Saturday has become something of a dreaded day for a lot of NFL players, but the Baltimore Ravens made it out of this Saturday clean.
It’s the day the NFL drops fines for the previous Sunday. On 14 occasions, players have gotten dreaded letters from the league that a piece of their paycheck is being taken away for a penalty, even if it wasn’t flagged during the game itself.
While weeks 3, 4, 5 and 9 have wound up clean ones for the Ravens, it’s a frustrating, late-arriving headache that the NFLPA has begun pushing back on. After uproar over a fine to Baltimore’s Patrick Ricard that got a number of NFL commentators riled up (Ricard called his Week 8 fine “pretty ridiculous”), several Ravens talked about how such fines feel like a late whistle — a really, really late one.
“You go into the game and you win, and you think you’re good. But then you get hit with a letter – like half your check is gone.”— Ravens DT Justin Madubuike
Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, who has been fined a total of $38,245 on three plays this season, said when he gets fined he doesn’t like to look at his game check to see how much got taken out.
“You go into the game and you win, and you think you’re good,” he said. “But then you get hit with a letter – like half your check is gone. Or even more; even the whole check is gone. It’s kinda frustrating. But what can you do?”
The players can appeal, a process that several Ravens have undertaken this season. The NFL collective bargaining agreement allows all fines to be appealed, and first-time offenses cannot result in fines that are more than 10% of a player’s game check. Fines that are appealed can be upheld, reduced by 20% or rescinded.
But according to an editorial released this week by NFLPA president JC Tretter, the players association has become concerned by fines because “players feel this has become less about player safety and more about being overly punitive.” According to the NFL’s data, the league has issued 253 fines (approximately 1.2% of all plays) this season, which is on track to exceed the 460 issued last year. The NFLPA said more than 100 of those fines in 2022 were rescinded upon appeal.
The roughest game for the Ravens was Week 6 in London, when they racked up more than $100,000 in fines, much of that falling on Odell Beckham Jr. Though he told The Baltimore Banner he filed an appeal, he called the system “a messed-up process.”
“We’re running at 20 miles an hour, full-speed collisions, so it’s just a lot of things that I feel like can get eliminated,” Beckham said. “And it would take away stress from the players. Like we work hard to make millions of dollars, billions of dollars for the NFL, and, you know, in return we get the millions of dollars, but we also sacrificed everything in our entire life to be here. So I don’t really feel like the process was right, but it is what it is.”
Madubuike worries the penalties can be more punitive for players who rush the passer. Quarterbacks have been increasingly protected by league rule changes over the years. Although fines are not a huge talking point day to day in the Ravens’ locker room, the players are aware the NFL has racked up millions of dollars in fines this year, and Madubuike said getting fined is hard to simply accept.
“They’re just trying to take our bread. It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s very, very, very stupid. It’s very frustrating. But I can’t slow down, though. Just gotta keep going.”
In the NFLPA editorial, Tretter noted that 12% of fines weren’t appealed last season, and about 62% of players missed out on saving approximately $440,000 total by not watching a short instructional video to reduce their fines by 25%. “Our union can do a better job of ensuring players know their appeals rights,” Tretter wrote.
Patrick Queen was largely complimentary of the appeals process. “Obviously, if you’re not playing dirty or doing anything dirty or not lowering your head or whatever it may be, whatever the case is for why you’re fined, if you’re not doing it, then, with the appeal, you just get different angles, then you should be fine.”
Roquan Smith, who was fined $16,391 after a hit on Detroit’s Jared Goff in Week 7, said he tries to tune out the fines when he plays. The Ravens want to play by the rules, but they can’t let the threat of a late-arriving fine make them play timidly.
“Knowing things are gonna happen sometimes, that’s just the game that we play,” Smith said. “But you can’t let that stop you from playing the game 100 miles per hour, and whatever’s in the way gotta get hit and dealt with accordingly.”
Giana Han contributed reporting for this story.