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In despicable display, Riders faked it till they made it

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It’s one thing for coaches to take a challenge and go on a fishing expedition for football improprieties but it’s another altogether more disgraceful thing to strategically advise your players to fake injuries in order to help out your team.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/09/2017 (1849 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s one thing for coaches to take a challenge and go on a fishing expedition for football improprieties but it’s another altogether more disgraceful thing to strategically advise your players to fake injuries in order to help out your team.

Players overreacting, embellishing or straight-up faking injuries in pro football is certainly nothing new. Some players pretend they are injured to try and secure a pay day if they think they’re going to be cut. Others falsify their health status or play up a big hit in a game to enhance their “toughness” status and to try to win praise and approval from fans and/or teammates.

When a defensive player gets an interception and takes it to the house for a score, it’s practically an unwritten rule that someone “gets injured” during the extra-point convert, so the defence can take an extra break as it has to go right back out on the field.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor Saskatchewan Roughriders' Vernon Adams Jr., on the turf during first half CFL action against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in Regina on Sunday. A disturbing number of Riders players developed "cramps" whenever the Bombers tried to use their hurry-up offence.

Heck, I was on teams where defensive co-ordinators lightly suggested that if we were on the field, chasing our tails and getting marched up and down the field by the opposition, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for someone to go down so we could regroup and take a moment to right the ship.

Yet, what happened at the Labour Day Classic was an all-time low in coaching malfeasance.

From up in the booth in Regina, we saw a minimum of three instances where a Saskatchewan Roughriders defender appeared to be coached to go down when a special set of circumstances presented itself.

All season long, the Bombers have been changing the pace and tempo of their offence a number of times during the game.

Sometimes, after a play that resulted in a first down, the entire offensive group sprinted to the line of scrimmage, snapped the ball and got a play off as quickly as possible. It’s done to keep the defence on its heels and reeling, to prevent it from being able to make substitutions and to take advantage of potentially suspect conditioning.

For the first time in all the years I’ve played and watched football, Saskatchewan had a player triggered to go down deliberately as soon as its coaching staff recognized Winnipeg was about to change the tempo, go hurry-up offence and run another play.

The league rules currently state that if a player is injured in a game, he must come off the field for a minimum of three plays to discourage coaches from taking advantage of this loophole.

But with most teams dressing seven or eight defensive linemen that are already rotating in and out of the game, having one miss three plays is hardly even an inconvenience anymore.

Of course, the blind loyalists of Rider Nation will protest we can’t really ascertain or judge the degree of injury when players do cramp up or get the wind knocked out of them several times a game.

If the officials are left to decide who is really injured and who is flopping, you are setting a dangerous precedent for a sport that is already truly dangerous.

Yet the odds of a green-clad defender actually being injured every time the opponent transitions to its no-huddle offence are obscene and so is the spectacle of this B.S. manoeuvre.

From this vantage point, it looks like the CFL will have little choice but to extend that three-play break that is mandated to dinged-up players to something much more significant, as this new low in unethical coaching strategies can’t be allowed to continue.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.

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