Panthers Lose Gaffney to Patriots and Some History on IR Waiver Claims
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The Patriots claimed Panthers sixth-round pick,running back Tyler Gaffney, off waivers, when they Panthers tried to place their rookie on injured reserve (IR) after he suffered a torn meniscus in his knee and would reportedly require surgery that would end his season. Had Gaffney’s injury occurred when the roster had been trimmed from 90 to 75, the Panthers would’ve been able to place him on IR without having to expose him to waivers. The team also could have waited, but chose to try to “sneak” him onto IR now. Sneak appears to be the accepted term for what they did, or rather tried to do.
Dave Gettleman called the Patriots move, “business”, but its interesting to see how this move has been perceived in recent years. While the term ‘unwritten rule’ sees to be a misnomer, there does appear to have been, at some point, a gentleman’s agreement.
In 2009, the Cleveland Browns tried to place their sixth-round pick, injured cornerback Don Carey on IR and he was snapped up by the Jaguars. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article written at the time, an official with another team was quoted as saying, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that. I would have bet money that nobody would have claimed him.” Another source added, “”We all have to ‘waive/injured’ players every year. We’re all in the same boat. You just don’t claim those guys. What Jacksonville did was unethical.”
In 2012, Tom Coughlin was upset when the Patriots claimed tight end, Jake Ballard, in a similar manner, but his anger seemed directed at his own front office, a front office that Dave Gettleman worked in during that time. Bill Belichick was asked violating an unwritten rule, to which he replied there are no unwritten rules. He went on to say, ““if a player’s on waivers, then he’s on waivers — ours or anybody else’s,” he said. “I don’t know what ‘unwrittens’ you’re talking about. … Any time you put a player on waivers, you know that there’s 31 other teams out there that can take him if they want him. We all know that. There’s no secrets about that.”
Now in 2014, the issue has resurfaced, but as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com pointed out about the Browns in 2009, this is a mess the Panthers created for themselves. Not surprisingly, there’s no sympathy coming from the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin during an interview with our sister station 98.5 The Sports Hub, “Bill Belichick to his credit, Tyler Gaffney was somebody they scouted up and he snagged him. Now the Patriots have to carry him on the roster, so they’ll only have 89 healthy players in camp. Anybody complaining about Belichick violating a rule is kind of being a baby and not understanding how reality works.” (Note: the Patriots did pick two spots behind the pick where the Panthers selected Gaffney)
At the end of the day, the Panthers either a) didn’t think Gaffney was worth carrying to the 75-man roster, which seems unlikely given they did draft him and Gettleman’s focus on improving the team through the draft, b) were naive in thinking he wouldn’t get claimed, which would be surprising, given the Ballard waiver claim when Gettleman was working with the Giants or c) got caught trying to sneak a guy on to IR, viewing it as a calculated risk, a risk that ultimately left the Panthers footing the bill for a signing bonus for a guy that never even made it to Spartanburg.