Mike Shanahan and RGIII's injury

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     This past season, there has not been one solitary Football Fan who didn't cheer for and marvel at the feats of Washington's Rookie Quarterback, Robert Griffin the third, (RGIII). He demonstrated under tremendous pressure not only his leadership from day one, but also his amazing ability to pass in a pinpoint fashion or take off on an elusive run for many yards and many a first down.

When I saw him go back into the game against Seattle and saw his knee buckle, I was ready to eviscerate Coach Mike Shannahan.  I asked myself how could he be so foolish as to jeopardize the future of the Redskins franchise player.

Over the years, I have seen quite a few injuries brought about by poor coaching judgment.  However, it took my friend and colleague the Emmy winning Sports Producer and writer, Jim Williams to set me on the right path.

Now, I admit I often get on my "holier-than-thou" high horse and I am ready to criticize often times unfairly. So, when Jim said I should check the facts before I write, He then proceeded to send me a great deal of factual material. As a result, the entire tenor of this article took a different route.

Back in the 70's, I was fortunate along with my friend Dr Ernie Vandeweghe to be part of President Nixon's Committee on Physical Fitness headed up by the late great coach George Allen. He explained on many an occasion, there was no controlling a player who had the fervent desire to win at all costs.

In the spirit of this, often the athlete would hide his injury without the knowledge of the coach. Such was the case this past weekend. RGIII, his being at quarterback and taking snaps, would give his team the best option to win.

Many watching the game felt that Shannahan in his desire for victory would use any means possible to win. That's true, but never at the expense of another.

 Ironically earlier in the season and in the same town, Mike Rizzo, GM of Baseball's Washington Nationals, had limited the amount of innings that their Franchise Player Steve Strasberg could throw. His simple statement was the need to protect the Pitcher's future. He was chastised and vilified mercilessly, but he stood his ground.

Another example of survival protection was when Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler took himself out of the game because he had a cracked rib cage. The abuse heaped down upon him.  However, although they did not make the playoffs, his team had 10 victories and just missed out.

RGIII's injury immediately brought to mind the Oakland Raiders center, Jim Otto. Jim continued to play despite 9 operations during his career. Directly attributed to his machoism, he had 19 more after his playing days were over and lost his right leg in 2007. Is "Victory at all costs" worth it?

Shannahan was careful with RGII. It was only after he got a signal from Dr. James Andrews on the sidelines that Robert was ok to go in. Now understand the circumstances!  Washington was losing and needed at least a field goal to go-ahead with less than 2 minutes to play. It seems RGIII after being taken out of the game.

Robert did not allow the Doctor to examine him, but to prove he was all right, ran sprints on the sideline and did a few jumping jacks. When he saw Kirk Cousins go in, he immediately ran to the Coach's side and after getting the high sign from the doctor, Mike made the decision to put him.

 As Jim Williams explained, if you ask a player if he's injured, he would be on the deactivation list if he said yes.  But if you asked players if they were hurt, there would be no football games on Sunday.  Every player plays hurt to some degree.

All this happened in an instant while Shannahan was concentrating on evaluating Cousins work. It made sense to put RGIII back in. It was a quick decision, backed by what he thought was right.

As fate would have it, RGIII tore his LCL and ACL. A successful operation was performed.

Here, I turned to my friend University of Miami Emeritus Professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Dr Michael Gurvey, to ask what this means.  He explained when he was in practice; recovery might take up to a year.  However, with so many new surgical improvements, therapeutic regimens and use of protective equipment, he could conceivably be back by the start of next season.

Unfortunately, in my mind, will always be the picture of Jim Otto.


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Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.