One week after the Seahawks admitted that they hid cornerback Richard Sherman’s knee injury, the Steelers admitted that they hid running back Le’Veon Bell’s groin injury. With the NFL inexplicably choosing to give the Seahawks a pass as to Sherman nearly a week ago, the question becomes what the NFL will do to the Steelers.
On the surface, there’s a big difference. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll essentially admitted that Sherman had a “significant” injury; Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wisely avoided the S-word, which by rule requires disclosure of the injury, even if the player consistently practices and plays.
But Bell told a much different story during the torrent of Super Bowl-week interviews.
“I really hurt it in the Miami game,” Bell said on NFL Network. “I played through the whole Kansas City game with it. The beginning of the Patriots game, I felt it. . . . I had a hole, but I couldn’t really hit it. I just felt like I was holding my team back at that point. I was in a lot of pain.”
In the days prior to the playoff game against the Dolphins, Bell didn’t appear on the injury report. After suffering the groin injury against Miami, Bell didn’t practice on the Wednesday before the Chiefs game, with the “not injury related” designation. Prior to the AFC title game at New England, Bell missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday for “not injury related” reasons. (Curiously, Bell also was listed as fully practicing on Friday with the “not injury related” explanation.)
Through it all, Bell clearly was injured (based on his own words). As evidenced by his inability to accelerate early in the New England game due directly to the pre-existing groin injury, the injury affected his ability to perform. Common sense suggests it should have been revealed.
Some league insiders believe that the NFL looked the other way as to the Seahawks as a precursor for looking the other way as to the Steelers. If that happens, the stage will be set for all sorts of potential shenanigans in the future by other teams who break the rules in a similar way.
Unless and until, of course, a franchise that key members of the league office doesn’t “like” commits the same violation and promptly loses draft picks, money, and any and all players who were “generally aware” of the situation, more probable than not.