WASHINGTON — An MRI exam of the injured right knee of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III shows that the rookie star may have suffered at least partial tears of two ligaments, according to several people with knowledge of the test results.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that the results of Griffin’s MRI were inconclusive and that Griffin would be examined Tuesday by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews at Andrews’s medical office outside Pensacola, Fla. That evaluation is an attempt to determine whether the MRI results show new injuries to Griffin’s anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, or previous injuries, he said.
Griffin tore the ACL in the same knee in 2009 while he was a sophomore at Baylor University.
“Any time you do have a former ACL injury, or an LCL, and you look at this MRI, sometimes it’s old injuries,” Shanahan said. “That’s why he’s going to fly down there to see Dr. Andrews, get some new MRIs, get a physical examination.”
The picture remains incomplete on how badly the Redskins’ star is hurt or how long his recovery might take. But in the 24 hours after Griffin played most of Sunday’s playoff loss against the Seattle Seahawks with a clearly reinjured right knee, debate intensified throughout the sports world about whether Shanahan should have pulled his quarterback despite Griffin’s demand to stay in the game.
“You’ve got to live and die with your quarterback,” said Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon. “If he can play, if he says he can play, you’ve got to go with him. If he says he can’t, you can put the next guy in. But you’ve got to live and die with your quarterback.”
Houston Texans running back Derrick Ward countered, via Twitter: “Mike Shanahan should be fired for letting RG3 play today. Bottom line. You risk tearing his knee up to try to win and u see he isn’t mobile.”
Griffin’s current knee problems began four weeks ago in a win over the Baltimore Ravens, when he was hit hard by Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata and suffered a Grade 1, or mild, sprain of his right lateral collateral ligament.
Shanahan, who acknowledged Sunday night that he would “probably second-guess myself,” about the decision, said Monday that he was confident he had made the right call, even as the Redskins’ offense stalled with Griffin unable to provide the heroics that made him one of the NFL’s top draws this season.
“Robert’s our franchise quarterback, and I’m not going to take the chance on his career to win a game,” Shanahan said. “But I also know that when you’ve got the belief in a guy, and you feel he can play at a certain level, and the doctors are telling you that he’s OK to go in, then you’ve got to do what you think is right.”
Griffin, who said after the game that “I don’t feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way,” also tweeted Monday: “Many may question, criticize [and] think they have all the right answers. But few have been in the line of fire in battle.”
The original MRI was conducted on Griffin hours after the game. One person with knowledge of the tests said team doctors had conflicting opinions of the test’s findings, prompting the decision to have Griffin, who will be accompanied by team owner Daniel Snyder, see Andrews for further examination.
One person with knowledge of the situation said Griffin may need exploratory surgery to determine the extent of his injuries. Another said the quarterback hopes to avoid full-blown reconstructive surgery, which would be possible if the tears are partial, not complete.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Andrews declined to discuss the specifics of Griffin’s injury.
“We won’t know until we give him a full examination,” Andrews said. “But he’s a great kid, and we’re going to get him well for next season.”
James Dreese, a physician for the University of Maryland athletic teams, said that if Griffin requires reconstructive surgery on his ACL, his rehabilitation would take six to nine months. If the LCL or medial collateral ligament also require reconstruction, that could add as much as two months to the process.
Dreese also said that because this would be Griffin’s second ACL reconstruction, the rehab could be slower than it was the first time. “Usually they go a little bit slower the second time, especially if there’s a lateral issue as well,” Dreese said.
But Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL on Dec. 24, 2011 in a game against the Redskins at FedEx Field, defied the odds and returned to action by the start of the 2012 season. He played in all 16 games, finishing nine yards shy of the NFL’s single-season rushing record.
“I thought Adrian Peterson did pretty good last year for not being part of the offseason program,” Shanahan said Monday, holding out hope that Griffin also can make a speedy recovery. “There’s a number of guys that have injuries that you have to work extremely hard to overcome injuries in the offseason.”
Griffin, whom the Redskins selected last April with the second overall pick of the NFL draft, missed one game, then played in the final two games of the regular season, both victories, wearing the bulky knee brace he also donned Sunday evening in the Redskins’ first home playoff game since 2000. Late in the first quarter, he re-injured the knee while planting it and attempting to throw across his body.
Griffin hobbled back to the huddle, and two plays later threw a four-yard touchdown pass to put the Redskins up 14-0. But his mobility decreased as the game went on. Shanahan allowed him to remain in the game, saying he based his choice on Griffin’s assurances that he was fine, conversations with team physicians and his own “gut decision.”
Griffin played the next 21/2 quarters but was largely ineffective. Nevertheless, several Redskins players expressed support for Shanahan’s decision Monday, and none took issue with Griffin wanting to remain in the game or telling his coach he could play despite his obvious limitations.
“You always want to be out there,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Nothing against the guys behind you, but it’s that competitiveness in you… . You want to be out there. You want to help the fight.”