League is reluctant to expand automatic timeout rule for injuries


In proposing that the NFL simply charge a timeout to the defensive team when a defensive player suffers an injury while defending against the no-huddle offense, we’ve argued that the league already has instituted a rule that strips a team of a timeout for any injury occurring in the final two minutes of either half, presumably to remove the incentive to fake injuries.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora advises PFT that the origin of the rule dates to 1939.

The memo that was sent today by the league to all teams, a portion of which previously was published by Steve Wyche of NFL.com, addresses the possibility of charging a time out whenever an injury occurs.  We’ve obtained the portion that addresses the possibility of taking away a timeout for injuries occurring in the first 28 minutes of either half.

“The Competition Committee has reviewed this issue several times, but has been reluctant to propose a specific rule, since assessing a charged timeout for every injury timeout would deprive a team of timeouts for strategic purposes,” the memo states.  “It also could encourage injured players to remain in the game at risk to themselves to avoid incurring a charged team timeout.  To avoid the necessity of a rule with many unattractive qualities, teams are strongly urged to cooperate with this policy [against the faking of injuries].  We have been fortunate that teams and players have consistently complied with the spirit of the rule over the years and this has not been an issue for the NFL.  We are determined to take all necessary steps to ensure that it does not become an issue.”

We’re not sure that we agree with the next-to-last sentence.  Indeed, the memo was necessitated by the fact that one of the league’s most storied franchises made a mockery of the situation on Monday night, with two guys falling down while the Rams had the Giants on their heels with a no-huddle offense.

Moreover, the memo ignores the possibility of expanding the current rules ever so slightly to encompass injuries occurring when the offense clearly is operating without a huddle, which gives rise to the temptation to fake a cramp.  While “a charged timeout for every injury timeout would deprive a team of timeouts for strategic purposes,” a charged timeout when the defense is in a situation that invites fake injuries will do more to address the problem of fake injuries than a hollow threat to bring everyone to the principal’s office if it appears that injuries are being faked.

The league already “encourage[s] injured players to remain in the game at risk to themselves to avoid incurring a charged team timeout” during the final two minutes of each half.  Expanding that rule to cover the defensive team when an offense is using a no-huddle attack continues to be the easiest solution to a problem that has caused plenty of embarrassment for the league over the past three days.

24 responses to “League is reluctant to expand automatic timeout rule for injuries

  1. No subs allowed to anyone on the field other than the injured player (fake or otherwise) without being charged a timeout.

    If the coach ends up calling timeout to get in multiple subs….we now have evidence that the player faked and should be fined/suspended in typical arbitrary fashion by the commish/dictator.

    Problem solved.

  2. You have 6 timeouts total in any given non-OT game. Taking one away is kind of harsh. After the two minute warning it makes sense. Just call it a delay of game on the defense, pretty simple.

  3. Seems like you could just make a rule that forces players to sit out for five plays instead of one if they go down with an injury. Even if it’s just a cramp, you shouldn’t be able to go back in after just one play.

  4. Instead of an automatic timeout, let the coach choose between using a TO or keeping the injured player off the field for a 5 minute period or the next change of possession, whichever is longer.

  5. I suggest that a player who leaves with an injury that causes a stoppage of play cannot return to the game until after the next change of possession, rather than the current rule, which is to miss only one play. A rotational defensive lineman might be less likely to fake a cramp if it means he won’t be allowed to rotate back in for a potentially critical goal-line stand.

  6. Please get off your soapbox about making a new rule that includes the no-huddle. Is your ego so large that you think the NFL will make a new rule because it was your idea? Here’s a reality check: You need the NFL. The NFL doesn’t need you.

  7. Nah, taking away timeouts isn’t a good solution, not even if you increase the number from 6. Just bring in a rule saying that any player that is so injured that he can’t make it to the sideline must sit out for an extended period, whether it’s 5 plays, that drive, that quarter, I dunno. They should experiment with Patriots games to see what amount would put defences off of faking, because god knows the Chargers did it enough on Sunday.

  8. new rule: if the player is so injured that he cannot get off the field on his own power and if the game must be stopped then it should be required that he sit out at least 15 minutes of game time.

    what do you think? this is after all in the best interest of player safety plus officials do not have to be put in the awkward spot of determining if the”injury” is legitimate.

  9. Hmmm….our logical fan ideas to resolve this issue are not working….let’s try a different tact…..

    Maybe the NFL could use these situations to insert another commercial into the game…BINGO, DONE.

  10. So maintaining the strategic advantage of timeouts is more important to the league than maintaining the strategic advantage of the no-huddle offense.

