On one hand, it’s refreshing to the see that the NFL has become willing to call B.S. on something everyone knows to have been B.S. On the other hand, the situation still has a strange smell to it.
Regarding the finding that Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders faked an injury during a game against the Bengals, the league’s statement makes clear the fact that the NFL rejected Sanders’ claim that he was truly injured — and that Sanders stuck to his story when he met with the NFL on November 2.
In other words, the NFL believes Sanders lied to the league.
So why was he fined only $15,000? Two years ago, Brett Favre was fined $50,000 for lying to the league in connection with its investigation regarding the very specific use of his cell phone. (Allegedly.) Earlier this year, the league suspended former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove eight games for, in part, lying to investigators who were exploring the possible existence of a bounty program in 2010.
If, as the league necessarily concluded, Sanders was lying about being injured, he should have received a more significant punishment than the $15,000 for faking an injury.
Also, does anyone really believe the behavior wasn’t coached? The league’s statement completely ignores the fact that Sanders got a sudden cramp only after it was obvious that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was mildly shaken up, and that if Roethlisberger hadn’t been able to continue, he’d have to leave the field for at least one play, which also happened to be a third down. (Alternatively, the Steelers would have had to burn a time out.)
That suggests the existence of coordination that comes either from Roethlisberger telling Sanders to take a knee, or the coaching staff conveying that message to Roethlisberger.
So the league accepted the Steelers’ claim that the tactic wasn’t coached, and they rejected Sanders’ claim that he was actually injured.
Maybe Sanders didn’t get punished for lying to the league due to concerns that, at some point, he would have explained he was merely doing what he was told to do — from faking the injury to lying about it.