NFL fake injuries: Does pro football want its games decided by floppers?

Tracee Hamilton
September 22, 2011

Thank goodness the NFL is moving swiftly to crack down on fake injuries after the Giants’ embarrassing performance Monday night. Oh, they won, all right, that wasn’t the embarrassing part. But the dreadful acting – Olivier would be rolling in his grave, if he gave a darn about professional football.

This level of telenovela emoting belongs in soccer, which not only tolerates it but seems to encourage it. Soccer lovers and soccer haters and those who don’t care at all about soccer almost all agree on this point. When a player rolls around on the turf, holding a limb, his face contorted in pain, is tended to lovingly by a host of trainers and hauled to the sideline on a stretcher, he probably shouldn’t bounce back up again and run back onto the field. It cheapens the game. A lot.

No one wants to see these shenanigans in the NFL. The Giants used a similar ploy Monday night to slow down the Rams’ no-huddle offense. In response, the league announced Wednesday that coaches, players and teams could be subject to disciplinary measures, which could include fines, suspensions and the loss of draft selections. However, the Giants won’t be sanctioned.

The memo included the usual NFL threat: You will be summoned to New York to determine if you are naughty or nice. Commissioner Roger Goodell is sort of a preppy Santa Claus in this scenario.

Or is he? Maybe after summoning various offenders to his Gotham lair, Goodell puts them in a room covered in plastic, like in “Goodfellas.” Now that would get their attention – Deon Grant’s knees would wobble, but for real.

The league has to be careful; no one wants to be responsible for ignoring what might turn out to be a real and very serious injury. That’s why cramps are the perfect fake injury. (Teenage girls have been way ahead of the curve on this for years.) You can roll around holding your calf or hamstring, and then poof! That cramp is gone and you’re fine again. Who’s going to know you were faking it unless you admit it? And who’s going to admit it?

No one, of course. This isn’t the first such incident, and it won’t be the last. The NFL competition committee is sure to re-examine the issue yet again after the season, but as the memo points out, the committee 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.”

But maybe what’s needed is exactly that – deprive a team of a timeout in a critical situation. Wouldn’t that have a healing effect on some of these “cramps” and “tweaks”?

A year ago, the league cracked down on helmet-to-helmet hits after a plethora of bad injuries and near misses. The wailing and gnashing of the teeth around the league was deafening. Yet the rule went into effect, and I don’t think the league lost a lot of fans because of it.

The league needs to be pro-active yet again. It’s not the same situation, of course; faking an injury doesn’t put other players at risk. But it puts the outcome of games at risk. Does the league really want games decided by floppers?

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