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More Evidence Of Injury Shenanigans

We pointed out earlier today an item from Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe, which explains that an injury study conducted in conjunction with the potential expansion of the regular season should be viewed skeptically to the extent that it relies on the injury report as accurate evidence of player health. And here’s more proof in support of that reality. Packers safety Atari Bigby is still limited by an ankle injury from 2008. Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bigby sprained the ankle in the third preseason game. And it bothered him all year. “You guys don’t even know how bad it was,” Bigby recently said. “But it was something serious. But I wasn’t at liberty to explain it.” I wasn’t at liberty to explain it. Translation: The coaching staff and front office wanted to hide it. Bigby’s ankle problem, which was sufficiently severe to result in surgery, appeared only twice on the injury report the entire year: In Week One and in Week Thirteen. In both instances, he was listed as probable. The word “ankle” appeared next to Bigby’s name at no time on any of the other injury reports. He was listed as “out” in Week Three with a hamstring, and he was listed as “doubtful” for Week Four, Week Five, Week Six, and Week Seven with the same ailment. After a Week Eight bye, Bigby’s name didn’t appear on the injury report at all for four straight weeks. Then, in Week Thirteen, the ankle showed up for the second and final time. He was out for the next few games with a shoulder injury, and then he ultimately landed on injured reserve. The reason given? Shoulder injury. Eight days later, he had surgery to repair his injured ankle. Our pal Greg Bedard of the Journal Sentinel explains the situation with the same degree of matter-of-face numbness regarding these shenanigans that most folks who cover the league now possess: “If an opponent knew Bigby’s ankle was the ailment that gave him problems all season -- more than the hamstring and shoulder injuries that were also put on the injury report -- they might alter their game plans to take advantage.” Bedard is right. But the Packers are still wrong. At a time when the NFL is concerned that legalized sports betting in Delaware could undermine the integrity of the game, the league needs to become even more vigilant regarding the existence of inside information not reflected in the injury report. This behavior is a beacon to every gambler who might be inclined to slip an envelope with a collection of rectangular historical portraits in green to anyone who might have access to the truth -- players, assistant coaches (who currently are pissed about the pension-plan opt-out issue), equipment staff, and agents. Then, once that relationship is established, it can grow into something more than merely providing inside information. Eventually, the NFL could have a Tim Donaghy-style situation on its hands. In continuously pointing to this possibility, we’re not trying to create trouble. We’re hoping to prevent it. Unfortunately, we don’t think anyone is paying attention.