American Football: Robert Griffin III falls foul of the macho culture infecting the NFL

Injury to promising Redskins quarterback even raises questions in the White House

Washington

For true connoisseurs of the legalised warfare known as the National Football League, this is the weekend to savour: the four divisional championship games and the start of the season's serious business – of determining the best team, and which great quarterback will make the play-offs his own.

The winner-take-all matchups bristle with intrigue: can 36-year-old Peyton Manning continue his comeback by leading the Broncos to victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Denver? Will the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers prevail over San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick, who has wrested amid much controversy the 49ers starting position from Alex Smith? And can Tom Brady orchestrate another New England Patriots win over their habitual cannon fodder, the Houston Texans? The most likely respective answers: yes, no and yes.

Brady, Rodgers and Manning are the three genuine elite quarterbacks in action today and tomorrow. But if Matt Ryan guides the Atlanta Falcons to victory over the Seattle Seahawks, and then goes all the way to a Super Bowl ring, he will stake a claim to join them. But don't write off the Seahawks' Russell Wilson.

But all the talk right now is about a quarterback who will not be in action. Last weekend the Washington Redskins lost to Seattle in the wildcard round, and Robert Griffin III, the rookie with the electric pace who has galvanised a venerable but struggling franchise, was forced out of the game with his right knee shot to pieces. It was a match, almost certainly, that he should never have been allowed to start.

Griffin's collapse and the double ligament surgery which followed it have – along with the latest twists in the Lance Armstrong morality play and the failure of Barry Bonds and other steroid suspects to win election to baseball's revered Hall of Fame – dominated the sports pages here this past week.

Forget Hillary Clinton's bloodclot and the fiscal cliff. In Washington, RGIII and the Redskins have been the real story. After Griffin's season ended in agony, questions were even asked at the White House daily briefing. In the event, President Obama's views were not disclosed. But they would have been interesting.

For the Griffin affair raises issues that go to the heart of America's most popular, but most dangerous and violent sport, and the macho culture that pervades it. In the NFL you play through pain. Only in the NFL, is the distinction drawn – as Mike Shanahan, the Redskins coach did afterwards – between a player being "hurt" and being "injured".

In October, Griffin suffered a concussion. It was diagnosed as mild, but the accumulating evidence that repeated concussions cause brain damage, and subsequent mental illness, even crime, was already cause enough for caution.

But a fortnight later he was back. Then he damaged his right knee. Even early in the Seattle game, when Washington jumped to a temporary 14-0 lead, he was visibly below par. By the end of the first quarter he was plainly hurt. But, faithful to his sport's warrior ethos, he told Shanahan he was OK. Bowing to that ethos Shanahan (perhaps against his better judgement) had no choice but to concur. So Griffin stayed in, and the knee crumpled.

On Wednesday he had surgery on both his anterior cruciate ligament his lateral collateral ligament. Apparently it went well. He should be fit for the start of the 2013 NFL season in September. But will he be the same player? Or will Griffin's speed and control, for which Washington surrendered years of top draft picks, be gone for good?

If the latter, then Redskins will have ruined their future for short term gain, and NFL will have lost one of its most thrilling new stars in decades. But such is football. One thing this weekend is sure. If any quarterback leaves the game, he will be carried on his shield.

NFL play-offs

Saturday

Denver v Baltimore 9.30pm GMT

San Fran 49ers v Green Bay 1am

Sunday

Atlanta v Seattle 6pm

New England v Houston 9.30pm

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map