The NFL sent out a warning to all 32 teams over the weekend that it could end up dropping the hammer on any team that deliberately attempts "to stop play unnecessarily" during a game.
The warning shot was sent out in a memo that was obtained by Pro Football Talk and it was sent out because the league has noticed an uptick in situations where a player goes down with an "injury" in order to delay the game.
"The NFL continues to emphasize the importance of upholding the integrity of the game and competitive fairness as our highest priority," the league memo stated. "We have observed multiple instances of clubs making a deliberate attempt to stop play unnecessarily this season. Any deliberate attempt by a team and/or player to stop play unnecessarily; prolong or delay the process; improperly take advantage of a stoppage in play; or influence the actions of an ATC Spotter will be' considered an 'unfair act' and may result in discipline, in addition to any on-field penalty assessed by the Game Officials."
The league views a deliberate stop of play, AKA faking an injury to stop the game, as an "unfair act" and if a team is found guilty of breaking the rule, that team can be hit with some major punishments that the NFL outlined in the memo.
"Clubs and individuals determined to be in violation of this rule will be subject to League discipline 'to include a minimum fine of $350,000 for the club, a minimum fine of $100,000 for the head coach, a minimum fine of $50,000 for assistant coaches, if applicable, and a minimum fine of $50,000 for players," the memo states. "Please be advised that violations of this rule may also result in suspensions of persons involved, and/or the forfeiture of a draft choice(s), including for first offenses. Clubs, club personnel (including head coaches and assistant coaches), and players have been held accountable for their actions this season."
If you're wondering what a deliberate stop of play looks like, many fans called out the Bengals for faking an injury to stop the game against the Chiefs during Cincinnati's 27-24 win on Sunday. The Bengals appeared to be late getting some subs in and as those subs were running on the field, Jessie Bates went down with an injury.
This would be an example of a play that the NFL could investigate and if the league finds out there was any wrongdoing, it could potentially hand out a punishment.
It's been more than 10 years since the last time the NFL punished anyone for faking an injury. The last time it happened came in November 2012 when Emmanuel Sanders was fined $15,000 for faking an injury against the Bengals while playing for the Steelers. The league handed out a total of $50,000 in fines for that incident with the Steelers also being fined $35,000.