Robert Griffin III is injured. We can all see that. But why does he play on when an injury threatens to destroy what has the makings of a one-for-the-ages NFL career?
His career surely was trending in that direction. For when we saw RGIII last season in a Washington Redskins uniform, we saw an athlete plucked from the future. He was someone so unreal that his play left us breathless, left us searching for words to describe him.
He seemed like Usain Bolt in football gear; he was a quarterback strong of arm and as elusive as Adrian Peterson. That’s the Robert Griffin III that comes to mind when we think about how he burst onto the NFL scene a season ago. He was what no quarterback before him had ever been: transformative, the total package.
Of course, Michael Vick and Warren Moon had a few of the same athletic gifts. Had either man been taller or less reckless with the football, he, too, might have done to the NFL what RGIII did in 2012.
But where is that RGIII today?
Since deep into the 2012 season, we’ve watched a handful of games now since RGIII last looked like the quarterback of the 2010s. What had been his signature — his elusiveness and steady play — has given way to the sort of performances we expect from one-dimensional quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn.
No one who watches RGIII and his Washington team can see in the 2013 version of the man that they saw in the first dozen games of his rookie season.
You don’t need a degree in medicine to notice that RGIII isn’t the same quarterback he used to be, and he hasn’t been the same since getting hurt near the end of last season.
No, actually, he wasn’t hurt; he was injured.
And there’s a difference.
Pro athletes play hurt all the time. Aches and pains aside, they are expected to pull on their shoulder pads and strap on their helmets and play on, because hurting is part of playing a sport as physical and as brutal as football is.
Yet must a man play injured, too?
Regardless to what the reason is, he isn’t playing well. He’s hobbling around on a suspect right knee, playing like one of the ordinary quarterbacks who fill roster spots on so many NFL teams.
In the jargon of sports, Robert Griffin III is a “gamer” or “competitor” as folks like to say. Those are admirable traits to have when looking at a career in the short term.
But in the long term, a better word comes to mind. The word is “fool.” For only a fool would invest so much in the short term and put at risk all that the long term holds for him.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)