Are NFL players faking injuries?


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.

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The Cubs felt so nervous just before a 7:09 first pitch on Saturday night that Javier Baez found the camera looking into the home dugout, waved with a big smile and started pumping his fist, hamming it up for the video board as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” blasted through the Wrigley Field sound system.

The Cubs then ran out onto the field and systematically destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending this National League Championship Series in six games with a 5-0 win that featured almost no tension or suspense, obliterating for now the narrative around this franchise.

The old stadium still kept shaking, from Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first inning to the clapping to Anthony Rizzo’s “Intoxicated” walk-up music to a standing ovation for Kyle Hendricks, who outpitched the supposed best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.

“We don’t care about history,” Bryant said. “This is a completely different team, different people all around. It doesn’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we are certainly a very confident group.”

Sure, 1908 will hover over the entire World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. But this is the new normal for Bryant, who within two years has won 200 games, four playoff rounds, a Rookie of the Year award and probably MVP hardware.

This team isn’t going away, either. With a chance to win the pennant for the first time since the Truman administration, the Cubs started two rookies who began this season at Triple-A Iowa – catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Albert Almora Jr. – in a lineup that featured Bryant (24), Rizzo (27), Baez (23), Addison Russell (22) and Hendricks (26).

Contreras caught a shutout and posed for a moment at home plate watching his line-drive homer off Kershaw fly into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning. Rizzo – who had looked overmatched earlier in the playoffs – became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw during this calendar year.

And when Rizzo tried to wave off Baez for the ball Josh Reddick popped up to the right side of the infield in the fifth inning, Baez cut right in front of Rizzo to catch it, continuing a long-running gag among the Cubs infielders.

“I don’t think they’re oblivious, because that’s sort of insulting in some ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care. They think they’re a good team and they love to play. And we have some guys that definitely shine on the big stage.”

Baez – a September call-up last year who couldn’t get an everyday spot during the regular season – showed off his bat speed and unbelievable defensive instincts and emerged as the NLCS co-MVP along with big-game pitcher Jon Lester. Sold on the idea of all this young talent someday coming together, Lester joined a last-place team after the 2014 season, taking a leap of faith, even at $155 million.

“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all in our clubhouse,” said Almora, the first player Theo Epstein’s front office drafted here in 2012. “There’s just hunger and excitement and desire to win.

“None of us were around in 1945…so we just got to write our own history.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This is what the Cubs have been talking about since the New York Mets swept them out of last year’s NLCS, since the Ricketts family invested almost $290 million more in free agents, since unconventional manager Joe Maddon made “Embrace The Target” the theme of spring training.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the old Cubs are, know that this group has an amazing sense of balance. They are youthful and experienced. They play as a team and with individual flair. They have style and get dirty. They are analytical and sort of oblivious. They are loose and intense. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.

“We still got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “We’ll enjoy tonight – don’t get me wrong – we’ll have a celebration. We’ll have a good time. We’ll smile, we’ll hug each other, probably get drunk a little bit…but we got some work to do.”

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities] 

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”