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RG III isn't to blame


RGIIIIf it is possible, then I’d like to clear up a misunderstanding.

It has to do with athletes and specifically Robert Griffin III.

It all goes back to a game last season during which RGIII suffered a debilitating knee injury.

This injury is still a topic of discussion in the metro area and as a former football player and a current coach I can tell you the second-guessing and speculation isn’t uncommon – but also is pointless.

There are many things you can say about today’s professional athletes and depending upon which athlete is in question, all of the statements and allegations could be true.

But saying that RGIII was “selfish” because he wouldn’t come out of the game last year when he was obviously injured is a statement that shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what it means to be a football player.

From the time a child first straps on a helmet, laces up his shoulder pads and heads out to a field, he is taught by coaches to suffer through minor injuries, refuse to come off the field, play with ferocity and determination and to give up their individual desires to be a part of a team.

That last part is crucial. Coaches ask players to do things they normally wouldn’t or couldn’t in order to succeed.

For many playing football is the closest you will ever come to going to war.

Those who excel at the concept of team play we call warriors, team players, men among men and a host of other superlatives that indicate why we hold an individual in high esteem.

I once played a game with three broken fingers. I know others who have played with concussions, skull fractures, and a host of other ailments and injuries which include, but are not limited to broken and bruised ribs, broken arms and cuts that would make some feint.

Once a football player gets in the mindset they will play through any injury, then they will do so no matter the injury or the pain.

Ronny Lott removed one of his fingers in order to finish a game in the NFL. The stories of professional players playing with broken limbs, even broken legs, are the stuff of myth and legend – and more importantly: fact.

So when a starter goes down with an injury and pulls himself up off the field to continue playing, he is rarely being selfish. To be selfish indicates the player in question puts his own self interests ahead of the team.

The injured athlete is doing just the opposite. I’ve spoken with athletes who ultimately had trouble later in life with some of the debilitating injuries they suffered on the playing field and all of them regret the decisions they made which led to their chronic health problems but not one of them ever made those decisions for selfish reasons.

It is the selfless man who continues to play and he does so out of the belief he must be dragged from the field of battle dead before he will retreat an inch.

That idea is fundamental to who we are, or at least who we have been as Americans.

The fault therefore lies not with the athlete but those who manage the athlete.

In the case of the Washington Redskins it begins at the top with the former office machine salesman who owns the storied franchise.

However, we really don’t need to go to the top in the case of RG III to find someone culpable. We can go to the proximate man.

We can go to the head coach.

Mike Shanahan is the man. Whatever he says, it was his decision to leave his quarterback on the field following the injury. I don’t care if RG III is a warrior. I don’t care if he’s selfless. I don’t care if he’d die for his team. The coach’s job is to pull the warrior so he can live to fight another day.

Now the ‘Skins are in one heck of a pickle. Eight months after surgery it is obvious RG III isn’t his former self. After losing to the Packers RG III declared he is responsible for the poor offensive production. Noble – and yet misguided. RG III needs to understand that it isn’t entirely his responsibility – winning or losing.  His immaturity and his need to be coached have never been more obvious. It is also obvious he hasn’t fully recovered. It is also obvious the coaches are making poor decisions – yet again.

But don’t call RG III selfish. He’s a warrior – but a warrior in need of a strong general.


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