Former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Aqib Talib recently ensured they won’t be Patriots in the future, by publicly accusing the Patriots of lying about injuries.
Spikes said that he was placed on injured reserve at a time when he was healthy enough to play. Talib said his 2013 injury, listed by the team as a hip problem, actually was a quad injury.
On the surface, that should be enough to get the NFL to at least explore the situation. And while in multiple past occasions the league has acknowledged that it will be looking into potential injury-reporting violations (most recently, regarding the back injury suffered by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo), the league isn’t saying anything about this situation.
“We do not plan to comment on the claims,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT by email on Thursday morning.
Over the years, we’ve developed the distinct impression that the NFL prefers to avoid shining too bright of a light on the irregularities of the injury-reporting system. The procedure is aimed at creating the impression that there’s no inside information to be obtained by gamblers. Obsessing over the various violations of the letter and/or the spirit of the rules would serve only to highlight that, indeed, the truth doesn’t reside on a piece of paper filled out by the team — and that it can possibly be obtained by offering small, green, rectangular sheets of paper to persons who are in position to pass along accurate information about who’s really injured, and who really isn’t.
The involvement of the Patriots serves only to complicate matters for the league. As legend has it, the Spygate-related information given to the NFL by the Patriots that was destroyed by the league office consisted of evidence of cheating not only by the Patriots but also by multiple other teams in multiple other ways. As the folklore also goes, Patriots coach Bill Belichick vowed to go public with chapter-and-verse detail about cheating throughout the league if the league were to mess with the Patriots again.
To be clear, it’s not known that Belichick delivered to the league office proof of cheating by other teams, but that would help explain the league’s curious decision to quickly destroy the evidence. It’s also not known that Belichick threatened/promised to blow the whistle on league-wide cheating issues, but it would make plenty of sense for any team disciplined for violating the injury-reporting rules to be strongly tempted to point out that other teams routinely do the same things, or worse.
So whether it’s because the NFL doesn’t want to concede that the injury reports are far from perfect or because the NFL doesn’t want to pick a fight with Belichick that the league ultimately could lose in other ways, look for nothing to publicly come of this one.