A National Football League “free agent,” who had been released from his contract by the Philadelphia Eagles and who agreed, along with 15 other free agents, to attend a three-day minicamp tryout with the Seattle Seahawks, was not an employee of the Seahawks when he sustained a knee injury during the tryouts and, therefore, could not recover benefits under Washington’s workers’ compensation law, held a state appellate court recently in Robinson v. Department of Labor and Indus., 2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 1316 (May 27, 2014).
Testimony indicated that NFL rules prohibited the use of pads and contact drills during a minicamp, that safety of the players was always kept in mind, and that the minicamp was “significantly different” from the activities in a regular training camp or game. While travel, hotel expenses and meals were paid for by the Seahawks, NFL rules prohibited other compensation to tryout players. While the Seahawks provided the player with a general itinerary, the player was free to refrain from any of the activities. The player also signed a release which indicated he was not a Seahawk employee. Noting that the employee was aware that no employment relationship could exist unless the player and team executed a standard NFL player contract form, the court held that substantial evidence supported the finding that there was no employment relationship here.