RGIII injury: A guide to the QB’s knee and the Shanahan criticism

January 7, 2013

Things to consider while you wait to learn the severity of Robert Griffin III’s knee injury…

Griffin has been here before. RGIII tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in 2009 and underwent reconstructive surgery done by Mark Adickes, a Baylor alum and Houston orthopedic surgeon who happens to have played for the Washington Redskins in the early ’90s. Last spring, Adickes described a patient who was smart about his rehab — and beyond dedicated.

Adickes said RGIII, in 2009, had a “typical” ACL tear.“ Griffin, Adickes said last spring in an email, “never doubted he would recover fully and achieve his goal to play in the NFL. His work ethic is ridiculous. All efforts post-operatively were spent trying to slow him down.”

Griffin played in 2010 and 2011, won the Heisman Trophy (thanking, among others, his doctors in his acceptance speech) and ran a stellar 40 at the NFL scouting combine last February. His value, clearly, was undiminished by the injury.

“I would much rather draft a player who has proven he can overcome adversity and return successfully from injury/surgery,” Adickes said. “Very few pro athletes have an injury-free career. With RGIII there should be no doubt he is a tough guy and if at some point during his career an injury does occur you can be confident he will have little difficulty returning to form.”

The opinion is near universal: Griffin had no business being in the game that late. The Houston Texans’ Derrick Ward was blunt about it.

 

Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel placed some blame on RGIII for hiding his injury. Griffin, Shanahan said, told him he was “‘Coach, there’s a difference between injured and being hurt. I guarantee you I’m hurting right now. Give me a chance to win this football game because I guarantee you I’m not injured.’” That wasn’t good enough for Wetzel:

It was all a lie and that’s why rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to make the call. Coaches are.

Griffin didn’t have a coach Sunday.

He had Mike Shanahan, who looked at this mess, looked at each hapless Redskins drive, looked at every painful RG3 step, looked at every awkward, overthrown pass, and instead bought Griffin’s weak arguments and then closed his eyes and lied to himself that it would all turn out OK.

Except it didn’t. Not on the scoreboard. And not in Griffin’s knee, which was eventually done in when he wasn’t even capable of bending over and scooping up an errant snap in the fourth quarter. Instead a world-class athlete awkwardly reached until his right knee hyper-extended underneath him.

He wound up in a heap on the turf, clutching that knee while Seattle recovered a gift fumble that led to an easy, game-clinching field goal.

It was the final proof that he never should’ve been out there. And finally, too late, his day was done.

 Patrick Hruby of Sports on Earth argued even more forcefully:

Football is a pastime of brain trauma and prescription drug addiction, of heart issues and weight problems, of replacement joints and degenerative arthritis and chronic, lifelong pain. It is a game of violent, intentional collision, not occasional, incidental contact. It is not particularly healthy, and to pretend otherwise — to express sudden, heartfelt concern for Griffin’s physical well-being and disgust at the risk he was taking, without feeling the same thing for every other player on the field at pretty much every moment — is to be either delusional or blind.

It didn’t look good on the other sideline. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll didn’t like what he saw. “It was hard to watch RGIII. He was gallant.” 

Gallantry is beside the point. From ESPN’s Dan Graziano:

It’s Griffin’s job to be gallant and tough and determined and all of the great things everybody was calling him after the game for his refusal to leave it. But it’s Shanahan’s job to make the clear-headed decision to overrule the 22-year-old superstar who wants to believe he’s invincible. I do not know if Cousins would have done better against the Seahawks’ defense in those final three quarters. I do feel confident in saying he couldn’t have done worse. And even if he hadn’t been an improvement, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now thinking about how many games Griffin will have to miss in September and October if he has in fact torn his ACL. 
“I can agree with you on that,” Griffin said. “I think I did put myself at more risk by being out there. But every time you step on the football field, you’re putting your life, your career and every single ligament in your body in jeopardy.” 
Inarguable. But that’s why decisions like this one can’t be in the hands of the player who wants to play. They need to be in the hands of the people responsible for making sure he’s OK — now and for the future. And on this day, Shanahan, a great coach who understands that responsibility, made the wrong decision. He paid for it with a season-ending loss, and he went home hoping — but not certain — that the bill is fully paid.

Even Shanahan seemed to question his decision. The Redskins coach took a beating in a USA Today story in which Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedic surgeon who is a Redskins consultant, questioned his veracity about RGIII’s earlier LCL injury. After the game, Shanahan admitted:

”I’ll probably second-guess myself when you take a look at the second half — should have I done it earlier? I think you always do that, especially after you don’t win.”

He’s got plenty of company.

 Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

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A former Redskins player did RGIII’s 2009 surgery

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren | January 7, 2013