When Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders suddenly dropped to the turf late in the fourth quarter, was helped to the sideline, returned after missing one play, then managed to be the first player down the field on punt coverage, announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth let NBC’s audience know their feelings.
"Man," Michaels said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "I’m sure glad Sanders is OK."
In a similar tone, Collinsworth chimed in: "It’s a miracle."
Both chuckled. More guffaws and hearty mocking of Sanders came from ESPN’s talking heads on a "C’mon Man!" segment a couple of days later.
Safe to say the NFL doesn’t consider this a laughing matter: The league told Sanders it wants to chat about what happened in that Sunday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. When a reporter asked Sanders this week whether he really had a cramp against the Bengals, he didn’t answer directly, saying: "We’re going to speak on it when we get to New York."
At least one of the Bengals, safety Chris Crocker, was hardly bothered by the tactic.
"’If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,’ I guess, is the old saying," Crocker said. "So if you can slow the game down, why not?"
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn’t really want to touch the topic, other than to say he thinks "it’s generally a rare occasion."
All 32 teams’
The league could fine coaches, players or clubs -- or it could decide to take away draft picks. No one has been punished yet for faking an injury.
According to the memo, 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. It also could encourage injured players to remain in the game at risk to themselves to avoid incurring a charged team timeout."