Are NFL players faking injuries?

540873.jpg

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.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.