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Steelers and Sanders fined for fake injury incident

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By Alan Robinson
Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 3:18 p.m.

The Steelers and Emmanuel Sanders will be out real money because of a fake injury.

The NFL came down hard Friday on player and team alike, fining the receiver $15,000 for faking a leg injury late in the team's 24-17 win at Cincinnati on Oct. 21. The Steelers drew a $35,000 fine because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's policy is to hold teams accountable for their employees' conduct.

Sanders went down as if his left leg were cramping with 5:42 remaining in the game and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger trying to recover after being sacked. Sanders was attended to on the field, then hopped off on his right leg with the assistance of two team trainers.

Sanders' action prevented the Steelers from being charged with a timeout or drawing a delay-of-game penalty. Sanders discussed the play with NFL officials last week.

In a subsequent letter to Sanders and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, NFL vice president Ray Anderson wrote: “Despite the account given by Sanders during our November 2nd meeting, neither the video sequence of the pertinent plays nor the observations of the on-field official support Sanders's contention that he was in severe pain, either before, while falling to the ground, lying on the ground, or when he was being assisted in leaving the field.

“Moreover, after missing the one play that is mandatory pursuant to the playing rules, and receiving no apparent treatment, Sanders returned to the game for a fourth-down punt, on which he out-sprinted all of his teammates 26 yards down the field, arriving at the ball ahead of all other Pittsburgh players, and then downing the ball.

“The video of the play shows Sanders running swiftly and effortlessly toward the punted ball and then leaving the field with no sign of discomfort. Sanders also played the rest of the game without difficulty. Finally, there is no indication that Sanders has had prior cramping issues while in the NFL, and no Steelers' medical records or information of any kind were presented that would support a finding that he incurred a cramp that was both as serious and as transient as Sanders suggests.”

Last season, after two Giants players appeared to fake injuries in a game against the Rams, the NFL issued a memo warning that “all those suspected of being involved in faking injuries will be summoned promptly to this office.”

Three weeks into this season, the NFL further cautioned teams that the league's competition committee had frequently discussed the issue of faking injuries and that coaches should be discouraging their players from doing so.

“This fine does not suggest that the club, or any member of its coaching or administrative staff, has taught, suggested, instructed, or condoned the faking of injuries or any other competitive deception,” Anderson wrote. “If I believed that to be the case, the discipline would be substantially more.”

The Steelers and Sanders can appeal the fine by notifying Goodell within three days. The team declined to comment.

Safety Ryan Clark was not fined for a penalized hit Sunday on Giants receiver Victor Cruz but safety Will Allen was. Clark was flagged for a hit to the head, but replays showed he hit Cruz in the shoulder.

Allen knocked Cruz to the ground after a pass fell incomplete. He was not flagged but fined $7,875 for a late hit.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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