Are NFL players faking injuries?

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Are NFL players faking injuries?

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, September 22, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL sent a memo Wednesday to all 32 teams warning of fines, suspensions and loss of draft picks if the league determines players faked injuries during a game. Yet several players admit its an accepted practice, and some coaches hinted they are not above condoning phony injuries if it provides a competitive edge. "I've been places where it has been (taught)," said Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the players' union executive committee. "They have a name for it and I've been places where it's been pre-called. I've been places where it's one player who has been designated. Maybe I'm getting everyone in trouble, but I'm just being honest." In the memo obtained by The Associated Press, the NFL reminded teams of league policy that calls on coaches to discourage the practice. There is no specific rule on the topic. Nonetheless, two days after there was speculation the Giants' Deon Grant faked an injury against the Rams during Monday night's game, the NFL is warning of disciplinary action. "It's always been in the game," Ravens All-Pro safety Ed Reed said. "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." Added 49ers running back Frank Gore: "Hey, I feel if it helps, do it. I'm bound to do it. Whatever it takes to win ..." Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Tuesday the team notified the league office that it suspected the Giants were feigning injuries in St. Louis' 28-16 loss. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said it was obvious the Giants were just buying time with St. Louis running a no-huddle offense. "They couldn't get subbed, they couldn't line up," Bradford said. "Someone said, 'Someone go down, someone go down,' so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp." Grant was adamant about not having faked anything. "I could see if I was walking and fell," he said Wednesday, speaking passionately and barely taking a breath. "When you see after I made that tackle and bang my knee on that play, you see me bending my knee as I am walking. ... (Teammate Justin) Tuck is walking behind me and saying 'D don't run off the field. Just go down.' As I am walking, they line up, and knowing that I can't get back in my position because of the knee injury, I went down." Had Grant attempted to get off the field, it could have left the Giants a defender short when the ball was snapped. Of course, New York also could have called a timeout, a course of action teams might need to use in the future. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was coy about the tactic when asked if he ever instructed a defense to do it. "I can't say I have," Shanahan said before pausing. "But I won't say I haven't, either." Then he smiled. "It happens all the time, and warnings will come out," he added, "and it's happened again." The memo from the league said: "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." The league's competition committee often has discussed this issue but has been reluctant to propose a rule that could force game officials to make judgments on injuries. "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," the memo said. "We are determined to take all necessary steps to ensure that it does not become an issue." For the most part, such delay tactics have been considered gamesmanship, similar to a hockey goalie suddenly needing equipment repairs when his team is getting besieged. Or untouched soccer players writhing on the ground in pain to get a stoppage -- and to slow momentum built by the other side. "As an offensive player, you always think guys are faking in that situation," Eagles guard Kyle DeVan said. "But you don't know for sure. You don't know when guys are going to cramp up, so you have to be careful. The most important thing is players' health. You would hope guys don't do it, but it's going to happen." It might be planned, too. While calling it "real bush league" -- no pun intended -- Dolphins running back Reggie Bush said a coach "just designates a guy who fakes an injury. It's usually not a captain of the team. It's a guy who's expendable." The NFL's disciplinarians will be watching for that.

For Bears, interior OL a good strength to build on for 2017

For Bears, interior OL a good strength to build on for 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — A team coming off a 3-13 season doesn't usually speak of "strengths," if for no other reason than they usually didn't have many, or any at all. The Bears don't entirely see things that way.

A Bears team ostensibly committed to running the football tied for fourth in rushing average (4.6 yards per carry), and rookie tailback Jordan Howard wasn't the only "strength" behind that success, general manager Ryan Pace assessed Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. 

"I feel good about what we've done with our offensive line," Pace said. "You look at the interior offensive line [guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, and center Cody Whitehair] that we have, you know, I think it's set to be one of the better interior groups in the league.

"Of course there are more pieces we need to add, that's important. I think you can see the value of building a strong offensive line and what it does for the quarterback. In Dallas you have a great example of that."

