Maybe the NFL isn’t out to stick it to the Seahawks, after all.
At least not this time.
The league is not going to penalize the Seahawks in any way after the team did not properly report Richard Sherman’s knee injury this past season, a source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed on Tuesday.
The NFL found that the team violated the league’s injury report policy by not including the Pro Bowl cornerback’s knee injury on Seattle’s practice reports following his sprained medial collateral ligament coach Pete Carroll revealed only after the season. But league investigators found the violation to be the result of “a misinterpretation of the policy’s reporting requirements.”
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Fox Sports first reported the Seahawks would be let off with a warning.
Two days after Seattle’s season ended last month, Carroll disclosed Sherman’s “significant” injury without being asked. The league found that though Sherman continued to play in every game this past season and even last month’s Pro Bowl, that did not free the Seahawks from being required to report the injury.
The source said if the Seahawks have any future violation of the injury report policy, the league will couple it with this violation involving Sherman to determine discipline.
The NFL was considering taking away as high as a second-round draft choice from the Seahawks. Seattle is already minus a fifth-round pick in April’s draft for a third violation of too much hitting in what are supposed to be non-contract organized team activities in previous offseasons.
Sherman’s knee injury never showed up on any of the team’s daily practice reports, nor on injury reports due to the league 48 hours before each game. But he missed a practice in six of the last seven game weeks of the season. The team listed the reason for those absences as “NIR” or “not injury related.”
In their cooperation with the league’s investigation, the Seahawks emphasized Sherman not only didn’t miss a game, he played in the Pro Bowl late last month. They told the league Sherman missed those practices as part of the team’s routine days off for veterans to rest later in the season.
That argument won.
Carroll mentioned on Jan. 16 that Sherman played with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee while describing how difficult a season it was for the three-time All-Pro and how much it weighed on him.
So what was the big deal?
Before the 2016 season began, the NFL sent to each of its 32 teams a reminder of its policies on official injury reports. In it is this subsection for practice reports: “The Practice Report provides clubs and fans with an accurate description of a player’s injury status and how much he participated in practice during the week. If any player has a significant or noteworthy injury, it must be listed on the practice report, even if he fully participates in practice and the team expects that he will play in the team’s next game. This is especially important for key players whose injuries may be covered extensively by the media.”
The league has precedents of fining teams for not disclosing injuries, particularly to star players. In 2009, the NFL fined the New York Jets $125,000 for not reporting an injury to quarterback Brett Favre.
The NFL previously investigated the Seahawks in 2012, ’14 and ’16, all for alleged violations of limits on player contact during spring minicamps. All three times the league fined Seattle after finding the team broke NFL rules. In September, the league fined the Seahawks $400,000, Carroll $200,000, took away a fifth-round draft choice this year and three of its OTA/minicamp practices this spring.
So it’s a surprise the Seahawks won’t be punished for what the NFL determined was indeed a violation of the league’s practice- and injury-reporting policies.
BLAIR MUCH CHEAPER
Four years younger. And $2.45 million cheaper.
That’s the reported difference between 27-year-old Blair Walsh’s maximum charge against the Seahawks’ salary cap in 2017 and what Steven Hauschka cost in 2016.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday Walsh’s one-year contract with Seattle is worth $800,000 in base pay, with $300,000 in bonuses for making and staying on the roster next season. None of that money is guaranteed.
So it’s essentially a prove-it deal. Walsh has the opportunity to earn a richer, longer contract if he succeeds in rebuilding his career with a fresh start in Seattle this year.
It’s a pay cut of $315,000 from the salary Walsh had last year with Minnesota. The Vikings drafted Walsh in the sixth round in 2012 when he became a rookie All-Pro and set an NFL record by going 10 for 10 on field goals from 50 yards or more. When he missed four field goals, four extra points and fouled up kickoffs over the first nine games of the 2016 season, Minnesota released him.
He’d been an unsigned free agent from mid-November until last week.
Hauschka, 31, is due to become an unrestricted free agent March 9. He’s been Seattle’s kicker since signing as a free agent during the 2011 preseason.
This past season, he missed four field goals and six extra points. Misses against Arizona on Christmas Eve and at the Cardinals in an overtime tie in October were among the reasons the Seahawks eventually blew the No. 2 seed they had been holding in the NFC playoff hierarchy, and thus had to play their second-round game they lost on the road.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle