The surgical scars on his knee should serve as reminders that it’s time for Griffin to stop taking unnecessary risks.
Griffin is young. He believes he’s indestructible. Griffin doesn’t need to be scolded for making a young man’s mistakes.
It’s just that when the NFL is your workplace, you have to protect yourself better than Griffin has so far. By being honest with himself, Griffin, 22, could find the right path.
One of Griffin’s biggest strengths is also his Achilles’ heel: athletic arrogance.
Even when they’re not at their best because of injuries or illness, elite athletes believe they’re still much better than the people behind them on the depth chart.
The any-percentage-of-me-is-better-than-100-percent-of-the-next-guy philosophy is what drove Griffin to keep playing after he did something to his knee while throwing a pass in the first quarter Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks after initially injuring his knee against the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season.
Although it’s impossible to determine whether that play was the one on which Griffin tore knee ligaments, it was clear to everyone seated in the stadium or anyone watching on television that Griffin’s performance was far worse after that point. Griffin continued to tell Coach Mike Shanahan he was fine because that’s what Griffin does. In the process, Griffin hurt himself and his team.
Perhaps the Redskins would have won if Kirk Cousins entered the game before Griffin’s knee buckled in a stomach-turning sight late during the final quarter. Or maybe Washington would have lost. Regardless of the possible outcome, though, Griffin should have listened to his body. Griffin needed to protect both his future and the franchise.
Griffin is chiefly responsible for making the Redskins winners again. Now, the one player the team can’t afford to lose may miss part of the 2013 season — or all of it. There’s nothing gallant about being reckless.
But if you listen to Redskins people long enough, you could walk away convinced that Griffin did nothing wrong. Linebacker London Fletcher understands Griffin’s thinking.
During his 15-year NFL career, Fletcher has seen few athletes as gifted as Griffin. As he watched Griffin hobble against Seattle, Fletcher never gave up hope that Griffin would make a big play to pull out a victory. “Guys like Robert . . . that’s what they do,” Fletcher said. “They can play with pain and still just kind of rise to the occasion.”
Sure, it happens. While playing with a separated shoulder, Emmitt Smith gained 229 yards from scrimmage in a victory that gave Dallas home-field advantage throughout the 1993 NFC playoffs. Despite suffering from dehydration and flu-like symptoms during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan scored 38 points to put Chicago within one win of a championship.