Ex-Redskin McCants wins workers' compensation ruling

Darnerien McCants, a former wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, can pursue workers' compensation benefits in Maryland for injuries he sustained during games and practices in other states, Maryland's highest court ruled Thursday.

The unanimous decision comes on the heels of a related ruling Wednesday in a case involving another former Redskins player. The Court of Appeals allowed Tom Tupa, who had been a punter for the Virginia-based team, to obtain workers' compensation benefits for a career-ending injury suffered in 2005 during warm-ups before a home game at FedEx Field in Landover.


Thursday's ruling returns McCants' workers' compensation claims to the state's Workers' Compensation Commission. Commissioners had decided that they had no jurisdiction over McCants' claims for benefits for injuries sustained in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A Redskins spokesman said the team had no comment on the ruling.


David O. Godwin, the lawyer for the team and its insurer, had argued that McCants was not covered under Maryland's workers' compensation laws and that the bulk of his work time was spent in Virginia, where players prepare for games. Goodwin could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The court disagreed, noting that McCants played more games in Maryland than anywhere else, and said his practice in Virginia was undertaken so he could compete in games in Maryland and elsewhere.

"The purpose of a football player's employment with a professional football team is to play in professional football games. It is not, as [the Redskins' argument] seemingly contends, to practice," Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote for the court. "Football practice is a means to an end — better performance in football games — it is not an end unto itself. Put another way, professional football organizations do not sign 'skilled football players' so those players can lift weights and watch game film."

McCants, an Anne Arundel County native, is a one-time Arundel High School and Delaware State University player who played in 29 regular-season games between 2002 and 2004 for the Redskins. He contended that he was injured in games in Philadelphia and Buffalo, N.Y., and during practice in Ashburn, Va.

The question of where professional athletes can file workers' compensation claims is among numerous legal battles between NFL teams and players. Some states, such as Maryland, are more expansive in rules and coverage.

McCants and Tupa had contract provisions that restricted their workers' compensation claims to Virginia. The court ruled Wednesday that those provisions did not square with Maryland law.