The Unwritten Rule: Don't Claim Injured Players Off Waivers?

A few days ago, I read that the New York Giants placed tight end Jake Ballard on the waived/injured list. Even though Ballard's chances of playing in 2012 were not great after having knee surgery, it seemed like the Giants were taking a risk in losing one of their key contributors from the past few seasons.

The Giants' plan was for Ballard to clear waivers, which would allow them to exploit a loophole that would allow Ballard to go on the injured reserve before training camp. Unfortunately for the Giants, that didn't happen. Ballard was claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots. If he returns to action in 2013, the Patriots will have added to their already-dynamic group of tight ends. What I don't understand, as pointed out in Peter King's MMQB, is Giants GM Jerry Reese acting as if the team had some form of entitlement to retaining Ballard:

"Yes, we thought that he would clear. It's rare but it's not the first time something like that has happened. It's disappointing for us that we didn't get him back. He did a tremendous job for us and we hope he gets well soon and that he can finish his career, whether it's with New England or whatever team he ends up with. It was disappointing, but that does happen, every blue moon ... I could explain it, but I don't want to explain it because it's really irrelevant at this point ... It's really pointless for me at this point to try explain it to people ... It's rare that somebody takes a guy under these conditions off the waiver wire, but it happened and we wish Jake all the best.''

I loved King's take on the situation, as I agreed with it completely:

I've never heard of the so-called "unwritten rule'' that claims if you're trying to sneak an injured player through waivers that the other 31 teams should leave him alone. All's fair in love and waivers. It's patently absurd to suggest the Patriots, for whatever reason, shouldn't have picked up Ballard. If there's a rule in place that says a player exposed to waivers can be claimed by another team -- and there certainly is -- then it's folly to think the Patriots somehow screwed the Giants. New England did the smart thing in picking up a potential 2013 contributor for very little. Reese should have owned up to the mistake. He blew it.

A somewhat similar situation came up with the Browns a few years ago. In 2009, Cleveland drafted DB Don Carey in the sixth round. He suffered an injury in the offseason and was waived/injured by the team that August. A day later, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed him off waivers, asking the question of whether the claim was considered "unethical?" Our case was surprising, sure, since it involved a sixth-round rookie, but I say it's perfectly fine for teams to claim players in cases like this.

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