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NFL says it will monitor fake injuries, but how?

Doug Farrar
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After the New York Giants were accused by the St. Louis Rams of faking injuries to keep the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford from dictating the timing of their offense Monday night, the NFL has decided to send out a zero-tolerance memo to all teams saying that any further detectable instances of faking injuries to stall offenses will be dealt with. Our own Chris Chase detailed the NFL's points of focus, but what the NFL hasn't detailed is exactly how this is going to happen.

Here was the memo, in part, from the league to all 32 teams:

Going forward, be advised that should the league office determine that there is reasonable cause, all those suspected of being involved in faking injuries will be summoned promptly to this office ... to discuss the matter. Those found to be violators will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action for conduct detrimental to the game.

We have been fortunate that teams and players have consistently complied with the spirit of the rule over the years and this has not been an issue for the NFL.We are determined to take all necessary steps to ensure that it does not become an issue.

Bradford said that it was obvious the Giants were pulling some funny stuff, especially on a play where veteran safety Deon Grant went down late in the first quarter.

"They couldn't get subbed, they couldn't line up," he said. "Someone said, 'Someone go down, someone go down,' so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp."

Grant vehemently disagreed.

"I went out one play," Grant said. "I got banged up, and went right back in and finished the game -- [just like I have] every game for my career. My whole thing is when [do] you know [if] somebody [is] faking an injury? ... I'm not no duck or no dummy. I'm not about to be going out there banging myself up like they do in the movies.

"You look at my knees now, do you see this knee [the right one], this knee is smaller than that one [the left one]? You see the bang-up, right?"

Asked about the issue during his Wednesday press conference, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who's been around long enough to know, said that it wouldn't be anywhere near the first time. "I think it's legit — they saw something and they're on it," Carroll said. "There was a time, though … there was a time. That's not the first time that's ever happened in football [laughs]. When we used to play against Buffalo in the old days with the 'K-Gun' [no-huddle] offense, guys were going down, and that happened before. I've seen it happen … they were snapping the ball every 17 seconds, and every once in a while, guys got those '17-second cramps.' I think the fact that two guys went down on one play — that was a little telling. So, as they tried to compete at that moment, they got nailed."

But did Carroll ever have a player suddenly afflicted by "17-second cramps"?

"Ohhh … that may have happened a couple times."

Of course, the problem in legislating this policy is the near-impossibility of determining when a player is actually hurt, and when he is not. When Tony Romo can come back into a game with what everyone thinks is a fractured rib, and it turns out that he has a punctured lung, and when players suffering from torn ACLs and MCLs can actually walk off the field and look reasonably OK … well, asking game officials to play doctor is a bit much. How on earth is this supposed to be handled from a medical standpoint? The NFL can crack down on injury run-offs and various timeout policies, but again, how much is too much when it comes to injuries that may actually be legitimate?

Perhaps the only way to deal with this situation is to monitor the plays as they happen, and then monitor the week's injury report to see if anyone mysteriously "gets better" through the week. It seems to be more of a rules violation subject to fines and suspensions after the fact, which is why teams have always found it to be such a great loophole. How are you going to tell a player who is hurt that you think he might not be?

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