Robert Griffin III’s hypercompetitiveness is clouding his judgment

Mike Wise
Columnist August 12, 2013

Except for only the franchise’s most valuable commodity, the makeover from the painful end to last season is almost complete.

Mike Shanahan, ol’ blood and guts on Jan. 6 who basically sent a strained ligament back on the field until it popped, is today Mr. Safety First. He won’t let a gimpy Robert Griffin III ever talk him into putting him on the field again.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

James Andrews, the orthopedist who stood on the sidelines of the Seattle playoff game, has washed his hands of any faulty decision-making that led to the reconstruction of Griffin’s right knee. He merely cleared Griffin to play a week before training camp and hasn’t been heard from since.

The last holdout is a hypercompetitive 23-year-old who is inexplicably lobbying his coach to play in a meaningless exhibition game. Other than ego, pride and foolishness, what gives?

“You know me too well,” Griffin said Monday when asked whether he would try to convince Shanahan to play in the preseason. He added: “I’m going to, definitely. I want to play, let’s get that straight. I want to play in the preseason. . . . I’m definitely going to push for it. I feel ready to go. I’ll definitely push for that third game, but we’ll see what happens.”

How about nothing? How about rest up for Sept. 9 against the Eagles when it matters? How about shelving the whole mentality of a special teamer who needs to crack the wedge in order to make the team and start taking on the mind-set of: I’m the one guy on the roster who absolutely cannot get hurt or it’s over.

His season. His team’s. And probably Shanahan’s career in Washington because most people would blame Shanahan for listening to the pleading of the kid again and, ultimately, for any injury not suffered during the regular season.

Shanahan faced the media about 5:30 p.m. and literally smiled a wooden smile for 20 minutes. He said while he loves Griffin’s competitiveness, there’s no chance he will take a preseason snap, in accordance to Andrews’s orders. This is where I have Shanahan’s back: He already trusted the kid too much once.

This is the part I get: Every special athlete has a combination of insecurity and arrogance that helps make him or her great. Those character traits often emerge when their supremacy is threatened.

Here’s what I don’t get: No one is taking Griffin’s job. God bless Jason Reid, but Kirk Cousins is not Steve Young. There is no more breathtaking player in the NFL than Griffin.

Still, you get this defiant soul who either wants to be the fastest person in history to recover from ACL reconstructive surgery or who has yet to realize his immeasurable value to the team.

“I can’t B.S. that answer,” Griffin said when asked whether he liked or understood his current recovery plan. “No, I don’t like it, but there is some part of it I do understand. I don’t understand all of it. I can’t lie about that, but when you give your word to somebody, that’s all you have, so I’m just banking on that they will stay true to their word and I’m staying true to mine.

He added, “Basically, the parts that I don’t understand is that it’s been fixed; the rehab process — or my reintegration into the team — have been fixed without any aspect of how I’m doing personally with my knee, my knee surgery, with my rehab. It’s predetermined, and that’s the one thing I don’t understand. But like Coach said — he’s 100 percent right — I don’t have to understand it. I don’t have to like it. But at the end of the day, if he plays me Week 1 and I’m ready to go, then I’ll give him a salute and I’ll go play my butt off for him.”

If Shanahan and the medical staff decide that Week 2 is appropriate, well, Adidas will have a hissy fit over the disrespect of its “All In For Week 1” campaign. But that’s another story.

Either way, Griffin is the one who, unprompted in his first news conference of training camp, said it’s crucial the coach and the player remain on the same page this season. If we’re going to take him at his word, doesn’t he need to be on board with his own recovery plan?

I still go back to Cincinnati, Week 3 last season, when the scary premonition quote of the year tumbled from Griffin’s proud lips after he was laid out by the Bengals that afternoon. “I’ve never played scared in my life,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter how many times they hit me. I’m going to continue to get back up. Even if they have to cart me off the field, I’m going to get up off that cart and walk away.”

At the time, I wrote that physical courage and intelligence don’t always mix, that Griffin needs to learn they don’t always go hand-in-hand. I questioned whether his military background, being the son of two retired Army sergeants who instilled the soldier-on mentality in their son, got in the way of being a slide-before-you-get-maimed NFL quarterback.

After seeing him go down in a heap in January, there is no reason those questions should have to be asked anymore. It’s time Robert Griffin III sees himself as most sane observers see him — the indispensable key to Washington returning to a Super Bowl.

Not a practice-squad gamer who desperately needs to get back on the field with his teammates before he’s cut and never gets a chance again.

See, Operation Patience has no chance if the guy for whom the plan was named has no patience.

For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.

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