    Here’s my proposal. Give teams 5 time-outs per half, and make all injuries in which a player cannot leave the field require a timeout be used. In the event all 5 time-outs are used, and another player is injured in the last 2 minutes of a half, the current rules would apply (5 yards penalty or 10-second runoff at the choice of the opposing team). When an injury occurs and the injured team no-longer has a timeout, the player(s) injured are not eligible to return to the field for the remainder of the current drive. The team may also not substitute any non-injured players that were on the field prior to the injury unless the offense also makes a substitution.

    In the event both teams have an injury, neither team would be charged a timeout.

    This proposal would maintain the competative integrity of using timeouts for strategic purposes. It would not encourage injured players to stay on the field given the increase amount of timeouts to allow for such events. The additional timeouts would not increase the time of games because the game stops for injuries already, and in the event there aren’t any injuries, the game would be progressing faster than normal so the allowance of the additional timeouts would still not increase the length of games.

    As a side bonus to this proposal, I would suggest a statistical evaluation be presented to explore a potential safety benefit. I suggest that there is an increase in real injuries during the execution of a hurry-up offense. The players on the field are unable to substitute out and are forced to continue playing. I believe playing under these conditions with only 3 timeouts forces teams to unneccessarily risk injuries with players that should be substituted. By allowing teams to proactively use one of their 5 timeouts during a no-huddle drive, they will prevent a situation in which a real or fake injury would occur.

  11. Don’t take the timeout, but ban the player from returning for a set of downs at a minimum if he a) causes the time to be stopped or b) cannot run off the field on his own power.

  12. Why don’t they just eliminate the player changes except for the player that got hurt. If you are on the field, the healthy players stay. That would take care of sneaking in other players except the injury fake. This way, the package they are trying to get onto the field can’t come on.

  13. While I agree that it is virtually impossible to determine whether a player has a real injury or not, you could simply add this rule: In a situation where the defensive team is not allowed to substitute, any player that is hurt can be substituted at that point but no other players can be substituted. And at the referee’s discretion, if a player is believed, right or wrong, to be faking an injury then that player will serve a 5 minute penalty where he cannot re-enter the game. I think that would remedy this situation. Even if a referee wrongly determines a player is faking so be it . . . a real injury would most likely keep that player out that amount or more time anyway. And if the clock was running at the time, then it would then be restarted.

  14. I don’t understand the issue here. If the league is so dead-set on protecting players from injury, it seems logical that if a player is injured, or fakes an injury and appears to be injured, they should be removed from the game and the medical staff should have adequate time to check them out.

    I would suggest that having a player sit out the rest of the drive in which they’re injured, plus the timeout during the change of possession, would give the medical staff enough time to test the injury.

  15. Note to editor…..not everything about the game can be solved with rules and punishment. Its that mentality that led us to the point of fining players for tackling opposing players. At some point, you have to trust in the players and coaches to encourage integrity and respect for the game. There has never been a rule against it, and I think for the most part, players haven’t fake injuries.


  16. If a guy gets hurt, He’s done for the drive unless the team calls a time out. It’s an extension of the one play rule, with enough bite to prevent some people from faking an injury. If it happens in the final 5 minutes of half, then he’s done for the half. It would be really hard to determine an actual injury vs. a fake injury, so just make the player ineligible to return minus a time out being called while he’s still on the field for that drive/possession and be done with it.

  17. There does not seem to be an obvious solution here. It would be great to see teams and players stop doing this for the good of the game(they wont) and there is no way to prove intent. As more and more teams are running no-huddle sets it looks sadly like its just one more area that will contribute negatively to today’s watered-down version of the sport. But of course I will still watch.

  18. The bigger problem to me wasn’t that they got a breather, it’s that they got a chance to put in goaline personnel. Maybe just not allowing substitutions on injury might at least help. Also maybe keep the player out more plays after all it’s all about player safety right?

    Teams playing in a no huddle offense create a great tempo and are fun to watch. I’m surprised the NFL is taking it so lightly.

  19. Perhaps the NFL could look into something like this….

    Each team has 3 strategic timeouts per half. They also have 3 injury timeouts per half.

    Any time a player is injured, a team is charged an injury timeout. When they have no injury timeouts left, and a player gets injured, they will be charged one of their strategic timeouts. When none of those are left, teams will be penalized 10 yards and a loss of down per injury timeout.

    Injury timeouts cannot be used as strategic timeouts. Eg, if a team has used up all it’s normal timeouts, they can’t use an injury timeout unless there’s an injury.

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