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The Eagles' coaches know they can't worry about the possibility of other teams faking injuries. (USA Today Images)
The Eagles want to play fast. They don’t want to be on their heels. That’s what Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said on Thursday. It wasn’t exactly news. The Eagles have been upfront about being uptempo. But the reason Shurmur mentioned those things – the specific context – was interesting.
On Wednesday, retired Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher made national news when he admitted that faking injuries was “part of the game plan” in Chicago in order to slow down fast-paced offenses. Not surprisingly, Shurmur was asked about that approach and how the Eagles might combat it should it be employed by opposing defenses this season.
“Offenses play the way they play and then defenses try to defend,” Shurmur said before practice at the NovaCare Complex. “There are strategies and tactics to everything that happens in the game, whether it’s obvious or not. We’re aware of what gets said and what gets talked about, but we can’t really control that.”
No. They really can’t. It’s not something that is easy to prevent. Because it’s difficult for referees to determine whether a player is actually injured or faking it during a game, the NFL still hasn’t figured out a way for officials to stop it.
Consider the weak language on the topic in the league rule book: “The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty. Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice.”
The league can retroactively fine teams that fake injuries, but that’s the current extent of allowable punishment. That’s not exactly a significant disincentive in a win-now league populated by teams worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Shurmur said the Eagles will “just see if that happens” and added the team “can’t worry about it.”
“To this point it hasn’t displayed itself in our situation,” Shurmur said. “We can only go by what we see. We try to plan for contingencies. We’ll just deal with it when it happens.”
Shurmur offered a similar reply – something on the order of waiting to see what develops – when asked about defenses that plan to attack the read option offense by hitting the quarterback as often as possible. Football is a violent sport. Quarterbacks always get hit. But some observers are of the belief that the read option treats quarterbacks as running backs, thereby relaxing league rules on protecting QBs, which would in turn make the most important player on any team an even bigger target.
For the Eagles, at least to start the season, that target will be Michael Vick. He has a history of various injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2006 when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.
“We’re obviously concerned about any player’s health when he’s on the field,” Shurmur said about keeping Vick upright. “But we can’t be cautious. A guy’s got to go out and play.”
Shurmur insisted the read option is only “a portion of what we do.” The offensive coordinator said the Eagles are set up to “do it a bunch” or “go a game or two games and not do it at all.”
“Defenses are going to do it whether he’s dropping back to pass or running around on the perimeter,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s just the nature of the game. How it plays out based on whether the quarterback keeps it or gives it, we’re going to have to see. I know what the rules are. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”