I hadn’t heard the tale about Terrell Davis trotting out on the field during one of the Broncos’s Super Bowl appearances despite not being able to see until the aftermath of the Skins’s loss to the Seahawks.
But after Mike Shanahan kept an obviously gimpy Robert Griffin III on the field during that playoff game, many people referred back to the Davis incident. This comes from my friend Josh Levin, writing at Slate, for example:
Then Broncos coach Shanahan told Terrell Davis he should keep playing through migraine headaches in Super Bowl XXXII even though the running back couldn’t see. “Just do this, you don’t worry about seeing on this play because we’re going to fake it to you,” Shanahan said. “But if you’re not in there they’re not going to believe that we’re going to run.” Strategy trumps safety. And when the team wins, everybody’s happy. On the NFL website, the send-the-blind-player-on-the-field maneuver is celebrated as an “MVP moment.”
If you’re like me, this left you wondering whether Davis now resents that decision, whether new research on head injuries and player safety makes him wish he had played it safe, and whether he faults Shanahan for his handling of RGIII. No, no and no.
“I mean, for a short period of time like that, then I would do it [again],” Davis told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980’s Sports Fix last week. “I mean, we all play with a certain amount of pain. Even when we’re injured — I’ve played in a lot of games where I had high-ankle sprains, a stress fracture in my shin, played with basically a partially torn MCL. So I get that we have to play with a certain amount of pain and a certain amount of injury. I understand, that guy’s the franchise quarterback and you want to keep him there for a long time. And I know Mike is catching it right now. But he’s a good coach, man. I’d side with Mike any day.”
Above all, what Davis said in that quote and elsewhere in the interview confirms that NFL players are a complete different type of person than, say, me. And probably than you, no offense. Davis kind of attempted to thoughtfully understand where critics of Shanahan might be coming from, but he just couldn’t get there, saying he had no reason to suspect Shanahan was less concerned with the safety of his players than any other NFL coach.
“I don’t have any stories or any instances where that was the case,” Davis said. “Like I said, ultimately, if I’m not ready to go into a game, Mike can’t put me in a game. If I feel like my knee is not working, if something’s not working properly and I don’t think that I can perform, then I’m gonna tell Mike, I’m gonna tell [the trainer], I can’t go in.
“So I don’t understand how people…I mean, unless Mike sort of threatened him, I don’t understand how that works, where he [improperly] leaves RGIII in the game,” Davis continued. “If RGIII was not healthy, I would imagine he would have left the game. If the quarterback wants to stay in, the coach is asking him are you ok, can you play, and he’s saying yeah, I’m all right.
“I know sometimes you have to protect guys from themselves,” Davis said. “Because that’s just the nature of how it works, is we’re going to try to play through anything. Even if we can’t perform and our abilities aren’t up to par, we’re going to try to play through it. So I get what people are saying, that sometimes the coach has to make that decision by looking at him. Because I think in the first quarter, I noticed a major gimp with RGIII. It just didn’t look like he could run. He looked bad. So I’d imagine that’s what people are talking about. But I’m sure that he told Mike, I’m fine, I can play, and so Mike kept him in.”
As for the Super Bowl tale, Davis confirmed it, and it sounds just as ridiculous to me as it did the first time I heard it. I mean, he couldn’t see, and he went out there to smash into 300-pound wrecking balls. But again, I didn’t play in the NFL. If I had a migraine that blinded me, I wouldn’t even blog, unless it was something really important, like a Steve Buckhantz dagger or a Jordan Crawford mustache. But Davis kept playing football.
“Someone sort of kneed me in the helmet and I got sort of concussed,” the running back recalled. “And I remember just before the second period we were changing sides of the field and my vision just went. I couldn’t see anything. And we were right there on the goal line. I went over to Mike and I said ‘Hey man, I can’t see. I just want you to know I can’t see.’
“And he said ‘Don’t worry about not seeing, but we need yo in for this play, because if you’re not in, they won’t believe we’re gonna run the ball.’ So I said ‘Ok, cool, I’ll do it — as long as you know I can’t see. Don’t try to give me the ball, we’re fine.’ And so he didn’t give me the ball, we did a quarterback, I think it was an 18 (?) keeper, and John [Elway] rolled out and scored a touchdown.”