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Robbie, We Hardly Knew Ye

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The list of gifted athletes (particularly football players) who have had their careers cut tragically short due to injury is a mile long. Among them are Bo Jackson, Marcus Dupree, Billy Simms, Greg Cook, and Barry Foster, just to name a few. Unfortunately, it's very possible that the name of Robert Griffin III could soon be added to that dreadful list.

Let's be clear. No one is trying to talk doom and gloom here, and no one is trying to put the hex on anyone. Obviously, at this point in time there's no way of knowing how successful the surgery on RGIII's damaged knee will be, or how well that knee will hold up for the rest of his career. Clearly, the best surgeon in the world will doing the procedure, so there's no way of knowing how any of this will turn out.

But there are three things we already know about Griffin, as magnificent a player as he is, and these three things are not good: (1) He is not a big, powerful runner, capable of absorbing hits; (2) he hurt his knee as a college player; and (3) he hurt his knee in his first year in the NFL. That's a very ominous trifecta.

It goes without saying that it would be a genuine tragedy if a player of RGIII's caliber were lost to injury. After all, quarterbacks as extraordinarily versatile and dangerous as Griffin don't come along very often. Or do they?

Back in the day of Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman, you didn't see many quarterbacks who were fleet of foot. Yes, you had your scramblers like Fran Tarkenton, who could escape a rush and find the open man, but you didn't have guys like Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Griffin -- speedy guys who could both pass and run spectacularly well. And there's another one of those double-threats currently at Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel, last season's Heisman Trophy winner) just waiting to enter the NFL.

It's possible that this new breed of quarterback will revolutionize the game. It's possible that in 10 years time, the prototype of the rigid, immobile quarterback -- a guy who is expected only to stand in the pocket pass and, occasionally, scamper a few steps, giraffe-like, to avoid being sacked (a la Bernie Kosar) -- will be rendered as obsolete as the Model-T. It's possible that, in 10 years, virtually very quarterback in the NFL will be a gifted runner as well as a superb passer.

And if that happens, there will be an additional and very significant thing to worry about: an injury to the most valuable player on the field. Because unless these QBs of the future are built like Daunte Culpepper, they're going to continue to get beat up by predatory linebackers. It's a trade-off teams will doubtlessly have to consider.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor," 2nd Edition), used to write sports articles for the Beckett Monthly.

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