The brilliant rookie season of quarterback Robert Griffin III ended in painful fashion as Griffin, after limping around for much of the game, exited the Washington Redskins’ first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field when he reinjured his right knee with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin would undergo an MRI exam to determine the extent of the damage. Shanahan and Griffin said they didn’t immediately know the severity of the injury. Both said that Griffin had talked his way into staying in the game.
“You respect authority and I respect Coach Shanahan,” Griffin said. “But at the same time, you have to step up and be a man sometimes. There was no way I was coming out of that game.”
Shanahan said he would “probably second-guess myself” for not removing Griffin sooner. But he also said: “I promise you, if we thought it had something to do with Robert’s career and his injury and he shouldn’t be in there, we would have took him out.”
According to Shanahan, Griffin told him during the game that he was hurting but not injured and he therefore deserved a chance to keep playing.
“That was enough for me,” Shanahan said. “I thought he did enough for us this year to have that opportunity to stay in the football game.”
Griffin has been playing with what was diagnosed as a mild sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee while in college at Baylor.
There was no late-game magic left in Griffin Sunday when the Redskins got the ball with just more than seven minutes to go trailing 21-14. This wasn’t the same, fully healthy version of Griffin who had thrived in such late-game pressure situations throughout the season. He was sacked on first down. Then on second down, from the shotgun formation, he couldn’t reach a snap that was low and to his left. Griffin’s right knee buckled awkwardly as he reached down for the ball, and he remained on the ground in pain as the Seahawks recovered the loose ball.
Griffin remained on the ground but eventually was able to get to his feet and walk off the field, accompanied by members of the team’s medical staff. Rookie backup Kirk Cousins finished the game for the Redskins as their season was ended by a 24-14 defeat.
Griffin limped throughout the game after appearing to aggravate his injury in the first quarter just before the Redskins scored their second touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
Griffin’s lack of his usual burst was particularly noticeable as he limped toward the sideline and went out of bounds on a run for a nine-yard gain on the Redskins’ first offensive play of the fourth quarter. Cousins wore his helmet on the sideline for much of the second half, ready to go into the game if needed. But Shanahan stuck with Griffin until Griffin was unable to get off the turf without assistance. Griffin put his right arm around Shanahan’s shoulders after leaving the field for good.
“I think I did put myself at more risk by being out there,” Griffin said. “But every time you step on the football field in between those lines you’re putting your life, your career, every single ligament in your body in jeopardy. That’s just the approach I had to take towards it. My teammates needed me out there. So I was out there for them.”
Griffin said he didn’t feel he hurt the Redskins’ chances to win by remaining in the game, saying: “I’m the best option for this team and that’s why I’m the starter.”
He said he would have been “highly upset” if Shanahan had pulled him from the game. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said Griffin had earned the right to stay in the game.
“It’s not a tough choice,” Alexander said. “He makes that decision. If he feels that he can go and play through that pain, you let him do that. I mean, he’s your franchise guy. Guys earn the right to do that. I think he’s done that throughout this year.”
Griffin led the Redskins to touchdowns on their first two possessions.
But on a first-and-goal play on the second touchdown drive, Griffin ran to his right and tried to plant on his right knee and twist his body to make a throw to his left. Griffin wasn’t hit on the play but he was limping afterward.
His pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon on that first-down play fell incomplete, and Griffin handed off to tailback Alfred Morris for no gain on second down. Griffin threw a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Logan Paulsen on third down. But he absorbed a late hit by Seattle rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin on the touchdown, resulting in a penalty, and Griffin emerged limping heavily.
He was taken to the medical examination room behind the Redskins’ bench, then returned to the sideline and took some warmup throws. Cousins did not take any warmup throws at that point, and Griffin remained in the game without missing a play.
Griffin was playing in his third game since missing one game due to his sprained LCL. This latest drama about Griffin’s knee came after James Andrews, the well-known orthopedist who is on the Redskins’ sideline for games, told USA Today that he continued to have trepidations about the soundness of Griffin’s knee.
“I’ve been a nervous wreck letting him come back as quick as he has,” Andrews told the newspaper. “He’s doing a lot better this week, but he’s still recovering and I’m holding my breath because of it.
“He passed all the tests and all the functional things we do, but it’s been a trying moment for me, to be honest with you.”
Andrews also told the paper that he did not clear Griffin to re-enter the game against the Baltimore Ravens one play after Griffin originally suffered the injury, as Shanahan portrayed at the time. Andrews was on the Redskins’ sideline Sunday and was among those who came on the field to examine Griffin when he was hurt in the fourth quarter. Shanahan said again Sunday that he had a brief conversation with Andrews before sending Griffin back into the Baltimore game.
“I think doctors always worry any time somebody has an injury, rightfully so,” Shanahan said. “But they clear a player if they think he’s able to play.”
More on the Redskins:
Summary: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14
Boswell: Seeing the NFL at its best, worst
Takeaway: No reason to hang their heads
Photos: Griffin’s injury
Photos: Scenes from the stadium