Skip to main content

Redskins should have stopped RGIII

By Jeff Pearlman, Special to CNN
updated 4:35 PM EST, Mon January 7, 2013
The Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III lies injured in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks.
The Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III lies injured in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeff Pearlman: We do things when we're young and foolish; wiser heads try to stop us
  • On Sunday, Redskins quarterback stayed in the game, worsening a leg injury
  • He says coach let him go back in; Seahawks saw weakness, pummeled him
  • Pearlman: Shanahan shouldn't have let him play; too many players ruined like this

Editor's note: Jeff Pearlman is the author of "Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton." He blogs at jeffpearlman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- One night, back when I was Robert Griffin III's age, I drank six glasses of grain alcohol mixed with grape-flavored Juicy Juice. My roommate Anthony said it was a bad idea. My other roommate, Chris, also said it was a bad idea. My closest friend, Daniel, insisted it wasn't merely a bad idea but the worst idea ever. "You barely touch booze," he said. "This won't end well."

"Quiet," I replied. "I can handle it."

That night, in room 102 of Russell Hall A at the University of Delaware, I vomited into a toilet for 45 straight minutes. Anthony, who was kindly holding up my head as the cool water reflected onto my face, repeatedly muttered, "I told you so. ... I told you so."

Jeff Pearlman
Jeff Pearlman

Alas, I was but a child. I lacked the maturity and wisdom to know what was for my own good.

Sunday evening, during his team's 24-14 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Griffin, the Washington Redskins' star rookie quarterback, insisted on remaining in the game despite being tossed around like a Raggedy Andy doll with the stuffing yanked out of its legs. During the first half, Griffin reinjured his previously sprained right knee after falling awkwardly while rolling out of the pocket. He rose gingerly and moments later could be seen behind the Redskins' bench, having tape applied.

This was nothing new for the kid. Earlier this season, in a December 9 game against the Ravens, Griffin sprained his lateral collateral ligament, missed the following week and returned with an awkwardly fitted black brace wrapped around the knee.

SI: First slowed and then silenced, RGIII injury spells end for Redskins

This time, with the season on the line, Griffin and Mike Shanahan, Washington's coach, engaged in a halftime conversation. According to Shanahan, the quarterback told him, "Coach, there's a difference between being injured and hurt. I can guarantee you I'm hurt right now. Give me a chance to win this football game, because I guarantee I'm not injured."

So Griffin -- in his "six glasses of grain alcohol mixed with grape-flavored Juicy Juice" moment -- returned. And was pummeled. His once Willie Gault-esque speed was gone. His tight spirals had been replaced by Ryan Lindley-esque ducks. It reminded one not of a football game so much as the 1982 heavyweight title fight between Larry Holmes and Randall (Tex) Cobb, the one where Cobb left the ring so bloodied and beaten that Howard Cosell never again worked the sport.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Much like prize fighters, defensive football players are trained to locate an opponent's weakness and exploit it. If a guy's arm is black and blue, nail it with the crown of your helmet. If a linemen is having trouble seeing with his left eye, gouge the right. There Sunday, in the pummeled form of RGIII, stood a walking, talking weakness. A battered quarterback, defenseless without his tools.

The Seahawks, rightly, exploited it.

When Shanahan heard Griffin's plea, he should have looked across the locker room at his son, Kyle Shanahan, who serves as the team's offensive coordindator. Were RGIII his son (and not merely his quarterback), would he have sent him back on the field, sans a leg? Would he have forced Kyle to face one of the NFL's most vicious defenses without a full arsenal? Shanahan should have thought of all the retired NFL players who can no longer walk, can no longer drive, can no longer feed themselves, who -- in the name of toughness and staying on the field -- are pathetic shells of their former selves.

It has been reported that, earlier in the season, James Andrews, the renowned orthopedist, never cleared Griffin to play against the Ravens, that Shanahan had ignored proper protocols in the name of winning a stupid football game. (Shanahan disputes this, however.)

But if Andrews had not cleared Griffin to play, the Redskins organization should be ashamed.

If that's the case, Robert Griffin III shouldn't be asking himself whether he can play.

He should be asking himself whether anyone in power cares for his well-being.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Pearlman.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 6:31 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT