The history of “wink wink” injuries suffered by defensive players when no-huddle offenses are streaming down the field is a long one in the NFL, but it is usually accompanied by the kinds of denials we heard from former Giants safety Deon Grant in 2011 when he and a teammate both dropped to the ground at the same time when the Rams were driving quickly down the field.
With more offenses moving quickly, it’s something that’s probably going to continue to happen. In his new role as a talking head on FOX Sports, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher offered a primer for how to fake injuries when he explained what the Bears defense used to do if they were in need of a breather in the middle of a possession.
On FOX Football Daily, via the Chicago Sun-Times, Urlacher explained how a coach would make a motion as if he was diving into a pool and the team’s “designated dive guy” would get “hurt.” Urlacher said the tactic was also useful early in the season when defenders might lose steam more easily. Somewhat incredulously, Urlacher also said that the tactic “wasn’t coached” while also saying it was “part of the game plan.”
It’s not a tactic that can be easily stopped on the field by a referee who has no way of assessing the severity of an injury and who shouldn’t be put in the position of making such determinations. The league can fine teams that are found to be feigning injuries as a way to stop the clock, but the Rule Book doesn’t have much teeth when it comes to enforcement.
“The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty. Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice.”
Coaches are also urged to win games so that they remain employed, which means that players are going to sometimes drop to the turf with cramps that resolve themselves at a fantastic rate. Unless a team goes overboard with how much they reach for the tactic, it’s hard to see anyone getting punished for it.