The Football Mentality:
We saw Stephen Strasburg taught an austere lesson this season when the Washington Nationals’ organization shut down the ace despite his dominance on the mound because he had reached the innings limit the team had prescribed prior to the beginning of the 2012 Major League Baseball season during September. Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, and Ricky Rubio have all been huddled underneath the protection of street clothes without any thought of placing a team’s star player onto the National Basketball Association’s court without knowing first that he has not just fully recovered; he has little to no risk of re-injuring himself. Call it the Greg Oden law or the Francisco Liriano Amendment. Whatever the name, the teams of the MLB and NBA are no longer willing to sacrifice the long term prospects of a future star in order to get that one big win…now, the National Football League….
Think of the three players who have dominated attention in the National Football League this season, and I promise to all that is holy I shudder at what may happen to the man-card of anyone who thought of Tim Tebow. The three biggest names of 2012? Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and Robert Griffin III. What common thread brings all three of these gentlemen together? Try risking life and limb (mostly limb) in order to partake in the weekly gladiator gauntlets which are commonly called football games. Manning was coming off a career threatening neck injury. Sure, Manning played it safe by sitting out the entire 2011-2012 season; however, there are few parts of the body which are as scary to think about playing injured with than a neck…especially when the sport you’re playing is football where a hit may trigger your body to contort in such a way you may under why the career path of contortionist never breached your mind. Manning’s neck could be one shot away from putting Peyton (one of the NFL’s greatest players, a living legend, and a great advertiser) in a wheelchair. Not a soul can be certain of the state of Manning’s neck; nonetheless, the doctor’s told Peyton he was healthy enough to play and so he shoulders his pads every Sunday and enters the Colosseum in order to try and bring home a win for the Col….Broncos. Peterson? He is even more of a risk than Manning.
AD was injured during week 16 last season. His injury? He tore the living shit out of every goddamn muscle which holds together one of the human body’s most intriguing and undervalued muscles: the knee. AP endured an injury which may not have been as career threatening as Manning’s, but placed AD at a much higher likelihood of inviting a brand new tear to his knee this season. Thankfully AP did not tear the living hell out of his knee this year, but managed to come within 9 yards of the record for rushing yards in a single season. There has never been as impressive a season in my mind, because AD worked harder than any individual has to garner his statistics…even if the sweat poured outside of the regular season and the fight came months before Minnesota ever kicked off on opening weekend. Look at Ryan Broyles or other NFL players who have a history of injuring the knee. AP had no business playing this season and if Minnesota wanted to be positive the NFL’s best runner would be around for the next couple campaigns; AD would have been dressing in hoodies and sweatpants for 2012-2013. Finally, let’s talk about Robert Griffin III.
Robert Griffin III is an easy (maybe not correct, but easy) choice for Rookie of the Year in the NFL this season. His statistics are unbelievable and he led a pretty bad team to the playoffs. He has caused NFL gurus to reconsider the style of Quarterback which is most valuable. His ability and the turmoil a defense endures due to his speed could have been an undervalued factor in the benching of Alex Smith in favor of the mobile Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. His playoff contest, however, didn’t quite roll along as planned. Washington strolled to a 14-0 lead and any sensible coach would have told Griffin to sit his ass on the bench as he limped off the field like Lily when she strikes her shin on a pipe during the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall dates the crazy coffee girl…too long of a reference? Anyway, Griffin later muffed a hand off with Alfred Morris and the ball was simply sitting a few yards ahead of Griffin….just sitting there. Griffin anchored his injured leg into the turf and attempted to push off to collect the valuable pigskin so Washington could resume its drive. Griffin’s knee bent further than David Beckham’s free kicks and everyone in the entire world cupped his hands behind his head, leaned back in his seat, and uttered a quiet whine of disbelief. The seemingly unstoppable Heisman winner writhed in pain before being led off the field. He would be diagnosed with a torn MCL and ACL. He has already undergone surgery and now there is the rehabilitation. Griffin looks doubtful for the start of 2013.
As I stated, it took demoralizing injuries to prominent players with amazing potential to change the way the MLB and NBA to change their paradigms of injured stars. The reward of playing their young stars with serious injury seemed so minuscule compared to the risk of those players aggravating their ailments. The NFL has a different mentality and this season more than any other allowed a fan to witness the NFL’s stance. Players continue to be consider more tools by the organizations they play for than people whose lives are being shaped by the career path chose. Clearly all athletes are aware injury is a risk; however, an athlete never wants to sit around and watch his or her team compete without being able to play a role. It falls into the hands of the organizations and even Big Brother (Roger Goodell and his chums) to keep a player out of harms way even if it means the team loses a game or a season. I hope losing Robert Griffin for early 2013 and possibly even the entire 2013-2014 season (I can only pray Washington plays it conservative with their star) was worth losing to Seattle in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Kirk Cousins on two healthy knees cannot be much worse than a hampered RGIII. We’ll soon find out as Cousins’s opportunity rests for the opening weeks of 2013. The NFL has some reevaluating to do.