"Playing Hurt" Vs. "Playing Injured"

Nine days after banging it on the helmet of Packers' safety Morgan Burnett, Christian Ponder's elbow/triceps still looks like this. - Shari Gross of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, via Twitter

Apparently there's still a segment of the Vikings-cheering populace out there that's of the impression that quarterback Christian Ponder "wimped out". . .to use some of the kinder vernacular I've seen. . .of Saturday's wild card playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. I honestly don't understand the thought process of people that think this way, but I'm going to attempt to lay this out there anyway.

There's a difference in the National Football League, or in any sport, between playing "hurt" and playing "injured." Playing "hurt" is something that players do quite frequently. Playing "injured," on the other hand, is outright stupid. Playing "injured," in the majority of cases, is detrimental to a team's cause and can only really serve to make an injury worse. This past weekend in the NFL playoffs, we saw a pretty good example of that.

Let me say this. . .from all of the accounts I've read, Christian Ponder was not "hurt" on Saturday night. He was injured. The man couldn't raise his arm above his chest. . .which, if you're a quarterback, is sort of a bad thing, unless you plan on adopting the Dan Quisenberry full-on underhand throwing motion, which I'm not sure is advisable. (We get enough whining about Christian Ponder's arm strength as it is.) He was barely able to put on a dress shirt after the game was over without help. At the player exit interviews at Winter Park on Monday, he apparently still couldn't lift his arm high enough where he'd be in a position to throw the football with any sort of velocity.

Putting Christian Ponder on the field on Saturday night would not have been beneficial to the Minnesota Vikings in any way, shape, or form. What good is a quarterback that can't throw the football? (Oh, right. . .we got that question answered on Saturday, too.) Leaving Ponder on the sidelines on Saturday was the right move for the long-term future of the Minnesota Vikings, even if it meant an ugly playoff loss to end Minnesota's 2012 season.

Contrast that to what we saw in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. The Washington Redskins, led by dynamic rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, hosted the Seattle Seahawks. RGIII had injured his knee towards the end of the regular season, missing two games. Even though he led the Redskins to victory in Weeks 16 and 17, it was quite clear that he wasn't himself, clearly limping around the field. Despite the fact that Redskins' coach Mike Shanahan had a backup quarterback that had performed quite well in the two games that RGIII missed in rookie Kirk Cousins, he kept running RGIII out there.

Mind you, Shanahan is the same guy that once put running back Terrell Davis back into a game with a migraine headache when he was still coaching the Denver Broncos. You know, just to show you where his head is at.

In the fourth quarter, RGII attempted to field a bad shotgun snap, and had his knee buckle in a way that put him in so much pain that he totally forgot about recovering the football. The diagnosis? Well, according to our friends at Hogs Haven, the final verdict isn't in yet. . .but it sounds like there's about a 50/50 chance that RGIII could miss the entire 2013 season. The Redskins gave up a lot in the way of treasure to give themselves an opportunity to build their franchise around Robert Griffin III. . .despite that, Mike Shanahan decided to play fast and loose with his injured quarterback.

And there's a chance that it could cost the Redskins much more than a playoff loss. Frankly, if I'm the Washington Redskins and I find out that RGIII is going to miss the entire 2013 season, I fire Mike Shanahan tomorrow, but that's just me.

Both Leslie Frazier and Mike Shanahan had decisions to make about their young signal callers in this weekend's playoffs. Both teams lost their playoff games this weekend, but for the long-term, it appears that Leslie Frazier chose wisely. Mike Shanahan? Not so much, no.

If anyone wants to try to argue that Christian Ponder should have been on the field on Saturday night, then I really don't know what to say. I'm not sure how many reality-based arguments there would be for such a thing. But, given what Joe Webb gave the Vikings on Saturday night, I'm quite happy knowing that Christian Ponder is going to be ready to go as the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback in 2013. I'd suspect that Mike Shanahan would like to have the same level of confidence at this point.

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