents, J.R. Rickert and Peter J. Schaffer, plan to file a grievance with the NFL Player's Association on his behalf. They are arguing that the Eagles cannot prove he caught the virus from outside the team facilities.
"Our number one priority is to get Mike Patterson well enough to get back on the football field," the Eagles said in a statement. "He has worked hard this year to get back and he has our full support as an organization."
Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder inadvertently hinted that Patterson may have gotten sick at the NovaCare Complex because of the team's working environment. While Patterson has been isolated from the team since being sent home last week, Burkholder expressed concern that other players may get sick.
"We're very worried about our team because we live like pack animals in here," Burkholder said on Wednesday.
The bigger issue is Patterson's paycheck. Because he is on a non-football injury list, the Eagles are reportedly plan on reducing Patterson's weekly salary by 50 percent. As a result, he will make $61,765 for the final three weeks instead of the $123,529 he earned for the five games he was on the active roster.
"It's a cheap and classless move," Rickert told Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia. "That's really what it is, to a guy who has done nothing but fight, scratch and claw to get on the football field for them this year. He had absolutely no control over what happened to him. We don't feel there's any justification for it."
Patterson also made $61,765 during the first nine weeks of the regular season. He was on the reserve non-football illness list while recovering from offseason brain surgery to fix an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is a tangling of blood vessels and artieries in the brain.
He made his season debut at New Orleans on Nov. 5 and played in five games. He registered nine tackles and earned a sack against Carolina.
"You don’t take a guy who is a respected member, has been a respected contributor or who has been through the level of personal issue and tragedy that he has been through and who has fought hard to come back and play for you - and play at a pretty good level - you don't do this to him. That's not how clubs treat guys," Rickert told CSN Philly.
Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement established last year, the Eagles actually are not required to pay him anything.
Article 20, Section 3 of the CBA states: "A player who is placed on a Nonfootball injury or Illness list ("N-F/I") is not entitled to any compensation under his contract while on such list."
The Eagles worked out a deal earlier this season with tackle Jason Peters, who has spent the entire season on the NFI list after rupturing his left Achilles' tendon while working out at home in the offseason, then tearing it again in April.
The Eagles could have withheld his entire $7.9 million base salary, but ESPN reported that they only deducted the $3.25 million that they are paying Demetress Bell.