The following is my question that was answered by the Sports Guy on the Grantland Blog, January 11, 2013.
Q: Is Robert Griffins injury the first example of a player/coach/team being criticized for letting an injured player continue to play following all of Goodells changes to player safety? If this injury happened 3-5 years ago Griffin would be lauded for playing through the pain. Philip Rivers played the 2008 AFC Championship game with a torn ACL and was praised for it. Though Griffin does use his legs a lot more than Rivers does, the situations are similar. Is the era of the play-through-pain tough guy gone?—John B., Bloomington,
INSG: The short answer: No way. I think people just love Griffin. They didnt want to see his career risked or endangered in any way. If you think of him like an action movie hero, it makes more sense. Hes reckless, hes exciting, he keeps finding danger, he keeps you on your toes … theres just something about the way Griffin plays that makes you feel like youre a nervous parent watching your ninth-grade son playing a high school game against bigger kids. I watched Redskins games for four solid months without any real interest other than, “Its especially fun to watch Robert Griffin. I hope he doesnt get hurt.” And every time he scrambled — even if you picked against the Redskins in your picks pool, even if you wagered against him, even if you were going against him in fantasy — as soon as he started getting a little too ambitious and thinking to himself, I know that big safety is coming at me, but maybe I can get by him, you were thinking to yourself, NO, RG3! GO DOWN! JUST GO DOWN! while secretly hoping he didnt go down and tried to deke the guy.In general, 2012 turned into the Season of Player Safety — we thought about it constantly, we felt guilty about it most recently, upon hearing the profoundly discouraging news of Junior Seaus CTE diagnosis, we fretted that we werent doing enough, we spread blame around, we wondered why nobody who ran the league truly started caring about this stuff until the last couple of years. But I dont think that affected how people reacted to Griffin on Sunday. Phil Rivers earned our respect in 2008 — I think that still happens five years later. Ben Roethlisberger practically played with a broken rib jutting through his torso — we didnt expect anything less because hes Big Ben, tough dude, plays through anything. Peyton Manning decided to keep playing football after four neck surgeries, which sure seems dangerous — and yet, I cant remember anyone vehemently protesting. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler left a 2010 playoff game with a knee injury even though he could have limped around and kept playing. Remember what happened? He got raked over the coals by just about everyone. So it depends on the guy.In Griffins case, he wanted to keep playing. His team didnt trail for the first 50 minutes of the game, and his coach believed just having a hobbled Griffin out there gave the Redskins the best chance to keep that lead. Oh, and the Redskins were paying the best knee expert on the planet to stand on their sideline and help them with this ongoing decision. Note: Andrews claims they didnt ultimately listen to him. Who knows? I watched every play of that game with Mays and Jacoby from Grantland; we didnt even have the “Should they pull Griffin for Cousins?” conversation until Seattle went up by seven. They said no. I said yes, but only because I thought Cousins had proven himself in a similar situation. But I was waaaaaaaaaay more nervous than usual, and really, its because I love watching Griffin play football. Its the same reason there was a disproportionate amount of venom toward Mike Shanahan for keeping him out there and the Redskins for being the umpeteenth NFL team that was too cheap to have a respectable field for a playoff game. They jeopardized someone we liked watching.