One of the NFL’s dirty little secrets is that the injury report doesn’t provide equal access to injury information, and that an incentive remains for my one-eyebrowed countrymen from North Jersey to pursue, for example, during the 2008 season the reason for the sudden drop in Brett Favre’s performance. (Hey, maybe Tony Soprano bumped into “Mangenius” at Vesuvio. Again.)
Another of the NFL’s dirty little secrets is that tampering with other team’s players is as common as lying on injury reports.
On this week’s episode of Showtime’s Inside The NFL, former personnel executive Michael Lombardi, who worked most recently for the Broncos after multiple years with the Raiders, talked candidly about the rampant nature of tampering in the league. And Lombardi admitted that, during his career, he tampered, too.
“Trust me, I’ve been a
tamperer,” Lombardi said, per Tim Graham of ESPN.com. “I’ve been in the NFL for over 20 years, so I have tampered my
fair share of times.”
Lombardi’s broader point is that tampering is hard to prove, and he raised that reality in connection with the 49ers’ pending claim that the Jets tampered with unsigned rookie draft pick Michael Crabtree.
“They have to have specific evidence,” Lombardi said. “If they do, they can convict the Jets.”
And that brings us back to the key player in this drama, the man who once played for the 49ers and who now works for the NFL — Deion Sanders.
The claims arises from the fact that Deion spouted off during a September 4 appearance on NFL Network, claiming that two teams are willing to pay Crabtree twice what the Niners have offered, and that Crabtree knows it.
This knowledge has necessarily emboldened Crabtree to continue to refuse to sign with the 49ers, and to wait for one of the teams who claim that they want him to make a play for him in the offseason or in the 2010 draft.
So the question remains is this: Will the NFL require Deion to reveal what he knows and how he knows it? Sanders technically isn’t a journalist, and there’s no law of which we’re aware that would keep a private employer from disciplining or discharging an employee who refuses to cooperate with an internal investigation.
So the “specific evidence” to which Lombardi refers probably rests with the man who inadvertently created this mess. Whether the league finds out what Deion knows rest on whether the NFL has the will or the desire to put Deion on the spot.