NFL hopes to deter players from faking injuries


NFL hopes to deter players from faking injuries

When Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders suddenly dropped to the turf late in the fourth quarter, was helped to the sideline, returned after missing one play, then managed to be the first player down the field on punt coverage, announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth let NBC's audience know their feelings.

``Man,'' Michaels said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, ``I'm sure glad Sanders is OK.''

In a similar tone, Collinsworth chimed in: ``It's a miracle.''

Both chuckled. More guffaws and hearty mocking of Sanders came from ESPN's talking heads on a ``C'mon Man!'' segment a couple of days later.

Safe to say the NFL doesn't consider this a laughing matter: The league told Sanders it wants to chat about what happened in that Sunday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. When a reporter asked Sanders this week whether he really had a cramp against the Bengals, he didn't answer directly, saying: ``We're going to speak on it when we get to New York.''

At least one of the Bengals, safety Chris Crocker, was hardly bothered by the tactic.

```If you're not cheating, you're not trying,' I guess, is the old saying,'' Crocker said. ``So if you can slow the game down, why not?''

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't really want to touch the topic, other than to say he thinks ``it's generally a rare occasion.''

All 32 teams' general managers and head coaches were sent a memo back in September by Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, reminding them, ``The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty. Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice.''

The league could fine coaches, players or clubs - or it could decide to take away draft picks. No one has been punished yet for faking an injury.

According to the memo, the ``Competition Committee has reviewed this issue several times, but has been reluctant to propose a specific rule, since assessing a charged timeout for every injury timeout would deprive a team of timeouts for strategic purposes. It also could encourage injured players to remain in the game at risk to themselves to avoid incurring a charged team timeout.''

It's a football strategy that's been around for years, in college and the pros: A player fakes an injury, stopping the clock - maybe it saves a timeout; maybe it slows an opponent's no-huddle offense.

As a receiver with the Bengals in the 1980s, Collinsworth grew accustomed to seeing opposing defenses have players pretend to be hurt.

``It would almost get to where you would laugh about it. It was ridiculous,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``Everybody on the field - including the referees - knew what they were doing.''

There have been other such episodes this fall, including when Washington Redskins defensive lineman Kedric Golston mysteriously went down on a play against a no-huddle offense, then came back in the game. In college, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen chewed out Air Force coach Troy Calhoun - earning a suspension and fine - after the Falcons' backup quarterback came in and ran for the winning score in place of a starter who went down on the field, saving a timeout.

Similar situations arise every so often. Last season, for example, the St. Louis Rams thought a New York Giants player faked an injury to slow down their offense. In college, after California limited high-octane Oregon to 15 points in 2010, Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi was suspended for a game after acknowledging he instructed a player to fake an injury.

There doesn't really appear a way to prevent it.

``Referees certainly don't want that burden of having to determine who's healthy and who's not. They're having a hard enough time with the concussion issue right now. And really, on almost any play, when you get right down to it, you could lie on the ground and say you have a concussion, and who the heck is going to say anything to that? So as long as teams are willing to do it, there's nothing really that I know of that can stop them,'' Collinsworth said.

``The only way you're ever going to get around it is in cases that appear to be fairly obvious,'' he said. ``You fine the teams an escalating amount of money and find out just how valuable those timeouts really are. You get a $100,000 fine for faking an injury, you're probably not going to take any more of those fake timeouts.''

Whether or not Sanders really was dealing with debilitating cramps, he caught the league's attention.

``It was fairly obvious what was going on,'' Collinsworth said. ``Every team has a signal: `Time to fake an injury.' And why not?''

The AP spoke to a handful of players around the league who said their team doesn't have such a signal - but players also indicated they didn't think that sort of formal instruction was necessary.

``Some guys are smart and just know when to do it,'' Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.

``Everybody does it,'' Alexander added, ``so it's not like, `Aw, they're cheating.'''


AP Sports Writers Will Graves, Joe Kay and Joseph White, AP National Writer Eddie Pells and AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.