Raise your hand if you heard of the coracoid bone before this week.
I suspect I’m not alone in my ignorance regarding that segment of the human anatomy.
Now raise your hand if you’re surprised Robert Griffin III is the player who broke a bone you didn’t know existed.
Sadly, I suspect that’s most of us.
RG3’s incredible journey from star to star-crossed might have reached its painful end Sunday in Philadelphia. That would be a shame on several levels, including the fact he won’t be in uniform Oct. 2 when his Cleveland Browns visit FedEx Field.
We had the date circled on our calendars since the schedule was released, wondering which direction the story would take. Would Griffin return to Washington and find redemption after his unsightly decline and unceremonious departure? Or would he continue along the path that began Jan. 6, 2013, when his right knee buckled?
The expectations he engendered during that Rookie of the Year campaign were distant memories when he signed with Cleveland. Unfortunately, everything else about RG3 since he underwent a direct repair of his LCL and a re-do of previous ACL reconstruction was all too familiar in Ohio.
Only the colors and logo were different.
He still looked shaky in the pocket. He still seemed uncomfortable operating a conventional offense. And as we witnessed with about four minutes left in Sunday’s game, he still absorbs crushing hits like a crash dummy, only more frequently.
I watched the bone-breaking collision with Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills several times in click-by-click slow-motion and still can’t fathom what Griffin was thinking. Facing 3rd-and-long from his own 4-yard line and trailing by a dozen points, he scrambles from the end zone and races toward the sideline. But instead of sliding or running out of bounds at the 12, he angles up field and gets smashed right at the boundary.
It’s one of the most unnecessary hits RG3 ever took, which says a lot. The Browns were in four-down mode, so it’s not like the possession hinged on that play. He got up slowly and returned to the huddle with his left arm dangling limply. He threw an incompletion and doubled over before dropping to a knee in obvious agony as pain coursed through his body.
He said he wasn’t trying to run over the defender. “It was just an unlucky situation,” he told The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday. “I got pushed in the back — maybe not the hardest push — but I was running full speed, and I didn’t have an opportunity to slide before that. I felt like I could get out of bounds. That didn’t happen.”’
After discovering he has a broken coracoid bone in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, the Browns placed Griffin on injured reserve, meaning he’s out for at least the next eight games. He’ll be reevaluated in three to four weeks to see if the shoulder is healing on its own.
Either way, the injury represents a huge crater in RG3’s road to resurrection as an NFL starter. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back this season. If he’s deemed fit to return in Week 10, he will have missed 30 of a possible 40 regular-season games since the start of the 2014 season.
By then (right now, actually) the Browns will be deep into deliberations on which quarterback they should draft in April.
RG3 is unlikely to get another shot as promising as the lifeline Cleveland offered. It will be difficult to find a better combination than coach Hue Jackson’s reputation with passers and the franchise’s desperate, long-running search for a quarterback (though they opted to trade the No. 2 pick, who turned out to be Philly starter Carson Wentz).
The Browns gambled on Griffin once. They can’t be expected to roll on him a second time when he couldn’t stay healthy till the second game.
It will go down as RG3’s fatal flaw. It’s not just the misfortune of multiple injuries, which result from bad luck and a body suited for track more than contact. It’s the propensity to put himself in harm’s way, the inability or unwillingness to routinely protect himself like other quarterbacks.
Once he takes off, Griffin plays with too much heart and not enough smarts. He plays more like he’s Jim Brown when he’s closer to Charlie Brown.
Pocket presence, footwork, reading defenses, touch passes … all of those things can be worked on and improved. Except when you’re on the sideline in slings, braces and sweats. Availability is the most important asset for any player. If teams can’t count on you, they’ll stop trying before long.
Meanwhile, Griffin remains a national story for all the wrong reasons, being ripped nonstop since Sunday. “I would hope when people get injured, or something happens, that people don’t pile on those people or make fun of those people because it’s our livelihood,” he said. “Everyone’s out there fighting for their livelihood and you never want to see anybody get hurt.”
That’s true. I wish him nothing but the best.
But if this was bound to happen anyway, I wish he had waited until after Week 4.