I can confirm from a source with knowledge of the determination that the NFL is not going to fine, take away a draft choice or punish the Seahawks in any way after the team did not report Richard Sherman’s knee injury this past season.
The league found that the team violated the NFL injury report policy by not including the Pro Bowl cornerback on Seattle’s practice report portion of the injury report following his knee injury coach Pete Carroll revealed only after the season. The violation was determined to be the result of “a misinterpretation of the policy’s reporting requirements.”
Mike Garafolo of the league-owned NFL Network was the first to report Tuesday the Seahawks wouldn’t be sanctioned.
Carroll disclosed Sherman’s “significant” injury, a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee, without being asked two days after Seattle’s season ended last month. The league has determined 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 list the knee injury.
If the Seahawks have any future violation of the injury report policy, the league will couple it with this violation involving Sherman in determining discipline.
The NFL was considering taking away 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 the offseason.
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. In six of the last seven game weeks to end the season, he missed one practice. The team listed the reason for those absences as "NIR." That stands for "not injury related."
In their cooperation with the league’s fourth investigation of the team in six years for potential violations of team rules, the Seahawks pointed out Sherman not only didn’t miss a game, he played in that Pro Bowl all-star exhibition late last month. They also told the league Sherman’s missed those practices as part of the team’s routine days off for veterans to rest later in the season. Two other Seahawks Pro Bowl players, tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive end Michael Bennett, among others, regularly got practices off this past season.
That argument won.
"Honestly, I didn't realize we hadn't revealed it," Carroll said two days after Seattle lost in the divisional round of the playoffs at Atlanta. "I don't even remember what game it was, it was somewhere in the middle ... I don't know.
"He was fine about it. He didn't miss anything."
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 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."
There are precedents for the league 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, for instance.
Asked why Sherman’s injury never showed up on a practice report, Carroll said last month: "I don't know. I'm feeling like I screwed that up with not telling you that because that happened, but he was OK.
"So I don't know. He never missed anything, which is probably why."
That’s the tack the Seahawks kept in cooperating with the league.
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 at least get fined for what the NFL determined was indeed a violation of the league’s practice- and injury-reporting policies.
Carroll met one more time with Sherman after the team returned from Atlanta last month, before the three-time All-Pro began his offseason. Sherman had a tumultuous December and January. He screamed at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Carroll for play-calling decisions during the Dec. 15 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Then he threatened the career of a Seattle radio host and ended his weekly press conferences he called his "privilege" to the media.
"I just wanted to make sure we left on really good terms," Carroll said. "We talk a lot. I talk with him all the time. I just wanted to make sure to touch base one more time, because it was a difficult year for him.
"The media thing was a big deal and all that. He made it through it. It was hard."