O’Neil: If the NFL goes after the Seahawks over Sherman’s injury, it better do the same to Pittsburgh
Like Richard Sherman, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell had an injury he was managing.
And like Sherman, Bell missed a practice or three that was written off by the team as being “not injury related.”
Unlike Sherman, Bell wound up missing game time because of that injury when his strained groin was aggravated to the point that he was limited to just 11 snaps in Pittsburgh’s playoff loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
Four days have passed, and no sight of any trial balloons from the NFL regarding a loss of draft picks for the Steelers.
So is that just a Seattle thing?
Because if the NFL is serious about head-hunting the Seahawks for their failure to announce an injury that didn’t cause Sherman to miss so much as a snap in a game, the line behind Seattle is going to get really long really fast in a league where the injury rate is 100 percent.
In case anyone slept through last week’s episode of “Law & Order: NFL Idiocy,” the Seahawks were put on trial for failing to announce to the world at large that Sherman suffered a knee injury midway through the season. There had been no mention of the injury until Pete Carroll talked about it on “Brock and Salk” two days after Seattle’s season-ending loss in Atlanta. The coach’s intent was to convey some of the challenges that Sherman faced in a season in which he twice erupted in anger on the sidelines and also had an increasingly contentious relationship with some reporters covering the team.
Cue the sirens.
Carroll’s explanation was tantamount to a confession that the Seahawks had not followed the NFL’s injury-report guidelines, which required any “significant” injury be disclosed and not just those that force a player to miss a practice or limit him in a game.
Was Sherman’s injury significant? Sounds like it, according to Carroll. Sherman also got a day off from practice most weeks during the second half of the season, most often with a designation that it was not injury-related, though he was listed with an ankle injury once.
How about Bell’s groin injury? Was that significant? Of Pittsburgh’s nine practices during the playoffs, Bell missed three of them, always with the designation it was not injury-related.
“It didn’t cause him to miss any practice time, let alone game time,” coach Mike Tomlin said in a press conference this week. “It was just something to manage.”
Explain how that was different – in any way – from what the Seahawks did with Sherman and what every team in this league does with any number of players.
“Just about everybody in that locker room has things they’re managing in an effort to stay on the field,” Tomlin said.
That’s some real talk that the suits and stuffed shirts in charge of the league office would be wise to consider. A demand for total transparency when it comes to injuries in football isn’t necessarily impossible – but it is utterly impractical. Not only that, but a comprehensive listing of all ailments across the roster wouldn’t result in a clearer picture of who was going to play.
Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time in an NFL locker room – as a player, coach or just a nosy reporter – knows that injuries are the single biggest rabbit hole in all of sports.
Right now, the NFL requires that any “significant” injury be listed even if the player has not missed a practice rep or playing time in a game. The league would be better off going back to the criteria than any player whose status is in doubt should be listed on the injury report.
Unless, that is, the league wants to get into a tit-for-tat, goose-to-gander comparison of any and all injury disclosures. Because if the Seahawks are going to get punished for failing to put Sherman on their injury report, the Steelers better be next in line for sentencing.