The quarterbacks who came into the NFL together on a Thursday evening in late April 2012 represented the future of the league, with the only dispute over their destiny being who should be the No. 1 pick, bumping the other to No. 2.
Instead, both have been battered and hurt, and now Andrew Luck, that top pick by Indianapolis, has retired from the league after seven seasons, one of which he missed entirely because of a torn labrum. Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick by Washington, had his own well-documented injury history and missed two entire seasons. But he is hanging on and waiting for another chance as a backup with the Baltimore Ravens. Still, he understood why Luck came to a different conclusion about his NFL future.
“When I was out of football in 2017, I can’t say I was making the decision to retire, but I was at that point where you’re tired of being injured, tired of being hurt and tired of having to go through that process that [Luck] called ‘pain-injury-rehab,’ ” Griffin said Sunday (via ESPN).
Both quarterbacks are 29, with Luck turning 30 in September, and Griffin said he had “always been competing against Andrew silently.” Both grew up in Texas, with Luck in Houston and Griffin in Copperas Cove. Jim Harbaugh recruited both when he was coaching at Stanford and landed Luck, with Griffin staying in-state at Baylor. There, unlike Luck, he won a Heisman Trophy. He admitted that Luck’s announcement caught him off-guard and “was a very shocking moment, but it’s his decision to make.”
It’s just not one that Griffin is ready to make.
“We’re looked at as superheroes and not human beings,” Griffin said. "For him to have that human element, to express it in the news conference after the game, go and talk to the media and answer questions, I thought that was really big.”
It didn’t escape Griffin’s notice that, after news of his retirement broke during the fourth quarter of a preseason game, Luck was booed as he left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. Athletes around the league criticized Colts fans. “I think all the fans that booed,” Griffin said, "would probably say that wasn’t their proudest moment.”
Although Griffin was named the offensive rookie of the year in 2012, Luck’s career validated his No. 1 pick. He started 86 games and led the Colts to an AFC championship game. On Saturday night, though, that was overcome by boos. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I heard the reaction,” Luck said. “It hurt. I’ll be honest, it hurt.”
Griffin has appeared in 45 games, but his career continues.
“As players, we get signed to teams and we give our all for those teams,” Griffin said. "I’ve personally never been booed in Washington, but if I had been after what I gave that team, a lot of people would say I gave it my career. I don’t think I did, because I’m still fighting.
“But if you get that feeling from [fans], it makes it feel like they don’t appreciate what you’ve done and what you’ve sacrificed to put that helmet on.”
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