The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

The Art of Deception


Injuries in the NFL are as routine as the common cold in a first grade classroom. At the same time, reporting injuries is as secretive as battle plans in World War II. The fact that Kellen Winslow and Peyton Manning hid injuries and diagnosis from the media and their opponents is anything but a surprise in today's NFL. From a team and player's perspective, this secrecy is critical for many reasons. Teams are in the business of winning games and keeping confidential information disclosure to a minimum --disclosure can obviously expose their own weaknesses and give their opponents a significant advantage.

Players also have to protect themselves from both their opponents and futures by playing
their own conditions close to the vest. The reality is that the competing dichotomy of winning games versus disclosing information will never be able to morph into a "happy medium."

The greatest example of deception in the creation of a battle plan is the utilization of the esteemed World War II general, George S. Patton and his role in the D-Day invasion. In preparation for D-Day, Patton was publicly placed by Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower in command of the 1st US Army Group which was building up forces in southeast England. Unfortunately, for the Germans, this Army never existed.

As a result, many in the German army were fooled into thinking invasion would take place in the Pas-de-Calais as opposed to Normandy, where the actual invasion occurred, which ultimately resulted in the defeat of Adolph Hitler.

The same type of deception occurs every day in all professional sports, including the NFL. The NHL, for example, is infamous during playoff time for announcing that every injured player on their roster has food poisoning as opposed to disclosing the real and true extent of an injury. Teams aren't in the business of assisting their opponents with confidential and internal information about their own teams.

Teams must protect injury information since they are in business to win games; while at the same time they are required by league rules to create an alleged honest injury report every day. The common thought process is that the NFL Injuries Sheets released are more designed to create honest daily betting lines than for any other reason. While this type of honesty may in fact minimize gamblers with inside information from defeating the house (and thus increasing television ratings), this disclosure of information runs contrary to the goals of the teams and the players. The teams themselves are charged with producing victories.

As stated earlier, from a player's perspective, they need to protect themselves and their business futures with secrecy as to their conditions. All players know that if an opponent has an injured shoulder that they will go out of their way to take shots at the injured area whenever possible in the game. This has happened from the first time games were played and scores were kept.

Players need to protect themselves from their opponent by not giving them this type of information. Further, player's professional careers and financial security are on the line all the time. If a player has a history of injuries and other teams discover the same, this can affect their market value and contractual status. While this may be perceived as dishonest, the player and his representatives must protect the player for the present and the future.

The old and great expression in the NFL is that "you can't make the club in the tub." Players always have to be concerned about getting labeled as an injury-prone player and also have to worry about possible career-diminishing injuries from becoming common knowledge.

The other area of concern for a player representative in the course of business is to assist in the proper medical diagnosis for a player from thousands of miles away. The key to these decisions is assisting players in understanding the difference between pain and injury. In the NFL players must play through pain every Sunday -- this comes with the job. However, players must know when they have a legitimate injury which could be career-diminishing and when they need to shut it down and get healthy and protect that career. These are not easy decisions, and certainly not the kind of determinations agents and lawyers, with no formal medical training, should make.

However, these decisions must be made on daily and weekly basis throughout the course of the season. At the end of the day, fans, media, bookies and the commissioner's office will cry foul when players and teams are not forthright with injury information; however, the competing interests of the players, teams, fans, league office, media and the bookies will never all align for the good of all -- there will always be people complaining. This comes with the territory of the NFL, and will always create controversy.

By Peter Schaffer  |  October 22, 2008; 12:27 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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