At a time when the Seahawks reportedly faced the loss of a second-round draft pick for hiding cornerback Richard Sherman’s knee injury, the NFL shocked everyone by imposing a punishment of nothing.
Well, not completely nothing. They got off with a warning. A wagging finger and a “don’t do that again” but as a practical matter a full and complete pass for a blatant violation of both the letter and spirit of the rules aimed at providing equal access to injury information.
As explained by the NFL employee who wrote up the story based on the report from an NFL employee who presumably got the scoop directly from the NFL, the NFL has opted to issue only a warning to the Seahawks for not disclosing Sherman’s knee injury. Given the plain language of the policy, which requires all “significant or noteworthy” injuries to be disclosed “even if the team is certain that he will play in the upcoming game,” Sherman’s injury should have been disclosed, even if he fully participated in each and every practice.
Of course, to make that shoe fit Sherman and the Seahawks, the NFL had to assume that Sherman’s multiple “general rest days,” when he practiced at least three times after mid-December with the “not injury related” designation, had nothing to do with resting or recovering from his undisclosed injury. It’s illogical, it’s inconsistent with the rule, and it meshes with the perception (as Drew Brees aptly pointed out two weeks ago on PFT Live) that the league picks a preferred result and works backward to justify it.
Indeed, the same reasoning that applied to the Seahawks and Sherman would have applied to the Jets and quarterback Brett Favre. In 2008, Favre finished the year with an undisclosed arm injury (a partially torn biceps tendon). Favre fully participated in every practice (without any Sherman-style “general rest days”), Favre played in every game, and no one would have known anything about it unless and until Favre decided as part of his arrival in Minnesota to explain his sputtering performances down the stretch in 2008 by talking repeatedly about an arm injury that hadn’t been disclosed.
Did the Jets get a warning? Nope. The NFL fined the team $75,000, it separately fined then-G.M. Mike Tannenbaum $25,000, and it also fined former coach Eric Mangini $25,000.
So how can Sherman’s case be distinguished from Favre’s? It can’t be. In both cases, the player’s injury was concealed. In both cases, the player fully participated in every practice. In both cases, the player played in every game.
The only difference is that Sherman had multiple “general rest days,” which if anything makes Sherman’s situation worse that Favre’s. Still, the Jets were whacked, and the Seahawks were only warned.
It’s possible that the league opted to fashion an inconsistent outcome because the Seahawks, given three separate violations of the offseason workout policies, would have been in line for something far more serious than a $125,000 fine, if the NFL had opted to issue any punishment at all. It’s also possible that the league plans to issue a warning to the Steelers for failing to disclose running back Le’Veon Bell’s injury, requiring them as a practical to do the same for the Seahawks.
Regardless, what would the outcome have been if the Patriots had hidden an injury to Tom Brady and, in his final press conference of the year, coach Bill Belichick had blurted out that Brady had an injury that previously hadn’t been disclosed? We’ll let the Patriots fans in the crowd answer that one in the comments.
As if anyone needs to have it spelled out.