LANDOVER, Md. — Throughout the NFL season, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III showed he can do just about anything on the football field.
Sunday, he showed what he couldn’t do.
He was incapable of pulling himself from a wild-card playoff game against Seattle — Redskins coaches couldn’t, either — and the results were stomach-turning. Washington lost, 24-14, and Griffin suffered an injury to his already weakened right knee, which with 6 minutes 19 seconds remaining bent in an unnatural way as he chased an errant shotgun snap.
After several minutes on his back, Griffin was able to hobble off the field unassisted. He made a beeline for the locker room, the packed house at FedEx Field somberly chanting his name.
What comes next for Griffin and coach Mike Shanahan, however, is far murkier. Griffin, who first strained the lateral collateral ligament in the knee on Dec. 9, will have tests today but conceded after the game that he did not know how seriously he was injured and probably “did put myself at more risk by being out there.”
“But every time you step out on the football field, you’re putting your life, your career, every single ligament in your body in jeopardy ,” Griffin said. “My teammates needed me out there, so I was out there for them.”
On the play in question, the Seahawks recovered the ball at Washington’s 5-yard line. They wound up kicking a 22-yard field goal for their 24th unanswered point after falling behind, 14-0, in the opening quarter.
Of the four teams that won games on wild-card weekend, Seattle was the only visiting team to walk away with a triumph.
Griffin was wearing a brace on the knee because of a ligament sprain he had suffered in December, one that sidelined him for 11/2 games. Further, he had tweaked the knee on a pass in the first quarter, and he wasn’t his typical speedy, graceful self after that.
While the Seahawks are moving on to play at Atlanta in a divisional playoff game, the Redskins are heading into the unknown, with their star player limping and questions about the judgment of their coach — why did Shanahan keep him in the game? — that won’t soon go away.
In a league that preaches that the health and safety of players is paramount, the injury to Griffin was a nationally televised example of how words and deeds are not always in lock step. Shanahan sounded conflicted as he spoke to reporters after the game, not knowing the severity of his quarterback’s injury.
“I talked to Robert throughout the whole game, trying to get a gut (feeling) (He was) very strong, very adamant. Doesn’t mean you’re right in not taking him out, I’m just saying that his personality has that type of mindset. You appreciate that toughness.”
In an eye-opening revelation that surfaced before the game, Dr. James Andrews, a renowned surgeon, told USA Today that he had never cleared Griffin to return to the Dec. 9 game against Baltimore, when the quarterback was first injured. In the immediate aftermath of that injury, Shanahan told reporters that Andrews, who was on the sideline, had given his blessing to Griffin’s re-entering.