It has long been suspected that teams have faked injuries against a team running a no-huddle offense that prohibits them from making personnel changes. As the story goes, if a player thinks he's too gassed to keep on going, he drops to the ground and grabs a hamstring or calf – it's been deemed too obvious to grab a knee or ankle and return to the game one play later.
Unfortunately, the Giants botched it up when two players – safety Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams – simultaneously did a Fred Sanford- style fake heart attack ("I'm coming to join you, Elizabeth"). Both fell with phantom injuries at the same time. It was the equivalent to a poker player being caught with an ace up his sleeve.
With the egg in the face of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell getting impressive full-facial coverage, the league came down hard in an internal memo to owners, general managers and coaches – leaving no decision-maker uninformed. Goodell doesn't like feeling like national doormat Bud Selig and the resulting memo made it clear that fake injuries won't fly.
The NFL has already called the Jets to the carpet for lining up along the sideline and an assistant coach intentionally sticking a knee into the thigh of a "gunner" at full speed heading downfield toward the punt returner – one of all-time punk moves. Coincidence that the Giants were the next to get caught on camera breaking the rules in such a fraudulent way? When called for questioning, everyone from New Jersey that was contacted likely said the same thing, "I didn't see nothin'."
But, for the rest of the country, they did see something. Too much. The back-door whispered discussions about circumventing the rules intentionally – the football version of throwing a spitball – were laid out in awkwardly hideous glory. Whoever the coach was who instructed players to stop-drop-and-flop must have looked on in horror as both safety Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams simultaneously did a crappie flop that would make a Word Cup soccer player envious.
The curtain was pulled back and Goodell didn't like what he saw. In the memo, the league threatened all 32 teams with a litany of punishments that could be handed down with a repeat of the performance from the Not Ready For Prime Time NFL Players Monday night – arguably the worst performance in New York since the Spiderman musical.
The penalties for the next rancid performance by NFL thespians? It's deep. Fines. Suspensions of players and/or coaches. The potential for lost draft picks. As their ears stopped burning from being informed of the new league policy, one can only assume the bad acting we saw from the Giants will have dual backlash – teams will quit doing it intentionally and, every time someone heads back to the huddle and drops to the ground, the conspiracy community will claim the injury is fake.
Given the legitimate injuries that take place pretty often during games, the NFL's new tough-love policy on those who fake injuries hopefully will clean up the practice. As far as we know, no team had to scrap the "knee the gunner" policy they had in place, although several teams, including the Vikings have had players casually standing at the legal limit of where players could potentially collide.
Asked their feelings on it, the boys for Jersey said, "things happen."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.