Kelechi Osemele says he's having shoulder surgery Friday whether Jets approve or not

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Columnist
Yahoo Sports

The feud between the New York Jets and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele isn’t getting better.

Osemele told reporters on Wednesday that he is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair his shoulder injury — whether the Jets approve of it or not.

Labrum is torn ‘off the bone’

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Osemele, who is in his first season with the Jets, has not played since Week 3. Initially he had a knee injury and was dealing with an illness. But on Oct. 2, he aggravated a shoulder injury in practice that he initially hurt during training camp.

He has not practiced since.

Reportedly, after having Osemele undergo several MRIs, Jets doctors found “overwhelming evidence” that the shoulder injury was one the 30-year-old picked up during his time with the Oakland Raiders. The team’s doctors cleared him to return to practice and told him surgery could wait until the offseason, but Osemele reportedly “refused” to practice and requested a second opinion.

New York Jets guard Kelechi Osemele and the team are feuding over his shoulder injury. (Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
New York Jets guard Kelechi Osemele and the team are feuding over his shoulder injury. (Rich Graessle/Getty Images)

He’s since gotten a third opinion, from a doctor in Boston, who recommended immediate surgery.

Doctors agree that Osemele has a torn labrum — Osemele said on Wednesday it’s “torn off the bone” — but the disagreement between player and team is over the timing of the surgery. ESPN reported that the Jets believe Osemele can play through pain and delay the repair.

Fines and a wait for approval

Since the Jets believe he can practice and Osemele isn’t, the team has been fining him the maximum allowed under the collective-bargaining agreement, which is $579,000 or the amount of his 17 in-season game checks.

Osemele said on Wednesday that the team had not yet responded to his decision to have surgery on Friday.

In a statement to ESPN, Osemele’s agents said the Jets’ own insurance provider has approved the surgery, but if New York does not authorize the surgery beforehand, the player will have his rights under the CBA enforced through the legal process.

“We sent them the full doctor's report [Wednesday morning],” Osemele told media. “We don't know yet. They have been cooperative. They sent the worker's comp forms that I needed to get the surgery, so it's moving forward.

“I think they're doing their best to do the right thing," he continued. "Now that they've done that, it's really their decision whether they choose to authorize it or not. But I have to take care of my body. I have to take care of my health.”

Osemele has said that the Jets initially sent blank MRI results to the doctor he saw for a second opinion, and on a second attempt they sent the wrong MRI. Osemele said general manager Joe Douglas told him it was an honest mistake and that Douglas was “upset” when he told him he wanted to have surgery.

While New York believes it was an injury Osemele had when he arrived with the Jets, Osemele says he did not start to feel pain until early August.

He took injections of Toradol, a powerful painkiller, for the first three regular-season games.

“I went as long as I could on painkillers,” he said. “They were masking the pain. Now it's at the point where I can't do anything about it.”

He added that the Jets prefer he keep taking Toradol, but team sources told ESPN’s Rich Cimini that the shoulder became an issue only after it looked like Osemele might lose his job.

“Once [Toradol] stops working and it doesn't do anything for you anymore, then you're at the point where it's now what do I do?” Osemele asked. “Do I take Vicodin? Where's the line? How much should a player play through pain? What is the limit? Is there a limit? Does my health really matter?”

He has filed a grievance against the team and has spoken to the NFLPA.

Second player in recent weeks to argue with team over health

This is the second time in a week that a player and team have publicly been at odds over the player’s health.

Last week, the Cincinnati Bengals suspended offensive lineman Cordy Glenn for one game for internal discipline; this was after Glenn was fined $200,000 by the team for detrimental conduct.

Glenn suffered a concussion in the Bengals’ Aug. 15 preseason game and was cleared to return to full practice last Wednesday.

ProFootballTalk reported last week that the team and Glenn have been “at odds regarding the concussion, its symptoms, whether [Glenn] is able to return, the need for second opinions and how the player feels.” Glenn and a member of the coaching staff reportedly argued last week, and Glenn supposedly told head coach Zac Taylor to cut him.

Glenn believes the team was trying to rush him back from his brain injury.

Given the NFL’s history in the mishandling and misinformation surrounding concussions, it seems almost unbelievable that the Bengals have questioned Glenn and whether he’s still dealing with symptoms. Two other Bengals players have entered concussion protocol since Glenn: receiver Alex Erickson and defensive end Kerry Wynn. Erickson was back at practice three days after suffering his injury, while Wynn missed four games and then was placed on injured reserve.

While Erickson was lucky that his symptoms didn’t linger, that’s certainly not the case for each individual. Concussion symptoms vary, from nausea to dizziness to memory issues to headaches, and can last hours, days or weeks. Sometimes an individual can feel better only to have symptoms return with increased physical activity.

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