A few days ago, the NFL sent a memo to all 32 NFL teams regarding faking injuries. The memo came in response to what many saw as New York Giants safety Deon Grant faking an injury. It has been brought to light since then, that Grant actually has a knee injury and was not faking anything, but that hasn’t stopped the media from running rampant with the issue. Now, Atlanta Falcons star tight end Tony Gonzalez feels as if he needs to chime in. Yesterday, he tweeted:
TonyGonzalez88: This whole “faking an injury” thing is ridiculous, maybe they should just play better defense!
Play better defense? The Giants may be in the lower middle part of the pack in terms of defensive ranking, but maybe Mr. Gonzalez should take that sentiment back to his own defense that currently ranks 27th in the league. And he should remind said defense that the Giants have four defensive starters on IR, plus two more who haven’t returned from surgeries held during preseason. Facing those obstacles, the Giants defense has done a decent job allowing 44 points compared to the Falcons 61.
The whole idea of faking an injury is widely viewed as unsportsmanlike. And while the NFL probably won’t make any ruling on it during the season, it’s assumed that there will be yet another rule change next season that includes penalties for faking injuries. But Mathias Kiwanuka said it best regarding the issue:
“[It's] a dangerous path… letting refs decide whether a player is hurt or not.”
Absolutely true. Officials and referees are not doctors and not qualified to make the determination that a player is faking an injury. Grant’s case is a perfect example. He was limping slightly around the field when Justin Tuck told him to go down instead of trying to run off the field. Read that again, he was limping before he went down. His decision on WHEN to go down is what has people’s panties all in a bunch. But if he felt that he couldn’t get off the field in time, it was smart to go down and save the defense a wasted play that he couldn’t participate in.
Faking an injury may not be sportsmanlike, but it is certainly strategic. And players would be lying if they said that they had never been coached to do it. Not every coach teaches it, but many do.
“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.” (ESPN.com)
Fujita is a reputable player with good character and has no reason to lie in this instance. Should players fake an injury to slow down an offensive drive? No. Does it happen and are they coached to do it? Yes. Again, it’s a strategic move when it seems as if a defense can’t recover fast enough between plays. Whether or not more of this occurs throughout the season remains to be seen, but the NFL should use caution when deciding if there should be a rule change. Unless they want to put every single NFL official through medical training, leaving judgment to the ref is going to be highly dangerous.