The league’s decision to fine the Jets, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, and former Jets (and current Browns) coach Eric Mangini for failing to disclose quarterback Brett Favre’s partially torn biceps tendon on multiple injury reports at the conclusion of the 2008 season prompted us to seek out further explanation regarding the differences between Favre’s situation and other instances involving injuries that were not disclosed. (Previously, the league addressed the decision not to fine the Patriots, despite the fact that running back Laurence Maroney played with a broken shoulder that hadn’t been disclosed on the injury report.)
A more recent similarity was the failure of the Steelers to list quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as having a rib/back injury prior to Super Bowl XLIII. Before to the game, we reported that Roethlisberger had been x-rayed. Roethlisberger awkwardly denied it, and coach Mike Tomlin relied on the inherently disengenuous “not that I heard.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello distinguished the Roethsliberger situation from the Favre injury in an e-mail message sent to us late this afternoon.
“Roethlisberger was x-rayed before the Super Bowl by the Steelers and it was negative,” Aiello said. “So he had soreness, which was known by all, but the club cleared him to practice and play and did not list him on the injury report because the x-rays were negative. He fully practiced (with pool reporter Peter King watching every practice and reporting he looked sharp) and played well, as we know. After the Super Bowl, an MRI was performed and determined he had a fractured rib.”
Here’s our concern with that explanation. If Roethlisberger’s side was sufficiently bothering him to justify an x-ray, this means that he had . . . wait for it . . . AN INJURY. The fact that the X-rays were negative meant only that there was no obvious fracture.
But he was still injured. And, for the same reasons Favre’s injury should have been reported, Roethlisberger’s injury should have been reported.
That said, a separate comment from Aiello helped us differentiate Favre from Roethlisberger.
Asked about the specific reason for the league’s decision to begin looking into the Favre injury last week, Aiello said the following: “Favre’s comment [from last week] prompted our review because he disclosed previously undisclosed information — that an MRI performed by the club determined he had a torn bicep, that he cut back his practice time, and the club knew he had a torn bicep. This injury was not disclosed last December. Mike Tannenbaum admitted publicly this week that they made a mistake and should have listed him as probable.”
The fact that Favre cut back his practice time means that he definitely should have been listed on the injury report, as a limited participant in practice.
Still, we’re concerned that the league apparently lacks a mechanism — or the will — to launch investigations before a player with a tendency to talk (and talk . . . and talk . . . and talk) inadvertently blows the whistle on his former team.
In this case, word of Favre having a partially torn biceps tendon emerged not in September 2009, but in December 2008.
On December 30, two days after the regular-season finale, ESPN reported that Favre had a torn biceps tendon, and that he had been dealing with the injury “for quite a while.”
So if the league were zealous about enforcing the injury-reporting rules, that report should have sparked an immediate effort by the league office to investigate the situation, given that Favre hadn’t been listed on any injury report.
Instead, the league waited until Favre, after talking about the injury for months, finally said enough to force the league to act.
So while plenty of people drive their cars over the speed limit with only a small percentage being caught, the authorities affirmatively try to catch some of them. In this case, it appears that the Jets were fined only because Favre walked into the police station and announced to the chief that Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum had been drag racing.