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HARRIS: Risking hobbled QB outweighed any reward

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With about two minutes gone in the fourth quarter of Sunday's playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III managed to pick up 9 yards on a run.

"Run" is a very generous word for what the prize of the franchise did on that play.

Hobbled, perhaps? Shuffle-stepped? Limped? Whatever, it was obvious RG3 wasn't himself and it begs a very big question: Why was he in the game when he was clearly much less than 100 percent?

Amid a report posted Sunday morning on USA Today's website that Dr. James Andrews did not clear RG3 to return to action Dec. 9 against the Ravens, it becomes very fair to ask if the Redskins are taking unnecessary chances with the player they gave up so much to get.

The Redskins had no choice but to get Griffin out with 6:19 left when his braced-up right knee took an ugly twist as he reached to try and pick up a fumble. More news on the extent of that injury should come Monday.

Griffin shouldn't have been out there at that point.

Despite Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Seahawks in the wild-card round of the playoffs, the growing legion of Redskins fans shouldn't be too disappointed with the result.

The day started out great. The Redskins scored easily on their first two possessions to put Seattle down 14-0. It was the Seahawks' largest hole this season. But RG3 took a tumble soon thereafter and hobbled back to the huddle. He then disappeared for a brief time into the training room.

He didn't miss a snap. Perhaps he should have. He clearly wasn't the same afterward.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, RG3 and other Redskins all talked about competitiveness afterward. RG3 said he was OK, said he could play. Shanahan said he listened and went with his gut, though he acknowledged he could second-guess that call.

"I don't feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way," Griffin said.

Lorenzo Alexander said RG3 "has earned the right to make his own decision. He had a great season. You allow your star players, a London Fletcher, a Robert, if he's hurt and feels like he can play through it, you let him go out there and play through it."

Nice thought, but no. Wanting to be out there all the time is part of what makes RG3 great. Sometimes, someone has to step up and say no. And in fairness to Shanahan, it is understandable that it is hard for him to be that guy. He still has to do it. Shanahan said Griffin "gave me the right answer," when he asked RG3 about the knee. Here's an idea — go with your eyes and not your ears.

"I don't know how much Robert had to do with staying out there," Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said while standing outside the Seahawks' locker room. "But it was obvious he didn't have the ability to play at a high level. That's why you have a backup quarterback. It was hard watching him put himself in danger of further injury."

Whether a 100-percent RG3 would have made a difference Sunday will be forever debated. Seattle is too strong a team to hold down all day. The Seahawks have a pretty sharp rookie quarterback of their own in Richmond's Russell Wilson. After doing nothing early in the game, the Seahawks did pretty much what they wanted afterward and finally took the lead with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter.

Again, no shame for the Skins in this loss. Or this season. Just some questions.

Why not see if backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, also a rookie, could have done something? He bailed out the team in that Ravens game when RG3 finally went out for good, then looked really strong as a starter the following week in a victory over Cleveland on the road.

Why put RG3 at unnecessary risk?

There's a lot to like about this team beyond RG3. Rookie running back Alfred Morris set a team single-season rushing record. Pierre Garcon, when healthy, was a legitimate weapon at wide receiver. Logan Paulsen showed some serious promise at tight end. The offensive line held up much better than anyone had a right to expect.

And that's just on offense. The defense, Sunday's misadventures notwithstanding, made a ton of progress as the season rolled by. That was without standout outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who missed almost the whole year with an injury.

Let's not forget the Redskins also seem to have found gold in a new kicker. Kai Forbath made his first 17 field goals, a record for the start of a career.

Yep, this team is set up to be pretty good for a pretty long time.

But, and this is no disrespect toward the capable Cousins, don't think for a second that bright future isn't built around a healthy RG3. He's so talented, as he showed so often this season. He's so good. The town fell in love with him, as it should have.

Of course, you want him out there every single play. Just not when he's obviously hurt.

Mike Harris is The Washington Times' Sports Editor.

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