Renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews serves as one of the Redskins’ game-day physicians. That relationship could now be in danger, grave or otherwise.
Andrews admits to USA Today that he never cleared quarterback Robert Griffin III to re-enter a Week 15 game against the Ravens, after Griffin suffered a knee injury that looked much worse than it ended up being. Griffin skipped one play, re-entered the game, and then exited for good several snaps later.
“He didn’t even let us look at him,” Andrews tells Robert Klemko of USA Today. “He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players, and took off back to the field. It wasn’t our opinion.
“We didn’t even get to touch him or talk to him. Scared the hell out of me.”
Andrews’ comments may scare the hell out of coach Mike Shanahan, who specifically said the day after the game that Andrews had cleared Griffin to return.
“He’s on the sidelines with Dr. Andrews,” Shanahan said at the time, via Klemko. “He had a chance to look at him and he said he could go back in. [I said] ‘Hey, Dr. Andrews, can Robert go back in?’
‘Yeah, he can go back in.’
‘Robert, go back in.’
“That was it.”
But that wasn’t it. And now, as the Redskins prepare to host the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon, Shanahan and Andrews may be having an awkward conversation at some point this morning. Especially since Andrews is still concerned about Griffin’s status.
“I’m the one that shut him down that day, finally,” Andrews said. “I’ve been a nervous wreck letting him come back as quick as he has. He’s doing a lot better this week, but he’s still recovering and I’m holding my breath because of it.
“He passed all the tests and all the functional things we do, but it’s been a trying moment for me, to be honest with you.”
This back-and-forth highlights the tension between doctors and the teams that pay those doctors to provide care and evaluation to players. And it suggests that Andrews, who doesn’t need his relationship with the Redskins in order to remain the go-to orthropedic specialist for NFL players, has opted to jeopardize that role with the team in order to keep his conscience clear.
Other team-hired doctors don’t have that luxury. Routinely, those doctors tell coaches what the coaches want to hear about player availability, knowing that if the coaches aren’t told what they want to hear they’ll find another doctor who will.That’s why the NFL and NFLPA should work toward the use of a truly independent staff of game-day physicians, who can work with only one concern in mind — the health and well-being of their patients.