On the surface, the Dallas example is enticing — the Cowboys went from 4-12 in 2015 to 13-3 in 2016 with the constant being an offensive line regarded as one of the best in the NFL. Four of the Cowboys' five regular starters in 2015 returned in 2016, with left guard La'el Collins the only departure (he suffered a season-ending toe injury in Week 3 against the Bears).

First-round running back Ezekiel Elliott was a revelation and, coupled with that offensive line, allowed a soft landing for fourth round quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott took full advantage of that opportunity, throwing for 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions (in what's been discussed as the best rookie year for a quarterback in NFL history) while pushing the Cowboys to a 13-3 season. 

But as tantalizing as the 2016 Cowboys are, there's a flip side: The 2015 Cowboys still lost 12 games with the same offensive line. So what does that mean for the 2017 Bears?

The running game and offensive line strength is a good start, but it doesn't necessarily mean Pace will over-aggressively pursue free agents to add to the offense with decisions needed at quarterback (Pace described Jay Cutler's status as "fluid") and wide receiver (with Alshon Jeffery set to hit free agency). 

The larger strategy Pace hinted at in Indianapolis, then, is to mix in some veterans through free agency (the Bears do have loads of cap space, after all) but continue to focus on building through young talent. And, to go back to the Dallas example, it's worth noting the two most important pieces the Cowboys added in 2016 were through the draft. 

"There is a delicate balance between being aggressive and being decisive, but being responsible," Pace said. "I think you can always recover from the player you didn't sign; you can't recover from the player that you signed at the wrong price. I think we've got to be conscious of that."

Scenarios where Jay Cutler returns to Bears still in play: 'That's one of the options'

Scenarios where Jay Cutler returns to Bears still in play: 'That's one of the options'

INDIANAPOLIS – The Bears have nearly a dozen scenarios under study for addressing their quarterback situation in 2017 and beyond. An assumption has been that none of those include Jay Cutler.
 
Mmm, maybe...maybe not.
 
General manager Ryan Pace has talked candidly with Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, and has informed Cook and Cutler that efforts would be made to deal the veteran quarterback, according to various sources. But one reality is that Cutler is currently the only quarterback under an actual contract, and whether for negotiating purposes or whatever, the Bears have not ruled Cutler out for 2017.
 
"Yeah, that's one of the options, too," Pace confirmed on Wednesday at the outset of the NFL Scouting Combine. "At this point we pretty much have everything on the table. For us, to do it the responsible way, that's necessary."
 
Right now the Bears are perusing a fairly large "table," and even the Cutler option isn't a fully known commodity, given that he is still recovering from a torn labrum that ended his 2016 season.
 
Brian Hoyer is considered to have an inside track on the starting job by virtue of coaches thoroughly appreciating a quarterback who practices ball security. Hoyer has a career interception percentage of 2.2 and threw zero interceptions in 200 attempts last season before breaking his left arm in Green Bay.
 
In the process he earned perhaps the single most important, and glowing, endorsement outside of the front office.
 
"Brian's unique in that he makes very quick decisions," said coach John Fox. "He's very smart, been in a lot of different systems. He's been on the field a lot in the NFL. I thought he did a good job. He didn't have an interception on the season, which for the number of passes he threw, I think probably ranked No. 1."
 
After Cutler's promising 2015 season working under Adam Gase, Fox praised Cutler as one of the main surprises in his first year as Bears coach. The specifics of Fox's praise of Hoyer offer a tip as to his thinking now – defense-based coaches commonly want to adopt ball-security quarterbacks – but he did not speak of Cutler solely in the past tense.
 
After two years of Cutler, "I think the perception in the building may be a little different than outside from what I've gathered," Fox said. "But I think he's very smart; he's a very tough competitor. I think he's had to deal with some injuries; unfortunately, they're part of football. But he's bounced back quickly from all the ones we've experienced in the last two years. But I think the competitive nature of Jay, I've been very impressed with."