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An Open Letter to RG III

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Dear Robert:

A very upset 7-year-old could hardly sleep after the game the other night. My son, Malcolm, is a huge fan of yours and he was upset at the image of his favorite player in pain as Fox Sports replayed your knee injury over and over during the Redskins' playoff loss to Seattle Sunday.

But Malcolm had been wondering all day why you were even playing after the 2nd quarter. He kept asking from the first snap:

"If RG3 is hurt and playing, couldn't he get hurt more?" and "Look at his face daddy, he is in pain why is he still playing if he is in that much pain?"

Malcolm learned a valuable lesson Sunday. In short, quoting Michael Jackson: "They don't really care about us."

Athletes by nature have a gladiator mentality. Not to admit nor feel pain. To do whatever it takes to win the game. Images of Ronnie Lott telling the doctors in 1985 to cut off his pinky when it didn't heal properly so he could go back in the game come to mind.

And I certainly understand the desire to avoid being compared to someone like Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. You remember, I'm sure: last year he was given the worst label a player could be tagged with after he pulled himself from a playoff game: he was called a quitter.

But none of that criticism is worth your health, RG3. You are a special player, but you have to understand that you are not Superman and you do not have to attempt to prove your invincibility to anyone. I heard you after the game during your press conference and I understand your words: you believed you gave your team the best chance to win.

But I was one of many who is irate with Shanahan now that there is a discrepancy in the account about whether James Andrews, the famed sports doctor, gave Shanahan his approval to let you return to the Dec. 9th game against the Baltimore Ravens after you had already been forced from the contest.

If it turns out that Shanahan was in fact less than truthful about whether he received approval for you to return -- as reported by multiple sources -- then his actions were irresponsible, unethical and reprehensible. But the more I thought about it, this should be a valuable lesson to you and all other athletes. You have to look out for yourself in this business.

Yes, it was a tough position to be in, because if you didn't play there would have undoubtedly been scores of media and fans who questioned your toughness. Maybe some of the same media who are now criticizing Shanahan's decision would turn their ire towards you.

But the mentality that "Real men stay behind the wheel no matter how injured they are" can mean the difference between a long flourishing, record-setting, history book worthy career which you could have, and a career that ends way before it has had the chance to reach its possible heights.

Simply put, you can't let them run you into the ground. If the media question you, if fans question you or criticize your "toughness" that may just have to be a hit you have to take. You have transformed the Washington Redskins franchise, electrified the city, and have many glorious days ahead of you. It's not worth your ACL, and it's definitely not worth your career. And more than anything, young people like Malcolm will have a chance to root you on for years and years to come. HTTR!

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This post originally appeared in the Washington Post.

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