You’re right, Cam Worrell, Robert Griffin III is tough. He’s a warrior, a soldier . . . that is if you buy into the ridiculous corollary between war and football as so many jocks do. Based on what we know about you, it’s safe to say that you do.
RGIII was clearly hobbled, but took to the field anyway, placing his own future in jeopardy in the better interest of the team. But was it really? Considering the role Griffin plays in the Redskins’ plans for the next decade, is playing on a severely limited knee seriously in the team’s best interest?
In Chicago, we know this dialogue quite well. A little less than two years ago, our own franchise quarterback, Jay Cutler, injured his knee and was forced to sit out the second half. We know how that narrative went.
Cutler was branded as soft, an image that we’ve learned during the past two seasons couldn’t be further to the contrary. But he had to deal with it anyway, and that, combined with all the other perceived character flaws we’ve come to accept as truths about Jay Cutler, have progressively warped the national discussion discerning the Bears’ starting quarterback.
A little more than 23 months later, that narrative seems to be flipping back into Jay’s favor. I’ve never been one to buy into the notion that sports offers much perspective on life, but sports can certainly offer perspective on sports, and as RGIII’s knee folded like a bedsheet—in the wrong direction, mind you—Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears probably found themselves feeling something between contrition and vindication.
Cutler has played through some rather severe injuries since he was so falsely labeled after the 2010 NFC Championship game, and the question of his toughness had largely been put to bed long before kickoff on Sunday afternoon as the Seattle Seahawks took on the Washington Redskins. However, as RGIII performed admirably in the first half on a clearly beleaguered right knee, former Chicago Bears’ safety Cameron Worrell—who never played with Cutler in Chicago or elsewhere—took to his Twitter account.
Dear Jay Cutler, this is how you play in the playoffs through a knee injury. Signed, RG3.
— Cameron Worrell (@KillaCamWorrell) January 6, 2013
It certainly wasn’t the first time a former or current player has questioned Cutler’s fortitude, but the majority of the public backlash occurred in the immediate aftermath of the injury. For other fanbases, Worrell’s comments may have leaned more toward complimentary of Robert Griffin III, with Cutler’s barb essentially serving as collateral damage.
However, for Chicago fans, Worrell was essentially trying to claw his way back into a wound that had long since scarred over and healed up. The comments were somewhere between simply irrational and blatant trolling.
Now, I don’t feel the need to address this in an effort to defend Jay Cutler. Cutler is perfectly capable of tossing an “F YOU” Worrell’s way if he sees fit.
What I do feel the need to address is this ridiculous mentality that football players should be playing through severe injury—the sentiment that has led us to entirely reexamine the safety of the game. Because of the culture football has created and the structure of contracts in the NFL, players find it necessary to play through anything they can physically bear, and when they can’t bear it, use painkillers to do so.
Sometimes they do it for a check. Other times they do it to prove their masculinity.
In Worrell’s case, shortly after he made his obnoxious tweet about RGIII and Cutler, Griffin went down with what now appears to be a serious knee injury. (I’m not a doctor, but Dr. James Andrews, the foremost orthopedic surgeon in this country, and probably the world, certainly wasn’t happy that RGIII was even in the game at all, and that was before the injury we all saw in high-def super slo-mo.)
Instead of backing away from his comments, Worrell went into a diatribe about all the injuries he played through when he was in the League in comparison to Cutler’s rather innocuous Grade II knee sprain, almost perfectly reinforcing the comments I just made about the culture in the NFL. His logic, of course, is flawed for a number of reasons.
For starters, Worrell was a fringe player throughout the course of his career. He had to be on the field to earn a paycheck and keep his job. Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler are franchise quarterbacks who Washington and Chicago have made enormous investments in. As unfair as that may seem, it’d be naïve to think Worrell’s value equaled the likes of Cutler’s or RGIII’s.
Then we have hindsight. Griffin’s injury came shortly after Worrell’s first tweet, and it now significantly jeopardizes the Redskins’ future. That risk could have easily been averted had RGIII been treated more cautiously after he first came up lame in the first quarter, similarly to the way Cutler was sidelined against the Packers.
Most importantly, is the fact that Worrell’s archaic way of thinking—and to be fair, it isn’t just Worrell—needs to be laid to rest entirely.
I get it. In Chicago, we grow up idolizing guys like Dick Butkus, who would break his arm, stay in the game, and then return the favor by gnawing on some guy’s leg at the bottom of a pile.
However, the game is changing. Enrollment numbers in peewee leagues are plummeting compliments of the economy and genuine fear about the long-term repercussions of the game physically. Safety has become a priority at every level, and the mentality simply has to change.
Football players aren’t warriors, nor are they soldiers. They’re athletes and they play a game: one that’s not worth a wheelchair at 40 and early onset dementia at 50.
Filed under: Interest