The NFL had a simple message for Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders:
We don't believe you.
The league fined Sanders and the Steelers a total of $50,000, claiming the third-year wide receiver faked an injury in the Oct. 21 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers were fined $35,000 and Sanders $15,000 by the league for the incident, which occurred in the fourth quarter of a 24-17 victory against the Bengals.
Sanders met with league vice president Ray Anderson last week and gave his version of what happened. Sanders said his leg cramped when he fell to the ground after the play with 5:42 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Steelers leading, 24-17.
The league did not believe him.
In a letter to Sanders and general manager Kevin Colbert, Anderson said:
"Despite the account given by Sanders during our [Nov. 2] meeting, neither the video sequence of the pertinent plays nor the observations of the on-field official support Sanders' contention that he was in severe pain, either before, while falling to the ground, lying on the ground, or when he was being assisted in leaving the field.
"Moreover, after missing the one play that is mandatory pursuant to the playing rules, and receiving no apparent treatment, Sanders returned to the game for a fourth-down punt, on which he out-sprinted all of his teammates 26 yards down the field, arriving at the ball ahead of all other Pittsburgh players, and then downing the ball. The video of the play shows Sanders running swiftly and effortlessly toward the punted ball, and then leaving the field with no sign of discomfort.
"Sanders also played the rest of the game without difficulty. Finally, there is no indication that Sanders has had prior cramping issues while in the NFL, and no Steelers' medical records or information of any kind were presented that would support a finding that he incurred a cramp that was both as serious and as transient as Sanders suggests."
The Steelers would not comment on the fine.
Anderson also referenced a memo sent to all clubs in September that said the issue of faking injuries has been discussed frequently by the competition committee.
Anderson said the Steelers were fined $35,000 because it was consistent with commissioner Roger Goodell's principle that clubs must be held accountable for the conduct of their employees.