San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks uttered the most honest thing said about Robert Griffin III this season.
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So, of course, he was mostly ignored.
Instead the Washington Redskins quarterback has been picked apart almost weekly for, in no particular order, not being helped up by his offensive linemen (apparently a sign his teammates hate him), for taking a shot at Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (did he lie?), for being insecure, for being unable to shoulder blame, for his dad stopping by the locker room to check on him after taking a couple of particularly nasty blows in a game, for being selfish, for failing to kiss the rings (or lack thereof) of those who came before, for coming back too soon and, lastly, most importantly, for regressing this season.
Listening to All Things Robert spun and analyzed until what was once Superman’s cape had been dissected down to Icarus’ wings last week and then watching him and his Redskins lose to The NYG on Sunday, I kept coming back to what Brooks said: “I don’t think he should be playing. You can see it. Everybody can see it, everybody can see it.”
This is truth. And if Derrick Rose is wise, he will pay close attention to the cautionary tale that is RG3.
As will every single big-name athlete who tears, breaks or shreds his moneymaker.
There is glory in playing hurt, for sure. Gutting it out, coming back early has created many heroes in sports lore.
It is also risky. We no longer reward the gutting alone. Playing hurt/coming back quickly/taking one for the team is only noble if you play well. And there is no grading on a curve, at least not after a while.
If you are back, you are expected to be you.
Just as fast, just as elusive and just as brash.
Of course, what RG3 is learning is all the things they loved about you when you were winning — your chutzpah, your ego, your willingness to take chances, your guts — become liabilities when you are losing. Even when you are losing on a knee that was reconstructed less than a year ago, a knee that you further jacked up playing on your team’s garbage field in the playoffs that you led them to, a knee that Brooks rightly noted probably needed more time.
RG3 was a guy who aborted Operation Patience insanely early to return from major knee reconstruction because he believes in things like his team needing him and having to prove himself and because Kirk Cousins is behind him and, okay, his own invincibility. I am not saying the kid is entirely blameless. He has talked himself into jams at times, and his play certainly has not been what it was a year ago.
But he was hurt and probably still is not 100 percent.
He is certainly not what he would have been if he had a full offseason of work, if he were not trying to scramble around on knees that are probably still in shock. And just because Adrian Peterson is a freak of nature, an amazing player who got more amazing after knee surgery, does not mean everybody does or should try. It certainly does not mean that every player is going to be on that recovery schedule. These are reasonable explanations for what we have seen from RG3 this year, and yet we keep talking like Washington has an RG3 problem.
He is not even in the Top 10 of things wrong with this team.
Both Shanahans, the defense, the line and, judging by Sunday, the receiving corps are far bigger problems, problems that were covered up a year ago by RG3. And the Super Bowl expectations were absurd, not to mention unfair considering what he has around him.
Now the kid has to be smart enough not to say this or even hint at it because, well, God forbid anybody tell the truth in this league. What he needed to do was totally heal, get healthy, let everybody see what life without him really looks like and then come back, as conquering hero.
So take your time, Derrick Rose.
Ignore everybody calling you fragile or injury prone.
Do what you did a year ago: wait. Get healthy because, as we have learned this season with RG3, gutting it out only opens you up to more lethal shots, to your character, your heart, your ability, your leadership, your talent.