Apparently, all it took was one admission from a high-profile former player to prompt the NFL to remind teams that there is in fact a hammer behind a request that is really an afterthought in its official rule book.
As you've probably heard, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino sent a memo Thursday to all teams reminding them of possible disciplinary action for faking injuries to generate a free timeout. The memo came one day after former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said that the team had a "designated dive guy" who would fake an injury when a coach gave the signal. Former Tennessee Titans Keith Bulluck made similar comments during a Thursday appearance on Nashville radio.
Here is all the NFL rule book says about such situations: "The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty. Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice."
There is enough gray area there for teams to push the limits, but with the season set to begin Thursday night, it's clear that Blandino wanted to ensure teams were aware that officials will actively look to shut down any attempt to do so.
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders was fined $15,000 last season for faking an injury, but that discipline came after one of the more obvious examples of a flop that you'll see. Sanders suddenly fell to the ground in the huddle, saying he had a leg injury, but after medical officials tended to him and helped him off the field, he returned after only one play.
So here's my guess: The next time a player gets "hurt" and needs "help" getting off the field, he might want to make sure he "needs" more than one play to "recover" before running back onto the field.