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Floppers Beware As The NFL Cracks Down

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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With the number of injuries Deon Grant claims he’s had, he probably should be in a hospital bed instead of lining up at safety for the New York Giants.

Two torn MCLs, a hole in his labrum, and a torn rotator cuff. Wrist issues, a torn ligament, and screws and a plate in his hip.

Did I mention the bad knee?

Tough guy, this Grant. So tough that he says he has never missed a game due to injury in his 11 years in the NFL.

So what was he doing flopping around like a beached mackerel when he was supposed to be defending near the goal line against St. Louis the other night?

“I am glad you asked me that,” Grant said before going into a long defense that included a recap of every injury he has had in the NFL.

The latest was the swollen knee, which coincidentally happened at the same time teammate Jacquian Williams suddenly fell to the ground with what he would call a cramp. The injuries got the Giants a timeout, and they recuperated enough to stop the Rams from scoring a touchdown.

What they probably didn’t count on was St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford hearing Giants defenders telling someone to “go down” because they couldn’t substitute in time and were out of position to stop the Rams in their no-huddle offense. Bradford complained about it later, and suddenly what had been an open secret was no secret anymore.

So now the NFL is cracking down. Players and coaches have been warned.

The designated flopper on your defense? Make sure he knows how to play the part.

“I can tell you no one in this league is going to be any good at acting,” said Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith. “They’re probably not going to get any Oscar or Emmys for whatever they did.”

Grant and Williams certainly won’t. They couldn’t get a role in a bad YouTube sketch the way they went down together.

It’s their lot in life, though. No one, after all, is going to ask someone like Troy Polamalu or Ray Lewis to hit the turf.

“It’s usually not a captain of the team,” said Dolphins running back Reggie Bush. “It’s a guy who’s expendable.”

A league memo obtained this week by The Associated Press warns of fines, suspensions and the loss of draft picks if the league determines a player faked an injury to stop both the clock and the other team’s momentum. Just how the league is going to figure out who is faking and who isn’t wasn’t quite spelled out, but surely there’s someone in a back room at the NFL’s offices working late hours to come up with anti-faking formulas.

Feigned outrage at being called an actor might be tipoff No. 1.

“How can another person or the media tell you when you’re hurt or faking an injury?” asked Grant. “They had a good offense. The drove the ball on us the whole game. That’s something that will get you fatigued. So if five guys were to have caught a cramp on that particular play that can happen.”

In Grant’s defense, he does have a point. Instant replay can show only so much, and games in the NFL are already long enough without someone having to haul an MRI machine out on the field to finger a faker.

But the flopping may have cost the Rams a touchdown. And that could have cost them the game Monday night in New York.

“If the offense is a no-huddle and it’s fairly evident that the defense goes down just to slow the offense down, I think there’s got to be some sort of penalty,” Bradford said. “That’s the frustrating thing to me. When they have a couple of guys go down and look over and one of them sees the other guy on the ground and gets up, then it’s like you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Coaches and players around the league danced around the topic when asked by AP writers this week whether they’ve got a designated flopper for the times when the moment calls for it.

When it comes to other teams, though, they were a bit more, shall we say, candid.

“I’ve been places where it has been,” Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said. “They have a name for it and I’ve been places where it’s been pre-called. I’ve been places where it’s one player who has been designated. Maybe I’m getting everyone in trouble, but I’m just being honest.”

That may be, though honesty, though, isn’t always the best policy in the NFL. In a league where deceit often is the key to victory, some things are better left unsaid.

Don’t expect a league memo to change that. Teams may have to become more creative, but guys will continue to drop at crucial times. They’ll get away with it, too, because there is no real way to prove intent.

The Giants, though, will have to find someone else to feign injury next time. Grant has been exposed.

He’s about to become a former flopper.

___

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/timdahlberg