The 7-6 million dollar question for the Washington Redskins and Mike Shanahan is this. Should Robert Griffin III play or not play on Sunday in Cleveland?
Nobody truly knows the answer to that, but it doesn't stop anybody from having an opinion. My gut feel after Wednesday's practice here at Redskins Park is that he will play. My instinct tells me that is the wrong decision.
We're all in search of the real story and the real medical answers of health, stability and potential risk of future injury. Because the Redskins will not make Head Athletic Trainer Larry Hess available to talk to the media and/or renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews - those needing answers and further education on the prized Quarterback's knee, are forced to go outside the tight-lipped walls of Redskins Park.
As I was watching SportsCenter on Tuesday morning, ESPN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Michael Kaplan http://www.michaeljkaplanmd.com/about.html was asked for his expert opinion on Robert Griffin III and his chances for playing on Sunday - "I think it's naive to think he's going to get better in a few days....My bet..a few weeks. If you let him go back too soon, he's at risk for re-injury. He's at risk for hurting other structures in the joint."
Dr. Kaplan had several other relevant and thoughtful observations about the nature of the Grade 1 lateral collateral ligament sprain that Griffin III suffered in the overtime win over the Ravens, in addition to what I quoted above.
I thought it would be a good idea after Wednesday's practice, in which Griffin III was listed as limited and did much more than was originally expected to reach out to Dr. Kaplan to get a fresh opinion with more information and time.
Dr. Kaplan was very upfront and qualified his statements with this obvious fact, "I don't have the luxury of examining him (Griffin III). Certainly I would defer to (Dr. James) Jim Andrews. He's superb! I trained with Jim Andrews."
That being said - Dr. Kaplan's medical opinion is certainly reputable and the next best thing, because as he says he does "750 knees a year."
Dr. Kaplan stressed that the injury is still an alarming issue, because of the nature of the collision with Haloti Ngata's body and how Robert Griffin III's knee whipped into the contact. "It's not an inconsequential insult. It's a severe hyperextension. He likely has an injury to the posterior capsule, maybe even a bone bruise."
Kaplan heard that Griffin was still walking and throwing (in the portions open to the media) somewhat gingerly, and stressed some of the potential other concerns. "I think it's highly improbable that he's not going to have soreness, when he plants his right leg to pass. You can dress him up (brace) and put him out there. Will he be compromised? I can't imagine he's going to be 100%."
"You don't heal that quickly, even from a Grade 1 sprain (that likely involved some damage to the posterior capsule and some tearing). Will he be limited if he plays? Yes. Is there some modicum of risk? Yes."
Dr. Kaplan also said the advantage the Redskins and Dr. Andrews have now, is something they didn't have last Sunday. "That's why he put him back in. He (Dr. Andrews) didn't have the MRI." That medical knowledge alone might lead to making the decision for the Redskins.
Another factor? Griffin III's right knee is the same one as the torn ligament in 2009. "I would say he doesn't have a normal knee to start...It's never a normal knee. Even Adrian Peterson despite being off the charts doesn't have a normal knee. It's not a normal knee. It's less normal now. You get swelling and inflammation, and you can try to block it with medicine and stuff, but it's not an inconsequential injury."
I asked Dr. Kaplan if Griffin III was at further risk because of the previous injury, and he gave me a different answer than I was expecting. "Maybe some, but you can't quantify that. I don't think it's all that relevant now."
Then there is the big picture element, beyond the medical part. The Redskins are (7-6), the Browns are (5-8) but climbing, winners of three in a row. Can they win a game with Kirk Cousins on the road in December? I believe they can. I think for anybody to think that they can't, doesn't understand professional football. The Redskins are not all-about Robert Griffin III. They MIGHT have to look big picture and long term, or even short term, as in at Philadelphia next week or the regular season finale against Dallas.
"My gut is if they can win without him, they're gonna protect him. I would say his knee is not going to be 100% (for some time), said Dr. Kaplan. When I said a number of weeks, I stand by that. It's not going to be resolved."