That's the problem, right there in 280 characters or less. Griffin verbalized the two biggest obstacles to football players' long-term health and safety: the military mentality that pervades teams at every level and the false dichotomy that either you play until you drop dead or you're giving up. Given his status as the newest role model and hero for a legion of D.C.-area fans and young football players, RGIII needs to know better.
In the wake of Sunday's action, when Griffin limped around from the second quarter on before tearing his right ACL and LCL in the game's final minutes, much has been written about how to better protect players who are hurt during a game. The Atlantic's own Ta-Nehisi Coates explored the issue several times this week, noting in one post: "I think it's worth recognizing that circumventing medical opinion is an old tradition in football. [...] Football is premised on the hazy morality of 'playing through pain.'"
Coates is absolutely right. Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski, and the other gridiron greats of the NFL's infancy undoubtedly hid the severity of their injures from their coaches, as Griffin appears to have done. But it wasn't okay then, and it's not okay now. The difference is that in 2013, in the age of YouTube and Twitter and infinite replays available at your fingertips, we know all about it. Armed with that knowledge, the least we can do is try to pinpoint the causes of football's hazy morality and work to move past them.
The most obvious source of football's play-at-all-costs mentality is the stated belief among players, coaches, and others that football athletes are akin to soldiers, and their team is their unit. Take yourself out of a playoff game because of an injury, like Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, and you're deserting the battle and letting down your unit.
On its face, that is absurd. Soldiers are risking their lives in actual battles to defend and serve their country; NFL athletes are being paid exorbitant sums of money to play a game. But when every coach a player has—from Pop Warner to high school to college to the pros—drills a military mentality into him (and most coaches do) what else would you expect? RGIII tweeting "few have been in the line of fire in battle" is not a put-on—he honestly views the game and his struggle as a battle. The natural outgrowth of that mentality is an obstinate refusal to put one's own long-term health above winning, especially winning in the playoffs. Even the best doctors in the world are going to have a hard time overcoming that mindset, especially when it's held by a young, high-profile player like Griffin.
"These guys are competitors," said Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a sports surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles and a consultant to the St. Louis Rams, when I asked about the difficulty of determining the proper medical course in concert with an injured player. "One of the attributes that got them to this level is that they're competitive."