So Robert Griffin III went to the circus at Verizon Center last Sunday. That's great, and by all accounts, he had a great time as he should have.
While you can read about his day here http://wapo.st/Zm0nRx, the fact of the matter is the show may have left Verizon Center for the Wizards, Caps and NCAA Tournament, but the action was just shifting locations.
Redskins Park in Ashburn. It's like the great Eagles song "Hotel California" and the famous line "You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave." It truly never ends. I'm being as kind as I can here.
In case you've been sleeping under a rock and quite honestly maybe I was, it was just after 7 pm on Tuesday when word of a Griffin III text to Trey Wingo of ESPN first was circulated.
"My knee is getting better every day. The doctors say I'm ahead of schedule. My goal is to return healthy in week one but if I'm not ready then i will wait until i am, however long that is. My first NFL season and my injury that ended it showed me a lot about the league, my team and myself. i know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well. I m looking forward to playing the game we all love so much again and not behind at the negative. thanks for the overwhelming level of support that i've received, sic em bears and hail to the redskins!!" (The tweet was directly copied from Wingo's twitter account, http://bit.ly/YSmX4i @Wingoz)
I didn't think there was anything in the message that was particularly concerning, and I was busy covering the first period of the Capitals - Islanders game at Verizon Center, so it was far from a burning issue or anything more than basically the same old message we've heard before.
On Wednesday, it somehow became a big issue as the statement was debated in various forms of media, including on ESPN 980. According to ProFootballTalk.com, http://bit.ly/11Olgbz, the issue made it (shockingly) to "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN.
The story quotes Tony Kornheiser as saying "This is a thinly veiled direct shot at his coach, Mike Shanahan,” while Wilbon per the quotes in the story as saying "It is direct, it’s bold, it’s a heavy shot and it’s deserved."
Here is what I don't get. If you want to read the statement and walk away from it as Griffin III is taking a shot at Mike Shanahan, I suppose you can have that thought. In no way could you say that it is "direct" or "bold" or a "heavy shot." Or could you even reasonably think it is a "thinly veiled direct shot at his coach."
I don't get what part of it signals out Mike Shanahan (who I sharply criticized after the Seattle game, and for weeks after the re-injury). You could walk away thinking that Griffin III is not taking all of the responsibility for playing through it and sacrificing his body for the team. That is a fair and reasonable thought.
For Griffin III to say "all parties involved know their responsibilities as well," screams out to me that he is referring to a collective group (not just Mike Shanahan) that includes Dr. James Andrews, other team doctors, Larry Hess and other members of the training staff, Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur, Dan Snyder and the FedEx Field stadium operations crew. It means everyone. Not one person, even though THAT person is ultimately in charge of everything.
Furthermore, when Griffin III said that "all parties involved know their responsibilities as well" that doesn't mean that he was saying one specific person made a mistake or that he was mis-treated. As I said on twitter, what I believe he meant is that everybody involved shared a little bit of responsibility and that the lines of communication and trust will be more open and honest the next time a situation like this arises.
It makes no sense that Shanahan intentionally wanted his big ticket back to glory to get hurt. This is the same head coach that would not let Griffin III play a must-win game in Cleveland just a few weeks before, despite the player really wanting to play. Griffin III, as he admitted after the game, was not happy with the decision that was forced upon him. He wanted to play desperately.
Just like Griffin wanted to play after missing only one snap in the Baltimore game. Griffin wanted to play, because he's a competitor and a football warrior. Sometimes, he might be his own worst enemy. With time to think, Shanahan prevented Griffin from playing in Cleveland. With no time to think in a chaotic environment, he allowed his star quarterback to go back in against the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
Shanahan allowed him to play the next week against Philadelphia, and in the division clincher against Dallas. Shanahan also allowed him to play thru discomfort, clearly limited mobility and perhaps altered mechanics against Seattle, in a do or die situation. The Redskins died, and Griffin was on the operating table 72 hours later.
Shanahan did not allow (nor did the Redskins medical staff) Griffin to re-enter the Atlanta game, in which Griffin suffered a concussion. They made the decision they thought was best, in the overall interests of the player at the time. Of course, concussion protocol is a completely different world in today's NFL than it used to be and is entirely different than dealing with a right knee injury.
The point of this is - if anything - Griffin should have probably said something to the effect of "I need to a better job of communicating and not being as stubborn about my body on the football field" and I believe that would have been something that most people would have no problem with.
Griffin III re-tweeted the statement he provided Wingo, so he certainly did not have any regrets and then at 1:16 PM on Wednesday, a senior Redskins official texted Zac Boyer of the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star and ESPN 980/my cell phone, with essentially the exact same statement that Wingo posted.
The only difference was it started with "Got a brief update for everyone." The statement was then the exact same as what Griffin III had sent to Wingo on Tuesday night, with the other difference being at the end, Griffin's charming side coming out as he ended it with "P.S. How is your bracket doing? Ha ha."
If Shanahan had a major issue with what he said, I can guarantee that Griffin III would have been told to issue some sort of clarifying statement. Instead, they re-issued the same statement some 20 hours later.
The Redskins have never been accused of being the smartest football organization in the world when it comes to public statements, but somebody in that building reads and hears just about everything that is reported in the local and national media. I would be shocked if the Redskins brass had no knowledge of Griffin's statement to Wingo.
What does this all mean? It means that a drama that was already going to be intense under the scorching late summer skies in Richmond and Ashburn, is going to be more about the characters and less about the finished product.