The Saint Louis Rams got after Robert Griffin III on Sunday in their win over the Washington Redskins. Though Griffin was sacked only once, he was hit numerous times and generally battered throughout the game. For a running quarterback, this should come as no surprise. But RGIII, purveyor of professionalism and on-field righteousness after two NFL games, has had enough. So he spoke out (via ESPN):
‘”I don’t want to tip-toe the lines of anything that’s happened with bounties or anything like that, but they were definitely going after me,’ Griffin said. ‘They made it a point, obviously, all week to hit me. Some of the shots were cheap of that nature. But it’s nothing I can control. Teams are going to try to hit me because they don’t think I can take a hit. I think I’ve proved over my career that I can.'”
Uy. So he got roughed up a bit. Who knew the Rams would come after him after he exploded in Week 1? Maybe the Rams did take cheap shots, and maybe they really did cross the line. But that line is an interesting conversation in itself, as the NFL has shaded its latitude towards the protection of QBs. In truth, RGIII has grown up on the modern side of that arbitrary stratification, separating the legally incapacitating from the morally outrageous. And as restrictions on QB hits have expanded, any sort of extracurricular something turns into some lengthy pandering on the civility of the players and the game. Except we just eat it all up too, the moral boundaries Roger Goodell has so neatly clarified. Segments like “Jacked Up” on ESPN and bone-crunching hits are no longer, well, awesome, but cringe-worthy and uncivil. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. The implicit acceptance that football hurts its players no longer satisfies, and we instead linger on the hypocrisy of enjoying other men’s pain. But the current state of affairs is even more hypocritical, if only because we acknowledge the hypocrisy, say the right things about player safety and then continue to watch football anyway. Conscience appeased, apparently.
The running quarterback was never viable in the old NFL because he simply couldn’t stay healthy – venture beyond the line of scrimmage and the saloon doors of pain swing open. But now that players are terrified of incurring a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, those barriers are being broken down, and guys like Cam Newton, Michael Vick and RGIII are free to go wild. Maybe it’s for the better, pure athleticism triumphing against brute force. For St. Louis, they were more than likely establishing a mentality for RGIII – run the ball, feel the pain. Because, how else can you really stop a guy like him?