And when Griffin exited the examination room a few moments later, what might have been the last, best chance to prevent further injury to his problematic knee had passed the Redskins by.
Griffin, with the blessing of Coach Mike Shanahan and the team’s medical staff, continued to play — mostly ineffectively — and by late in the fourth quarter of the first-round playoff game, when he could no longer go on, he had suffered what would later be diagnosed as a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.
He underwent surgery on Jan. 9 to repair that tear, as well as revise the reconstruction of his anterior cruciate ligament, which he originally tore in 2009 as a sophomore at Baylor. The injury will require months of rehabilitation, calling into question Griffin’s availability for the start, if not all, of the 2013 season.
In the aftermath of the Seattle loss, an avalanche of criticism from fans and media was directed at Shanahan, the team’s medical staff and, to some degree, Griffin himself for ignoring the obvious visual clues that the quarterback’s knee was compromised. Although little has been made public about the deliberations behind the decision to keep Griffin in the game, or the medical measures taken that allowed him to play in the first place, a closer examination of the day’s events paints a fuller picture of the process.
According to a person with knowledge of the behind-the-scenes deliberations regarding Griffin’s knee behind the Redskins bench two weeks ago, the rookie quarterback, seated on an examination table in the small room while his knee was retaped, suddenly popped up and told the medical personnel: “I’m fine. I’m ready to go.”
While Griffin’s visit to the room in the first quarter was a pivotal moment in the timeline of that fateful game, it was hardly the only one. Griffin played six more offensive series, for a total of 24 more plays, before his knee gave out. He conferred with Shanahan on the sideline between at least some of those series, each time insisting he wanted to continue.
“You respect authority, and I respect Coach Shanahan,” Griffin said after the game, in what remains his last public comment since the injury. “But at the same time you have to step up and be a man sometimes, and there was no way I was coming out of that game.”