Emmanuel Sanders looks okay here. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Emmanuel Sanders is fine. Really. But there for a few moments, he was in oh-so-very-much pain.

With about 6 minutes left in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seemed, as Yahoo’s Doug Farrar put it, a “bit worse for wear” after a play and the Steelers were in danger of drawing a delay-of-game penalty or having to use a timeout. Sanders discovered he had suffered an injury and went into a paryoxsm of pain that registered about a six on the LaRon Landry Scale of Phantom Injuries.

NBC’s Cris Collinsworth caught on immediately, saying that Sanders had “an injury … of sorts. … All I know is, Emmanuel Sanders was in the huddle, he’s not looking like he’s in too much pain now, and then, ‘Oh, boy — here comes the cramp!’ He goes down, and they don’t have to burn the timeout. That is a savvy play, let’s call it that, on the part of the Pittsburgh Steelers.” One play later, Sanders — miracle of miracles! — was able to return to the field.

Faking injuries to stop the clock is a fairly frequent occurrence in the NFL. Last year, it happened in a Monday night game, when Deon Grant and Jacquian Williams were simultaneously stricken in an attempt to slow down the St. Louis Rams’ no-huddle offense. Grant denied faking an injury, but the NFL dashed off a memo to teams and opted not to hire James Lipton as an NFL Network analyst.

The league sent another reminder just a little over three weeks ago, so we can see how well that’s working. “To avoid the necessity of a rule with many unattractive qualities, teams are strongly urged to cooperate with this policy,” the memo stated (via NFL.com). “We are determined to take all necessary steps to ensure that it does not become an issue.” The NFL added that it may impose discipline. “Those found to be violators will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action for conduct detrimental to the game,” the memo states. “Discipline could include fines of coaches, players, and clubs, suspensions or forfeiture of draft choices.” 

Stopping the clock with a fake injury has always been part of the game, although it takes a certain chutzpah to test one’s acting chops during a nationally televised Sunday night game. “It’s always been in the game,” Ed Reed said last year (via Farrar). “It’s all tactical stuff you need to use. Whatever it takes … If you’re tired, you’re tired. You get a break however you can.”


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