Robert Griffin III, Playing Through Injury And The Audacity Of Hope

Ed The Sports Fan, Football — By on January 7, 2013 at 8:21 am

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What transpired on FedEx Field Sunday evening was an attack on the conscience of sports fans everywhere. The Washington Redskins and their sensational yet hurt quarterback Robert Griffin III left the NFC wild-card game versus the Seattle Seahawks in the second half after re-injuring his right knee. A botched shotgun snap caused Griffin to make an awkward attempt to recover the ball, and during the recovery attempt his right knee (which was fitted with a Stone Cold Steve Austin-esque knee brace) buckled. RG3 crumpled to a heap on the ground. This was RG3′s third game playing since spraining the knee versus the Baltimore Ravens when Haloti Ngata had no regard for human life (or knees).

When RG3 re-injured the knee, I felt sick to my stomach. I was sad, mad and confused all at the same time, not really sure how to process what I just witnessed. Almost seconds after RG3 went to the ground writhing in pain, my phone started to ring, text messages started buzzing my phone and my Tweetdeck almost overheated and caught fire. What was most noticeable was the fury that was directed towards the Redskins’ head coach, Mike Shanahan. A man who back in week 10 thought that the ‘Skins were already playing for the 2013 season had consulted with his coach-saving quarterback and decided to leave RG3 in the game. As hindsight is always in abundance in times when it’s too late, everyone began ranting and raving that RG3 shouldn’t have even been on the field in the first place.

Of course, it wasn’t like Shanahan forced RG3 into the game, or that they didn’t have the support from the rest of the team. With quotes* emanating from the team like …

“We would not play Robert if we thought there was a risk of him further injuring that LCL.” — Mike Shanahan

“Mike asked me if I was ok. I said yes. I’m the QB of this team and I don’t think being out there hurt the team. I’m the best option for this team.” — Robert Griffin, III

“You could tell Griffin wasn’t 100% but he earned the right to be out there. Said Shanahan did right listening to RG3.” — London Fletcher

… unless RG3 seriously hurt himself further, he wasn’t coming out. Except for the fact that he did exactly just that.

There’s an understood belief that football players are to be tough. That when the big games are to be played, even if you are hurt, you should be out there laying it on the line. There is no tomorrow, only the today and the opportunity that lies in front of you. In our minds and in the history books, there are those who have laid it all on the line, with injuries that would shut down any sane mortal, and performed admirably under duress. There are also others who put their hands up and said, “I can’t go.” Be it for a damned good reason or not, many look at the unwilling as quitting on the team or being scared of the moment.

We remember the time vividly when Dallas Cowboys’ legendary tailback Emmitt Smith played with a separated shoulder late in the first half of the last game of the regular season in 1993, as the man re-entered the game and ran the ball 32 times for 168 yards and caught 10 balls for another 61 yards. Of his 229 total yards, Smith gained 78 after the injury. Or we remember the day when former Philadelphia Eagles wideout Terrell Owens was cleared to play in Super Bowl XXXIX after defying doctors’ orders by playing on his injured ankle containing 2 screws and a metal plate. Owens was the big-play threat that the Eagles had always dreamed of in having during the biggest of games, and the receiver finished with 9 catches and 122 yards in a magical performance.

Eddie Maisonet, III

Eddie Maisonet is an appreciator of the ultimate reality show that is sports.

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    8 Comments

  • Omar says:

    Great read. Players are supposed to be tough but coaches are supposed to be smart, and I hate to criticize after the fact but, as a redskins fan, it seemed clear that he probably shouldn’t have played most of the second half. It really doesn’t make sense that he had to re-injure the knee twice for him to come out. The whole second half was painful to watch. I’m not sure if the staff is scared of Shanahan or if Shanahan is scared of RGIII but somebody needed speak up and stop it before the inevitable ultimately happened. They are lucky he re-injured it on his own because if it happened on hit it could’ve been a lot worse. I don’t know if they thought they had Mr. Miyagi in the training room giving magic knee rubs but there are somethings tape don’t fix.

    The odd thing is they may have even had a chance to win because contrary to the score the defense played almost as good as they’ve played all year but the offense just couldn’t stay on the field. Something is wrong when not only does it seem apparent that he is injured (not hurt) but he is clearly ineffective running or throwing and the coaching staff can’t make the right decision.

  • Dduggs says:

    Great article and great points, Ed.

    I’m so on the fence about this – I was mad at both RGIII and Shanahan, I felt it was a mutual responsibility. RGIII has to know when to stop, when to not push his body any further, but that goes against everything he’s been taught as an athlete and everything people have come to expect. In that same respect, Shanahan has to have some authority and make the call. He is the decision-maker, not the player. Even if the ‘Skins would have won that game, how far would we have gotten with RGIII obviously at about 50%? Not far. It wasn’t worth it. Had he put Cousins in after halftime, they would have had the opportunity to devise a game plan around him. The “best thing for the team” would have been to give the backup, with fresh legs, an opportunity – there wasn’t much productivity on the field after the Skins’ 2nd touchdown anyway. No one doubts RGIII’s toughness and will to win and we sure wouldn’t have doubted it if he was pulled out of the game.

    But this is all hindsight of course… it’s just all unfortunate.

    I hope he has a great recovery and that the rumors of serious injury aren’t true. He had a remarkable season, hate to see it end like this.

  • I made this point last night on Twitter and I don’t mean to pile on DC, but man, it has to absolutely hurt the decisions their franchises made for the postseason.

    I mean, the Nationals decided to sit a fully rehabilitated and by all accounts healthy Stephen Strasburg, their ace, when he was having no complications and his team had a legitimate shot at a World Series. It’s unprecedented, sitting a healthy pitcher, though it was apparently due to doctors’ orders. Still, seems odd to sit a healthy stud for the playoffs.

    Conversely, the Redskins played an injured and then an ever further visibly injured RG3, this despite some doctors’ recommendations at least. And they didn’t even pull him when it was evident he wasn’t right, then the worst happened.

    It’s crazy to see this dichotomy of putting a player’s long-term health ahead of short-term success and vice versa in the same city of all things. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it almost seems as though the DC franchises had this reversed.

    Either way, I think it’s always better for the franchise/coach to take the decision out of the player’s hands, at least if the player insists on going when he shouldn’t. And as we’ve learned with all the health problems of athletes later on in life, if a guy says he can’t go, maybe we should all, collectively, stop criticizing that decision and start to respect an individual’s health.

    It’s a difficult thing, but as we’ve seen the past few years, the times are definitely changing.

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