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RGKnee: Cartilage and Trust Issues

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Handling of Griffin's knee injury raises questions about judgment

Patrick McDermott

Amid all the RGKnee hoopla, there are still basic things we can all agree on: Hindsight is 20/20 -- it's a whole lot easier to see the right choice when you know the outcome of your decision. We also can agree on established facts leading up to the injury.

  • Robert Griffin III entered the Seahawks game with a sprained LCL and a surgically repaired ACL in his right knee
  • He came up limping as early as the first quarter
  • His diminished mobility limited the offensive playcalling
  • RGIII continued playing until his right knee collapsed, tearing the LCL and ACL

For the record, I believe pulling Griffin at the first sign of lameness would have been the appropriate, and obvious, decision. The heat of the moment, the playoff stakes, the gladiator mentality and so forth; sure, there are plenty of reasons why the men with the power to make that call -- Mike Shanahan, Dr. James Andrews, and RGIII -- didn't make it. And that's why the league and NFLPA found no willful or provable wrongdoing to investigate. Still, now that we know the outcome, hindsight shows us that leaving Griffin on the field turned out to be the wrong short-term and long-term decision.

Yes, making in-game judgment calls about the health of your star player is tough. But what do we pay Shanahan and Andrews for if not to make hard decisions? That's part of the gig. RGIII does bear some responsibility for his own health, but Shanahan and Andrews should act as the voice of reason, the safety net, for any overeager player who considers himself invincible. A lot of guys would sooner play with one arm than take themselves out of a playoff game, especially if the alternative is the Jay Cutler treatment.

Fast forward to Mike Shanahan's press conference the day after the Seahawks game, when the adrenaline had leveled off and the consequences had come into painful focus. The coach stood before reporters and cameras and stated that he believed he made the right call.

How can that be? If presented with the same situation, should fans expect him to make the same mistake? I'm not comfortable with that idea; RGIII is running low on spare tendons.

Shanahan's statement was either borne of pride or foolishness, and neither inspire a lot of faith. Somehow, insistence that he made the correct decision provides little comfort to those watching Griffin try to recover from a second knee reconstruction in less than four years.

My confidence in Dr. James Andrews hasn't fared much better. Andrews stood on the sideline and watched the game; he saw the quarterback limping and skipping like the rest of us did, and he either couldn't or didn't intervene. The doctor also predicted RGIII would be ready by the start of the season, a timetable that seems artificially optimistic, if not hurried, to outside experts.

To compound the issue, a report by Pro Football Talk cites sources who say there's significant private concern about Griffin's recovery because of the possibility of cartilage loss from the two major knee injuries. How much cartilage does the knee have left and how long will it last before the joint is reduced to bone-on-bone friction? Long enough for a now-rookie to finish out a long, successful career in the NFL?

RGIII and Redskins fans need trustworthy leaders now more than ever. Whether we have them remains to be seen.