Image by: Keith Allison
By Thomas Stone
Robert Griffin III considers himself a tough guy. Like most players in the National Football League (NFL), toughness is worn like a badge of honor. It is an earner of respect, something that produces pats on the butt and smacks on the helmet.
Griffin’s toughness was on full display inside the beltway a few weeks ago. The Redskins were up by 14 points on the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs. Things were going just great for the ‘Skins until Griffin re-injured his knee.
Going into halftime of the game, it was obvious to most humans watching that something was off about Griffin. He couldn’t run as fast, make the same cuts, throw the same ball, or just play the way most were used to seeing him play.
RG3 was hurt, and some questioned Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to keep him in the game, but Griffin told him that he would be OK and was fine to play.
Griffin was fine, alright, right up to the point where he shredded his knee to pieces. The collateral damage of Griffin’s injury was a loss to the Seahawks, ending Washington’s season, and a huge uncertainty about his readiness for the beginning of the 2013 season.
What Was He Thinking?
Many have questioned, and still are, the rationale behind Griffin’s mindset. He said that he was good enough to play after re-injuring his knee early in the game. Griffin really wanted his teammates to believe that he was tough, and that he would be there for them no matter the injury.
That is just a small sampling, a peek behind the curtain if you will, of how most NFL players think.
Take Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. During a playoff game in 2011, Cutler injured his knee, was taken out, and never returned. While trying to determine if he was healthy enough to come back, he tried to plant and run on the knee on the sidelines.
Many fans took that sighting as a mark that Cutler was in good enough shape to return. They were wrong, but Cutler’s toughness is still being questioned over his inability to return to the game.
Bears trainers wouldn’t let him re-enter the game due to the severity of the injury, yet that didn’t matter to those who thought that Cutler could have continued.
Game First, Health Second
Sadly, it has taken thousands of injuries, and some deaths, for the NFL mindset on injuries to change. Sure, playing with a thigh bruise or a dislocated finger is still acceptable, but concussions and other serious impediments are no longer on the list of acceptable tough guy injuries.
The recent death of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau opened a lot of eyes to the way injuries are treated in the league. Seau shot himself in the chest last year after a bout with depression.
Recently, his family turned over his brain for study to the National Institute for Health to study for possible traumatic brain damage. Their research determined that Seau suffered from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head.
RG3’s injury isn’t as serious as Seau’s and other NFL players dealing with CTE, but it does display the barbaric nature of the sport.
With Griffin’s knee injury and Seau’s death, hopefully this will go a long way in changing how many football players think about the well being of their own health.