The NFL and the Jaguars have reached an agreement that will allow punter Chris Hanson to be placed on injured reserve, ESPN.com has learned, settling one of the more critical off-field issues surrounding last week's ax mishap.
Hanson suffered a self-inflicted gash to his left foot last Thursday when he swung an ax that was placed in the locker room as a motivational technique. The ax deflected off an oak stump and gashed Hanson, who needed surgery. Given the severity of the injury, and a projected recovery period of four to six weeks, the team placed Hanson on the non-football injury list the day after the accident.
The distinction between the league's non-football injury list and the injured reserve list might seem trivial. But the difference is significant for Hanson; any player placed on the non-football injury list before the sixth game of the season is not credited for a full season toward the league's pension plan, and, thus, toward free agency.
Players who go on injured reserve are credited with an accrued season.
Gaining this season as an accrued season is critical for Hanson, because it means he can be eligible for unrestricted free agency after 2004. Had the league not permitted the move, Hanson would have qualified only for restricted free agency after '04. The financial difference between the two designations could be substantial.
The agreement by the league also allows Jacksonville to pay Hanson, a third-year veteran, his full salary of $375,000 for '03. Franchises are technically not liable for a player's full salary if he is placed on the non-football injury list.
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver had indicated all along his intent to pay Hanson all of his base salary for this year. But there were a few NFL officials, and some fellow owners as well, who believed Weaver might be setting a bad precedent by paying a player who was on the non-football injury list.
It is possible, though not likely, that Hansen could take legal action.
Hanson, 26, was released from the hospital early this week and the Jaguars have suggested that he and quarterback Mark Brunell, who had surgery last week on his infected left elbow, stay away from the complex because of the threat of staph infection.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.