Season-Ending Nick Chubb Injury Elicits Sympathy And Re-Ignites NFL Running Back Pay Debate

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Nick Chubb’s gruesome season-ending knee injury comes with raw emotions and is already an enduring illustration of the debate about how NFL running backs should be paid.

Chubb suffered his injury in the second quarter of Monday night’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers — a phyiscal brawl the Steelers won, 26-22.

“Significant knee injury,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said before confirming he believed Chubb is out for the season.

The Chubb injury happened when Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick dove shoulder-first to tackle the running back. Fitzpatrick’s shoulder hit the Chubb’s left knee as the Browns star’s foot was firmly planted in the grass field.

Chubb’s knee buckled and hyperextended from the side, forcefully bending the knee at an angle it was never designed to reach. He was carted off the field.

Chubb will have MRI testing today but it is believed he suffered damage to multiple ligaments in the knee. And that would be the second time Chubb suffers such damage to the same knee.

Browns running back Nick Chubb injured and likely out for the season.
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – SEPTEMBER 18: Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

NFL Players React To Nick Chubb Injury

Following the painful nationally televised moment two things happened almost immediately:

1. Other NFL players, realizing Chubb faces a long comeback at best, sympathized with their fallen peer.

2. The running back conversation, and its multi-faceted nuances, picked up steam.

The injury, so ugly that ABC declined to show a replay, elicited an audible groan from the fans at Acrisure Stadium who saw the in-stadium replay. It was in Pittsburgh but chants of “Chubb, Chubb, Chubb” were audible as the Cleveland player was removed from the field on a cart.

And then NFL players, seeing it on television, began to react.

Lamar Jackson reacts to Nick Chubb injury.

Players on other teams and from both sides of the ball chimed in on social media.

It didn’t matter if they were from the AFC or NFC. It didn’t matter if the players were in the same division trying to finish ahead of Chubb’s Browns.

The roster of players who offered prayers, well wishes and sympathy was extensive:

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, himself recovering from a knee injury, offered encouragement, as did teammate Budda Baker. A.J. Brown, Raheem Mostert, Roger Saffold and many others also chimed in.

NFL Files Grievance Against NFLPA

But the well wishes came amid obvious irony. Because the health of NFL running backs was a topic of legal wrangling hours earlier.

Monday afternoon multiple news outlets, including OutKick, learned the NFL last week filed a grievance against the NFL Players Association. The grievance accuses the union of improperly advising running backs to consider faking or embellishing injuries as a contract-negotiating tactic.

The grievance, which will be resolved by an arbitrator, further accuses the players’ union of violating provisions of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and union. It does not, however, focus on any individual running back or accuse any running back of improper conduct, per a source.

The NFL’s grievance is basically a cease and desist order as it demands the union stop improper conduct as well as other remedies that the arbitrator may deem inappropriate.

Browns running back Nick Chubb is now part of the debate whether NFL running backs should be paid high guarantees.
Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns rushes with the ball during the third quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 20, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Chubb Injury Part Of RB Debate

All this is part of the greater debate.

It involves NFL running backs who believe they are underpaid and undervalued by clubs. And it involves clubs who don’t want to overpay for players that can and often must be replaced.

Running backs and their agents generally want contracts with more guaranteed money.

The ball carriers have had Zoom meetings and text exchanges on the subject. They believe injuries like the one Chubb suffered are proof they deserve higher guarantees.

The problem with that is under the collective bargaining agreement and current salary cap structure, teams understand injuries such as the one Monday night are possible on a great number of running plays.

And that, front office personnel have decided, is the reason investing bigger contracts on running backs is a risky proposition.

And why have teams so far not been moved to change that thinking?

NFL running backs such as Jonathan Taylor have complained about contracts for the position.
Jonathan Taylor #28 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball in the game against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Highmark Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)

NFL Teams Believe RBs Always Available

Most running backs are not as accomplished as Chubb, who has eclipsed 1,200 yards in three of four seasons. Players such as Chubb, Jonathan Taylor and Saquon Barkley are great players who are hard to replace.

But they have in the past or are now enduring injuries that will keep them out of the lineup.

But in losing those players, teams find ways to move on because there is a large supply of solid talent at the position. The Browns, for example, will likely rely on backup Jerome Ford as they did against the Steelers.

But if they’re convinced to do so, they can at this late stage still make a trade — perhaps for Taylor or Cam Akers of the Rams.

More likely, the Browns can enlist someone such as Kareem Hunt. He was on the team the past four seasons, won the rushing title in 2017, and is available as a free agent.

The point is that while elite running backs are in short supply, solid, relatively cheap running backs are often available.

Follow on X: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero


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  1. Let’s hope it’s not catastrophic and he is able to return to full health. By all accounts one of the really good guys in the NFL. And maybe RBs would have longer careers and be more valuable if the league started penalizing guys for diving into their knees, harshly.

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