Robert Griffin III Concussion: NFL Is Right to Shake Down Redskins for Report

Joe Versage@@dcjoevCorrespondent IIOctober 11, 2012

Photo courtesy: US Presswire
Photo courtesy: US Presswire

The Washington Redskins are under NFL surveillance this week after claiming that Robert Griffin III was "shaken up" in Sunday's 24-17 loss to Atlanta. 

Griffin was clearly knocked woozy by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but he was later diagnosed with a concussion. Now, an investigation is under way to determine if the Redskins sugar-coated the rookie's initial diagnosis, which did not change until after the game.


NFL Investigation

According to's Gregg Rosenthal, the Redskins' characterization and the lack of a timely update are the primary reasons the team is in "hot water".

Rosenthal also writes that "NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has confirmed that the league is looking into [two things]." Did the Redskins follow league rules that require teams be accurate? And did the team report the injury in a timely fashion?

If they failed on both counts, they should accept their punishment and move on. But why would the Redskins downplay the injury in the first place?

Was the medical staff trying to buy Griffin time? Were coaches weighing the consequences of putting him back on the field? And even after the game was over, why did the Redskins state that Griffin's symptoms were the result of a "mild" concussion, when further tests were necessary?  

In the world of sports, "shaken up" is a term that's synonymous with delirium or temporary confusion. Players who are shaken up usually shake it off and return to action. But that wasn't possible for Griffin, who failed a series of questions and was pulled from the game.

RGIII was not shaken up—he was incapacitated, like a fighter who gets knocked out in a boxing match.   

Nevertheless, the Redskins and the NFL Players Association are defending the use of the words.

“I’m not sure if it’s an appropriate phrase," said head coach Mike Shanahan, via Mark Maske of The Washington Post. "I think I use it all the time. ‘This guy looks like he’s shaken up.’ And that doesn’t mean he’s got a concussion. That’s why they go through these procedures, because they don’t let someone like me make those decisions."

But that explanation may hold no weight with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who recently put injury protection (and concussions in particular) at the top of his agenda.  

Shanahan also didn't help himself or the team when he acknowledged that Griffin's concussion announcement should have come sooner rather than later. 

According to Maske, the coach stated the following:

Robert said to me he’s fine. I said, ‘No, you’re not fine. Your eyes look a little glassy.’ The second time [doctors asked Griffin if he knew the quarter and the score], he missed it….I knew, when he didn’t know the quarter, that the chances of him coming back were zero. Now, could that have been [announced] sooner? Possibly.

So if doctors knew Griffin couldn't continue and Shanahan knew his chances were zero, who was responsible for saying the rookie quarterback was "shaken up"?

The NFL wants to know, but the organization isn't talking.

“I spoke to [Redskins team physician] Tony Casolaro,” said Players Union medical director Thom Mayer, via The Washington Post. “I’m not sure who used the term ‘shaken up.’ But he assured me it wasn’t him. It certainly wasn’t Tony. That’s not a medical term.” 

Mayer was also sure that the Redskins followed protocol, but he seemed to implicate the team's staff, with what he refers to as the "80-80 rule".

Whatever happens, it’s in front of 80,000 people in the stadium and 80 million people who are watching on TV. It is important how this is portrayed, that it’s portrayed accurately. It has to be, because of the enormity of the NFL and the importance of the issue of head injuries, not only in this sport but also in other sports and outside of sports.


Other Teams Under Scrutiny

When it comes to injuries of all kinds, the NFL demands answers, and it will punish those who to attempt to elude questioning.  

Currently, the Buffalo Bills are under investigation for not reporting an alleged wrist injury to $100 million defensive end Mario Williams.

The league first caught wind of Williams' "nagging" problem when he casually mentioned it to reporters, following New England's 52-28 rout of the Bills in Buffalo two weeks ago.

But according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Bills never listed the ailment on their weekly injury report, despite a league rule that requires teams to disclose injuries that are "significant or noteworthy."

Williams recently confessed that he injured the wrist in the preseason, but that does not help the Bills' case.

As pointed out by Mike Florio of NBC's Pro Football Talk:

"The Bills shouldn’t need to see the language of the injury policy, in order to realize that Williams should have been disclosed on the injury report. Teams routinely disclose injuries to players, even when they fully participate in practice. The slightest ding should land a player on the list."

In the meantime, Super Mario is making matters worse for Buffalo's defense team.

In an interview with Buffalo News beat reporter Tim Graham, Williams stated: "I didn't even know if I was on the injury report or not. I don't check injury reports. That's not what I do. Obviously, I'm wearing a cast. Anybody watching film will realize something's wrong with my wrist. I haven't hid anything."

Williams is not taking the high road. He is telling the truth and the Bills' organization will pay for it, when all is said and done. 


Insignificant Injury Reports

The Redskins should have come clean with Robert Griffin III's concussion. But this writer begs to differ with [NBC's Mike] Florio, when it comes to reporting injuries that have no business being reported.

When teams over-dramatize minor ailments, it's a blatant attempt to gain an unfair advantage over opponents, who are forced to account for or not account for "injured" players in their game plans.

New England head coach Bill Belichick has been guilty of this for years and continues to get away with it.

As noted by Andrew E. Irons in his blog The Penalty Flag

Tom Brady's right shoulder has bothered him on most Sundays, dating back to when he took over the [Patriots'] starting duties from Drew Bledsoe in 2001. One would not have guessed it by looking at his stats and games played, as he’s never missed a start [due to his 'shoulder problem'].

Irons writes that "coaches should prepare for opponents to have their best team on the field, regardless of who is on the injury report." 

But what stops the Patriots from telling a white lie about Tom Brady's status? If he's fine and dandy, but listed as questionable on the team's injury report, the Bills have no choice but to make contingency plans to face backup quarterback Ryan Mallet.

Therefore, Buffalo's staff has to concern itself with game-planning for Brady and Mallet, who is a second-year pro with limited experience. That's two vastly different game plans for the Bills to chew on, while Belichick and a perfectly able Brady concentrate on just one.


College Football Considers Crack Down on Guarded Information

The Redskins may be found guilty of twisting the truth about RGIII, but the practice is common at the college level, where injury reports are not required.

On September 20, New York Times writer Greg Bishop wrote a column about college football's long-time reluctance in providing comprehensive injury information.

Bishop points out that NFL coaches are more paranoid than college coaches, when it comes to releasing information that can give opponents a "competitive advantage." But, there is a clear difference between the two.

Professional coaches must adhere to NFL rules, which require injury updates. Meanwhile, college coaches can hide behind federal guidelines that protect the release of a student-athlete's medical information.

Nevertheless, the information is attainable and coaching staffs due their due diligence to capture it. Scott Woodward, the athletic director at Washington, told reporters in Seattle (via the New York Times):

In the ’70s you could hide injuries, or in the ’80s you could hide injuries, and no one would ever know...You can’t hide anything now.

And if college coaches try to, they may soon suffer the consequences.

According to Bishop, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has scheduled an athletic director's meeting for October 8 and 9 in Berkeley, California, "to discuss [the possibility of] introducing an NFL-style injury report."

If the proposal passes, it will surely spark a nationwide debate between college coaches and commissioners. But if other conferences agree to their own referendums, a new day will dawn for information that's been in the dark for too long. 


Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo BillsWashington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage 


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