Robert Griffin III was a dynamic offensive threat from the moment he first stepped foot on an NFL field. When he fell to the turf during a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, suffering from a serious knee injury, it was a sobering moment for the young quarterback.
The Washington Redskins lost that game, but the bigger story was the latest setback with Griffin. He had previously injured the knee in an early December game against the Baltimore Ravens, returning two weeks later to face the Philadelphia Eagles.
It wasn't until the second, more severe injury against the Seahawks that he came to realize the difference between being tough and protecting your body. He talked about the situation in an ESPN the Magazine article that focuses on him and President Barack Obama (via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post):
"Your survivor instinct kicks in," Griffin says. "You’re like, 'I’m a warrior. I’m a beast. I do all these things, I can push through adversity.' "
He acknowledges that he needs to work on moderating that instinct. "If I had another incident like the [Haloti] Ngata hit, I’m out of the game. You pull yourself out at that point. You learn from your mistakes."
What about the Seahawks game? "I don’t feel like playing against the Seahawks was a mistake. But I see the mistake IN IT."
"With what happened and how everything was running—you take me out. If that happened again next year, I’d come out of the game and sit until I was 100 percent healthy."
It feels, and sounds, like a big admission.
The statements make it sound like Griffin fell into the same trap many athletes do. They want to help their team win, and their extraordinary athletic ability causes them to believe they can fight through injuries in order to do it.
Clearly, Griffin found out that's not the case, and it sounds like if a similar situation were to arise at some point in the future, he wouldn't be in such a rush to return. He's already working his way back from LCL and ACL repairs as it stands now.
Griffin is a quarterback with nearly unmatched athleticism for the position. For him to make the maximum impact, he must use his speed and elusiveness to keep defenses honest—but that also opens him up to more hits.
The key is striking the right balance between putting his body at risk and making plays. More importantly, he has to know when to step out of the game if something doesn't feel right to make sure it doesn't get any worse.
Based on his ESPN the Magazine comments, it's something he's starting to understand after everything he's gone through since last December.
It was a learning experience, and he's seemingly taking the right lessons away from it.