Week 5 in the NFL had no shortage of news-worthy story lines. From Drew Brees' record setting first win of the season, to the Indianapolis Colts toppling the Green Bay Packers in honour or their head coach, Chuck Pagano, recently diagnosed with leukaemia. There was also a fair share of controversy, not least of which regarding concussions suffered by two quarterbacks—Matt Cassel and Robert Griffin III—and the reactions that followed. Rarely will you find two quarterbacks with such diametrically opposed fan support. Latter is widely haled as the savior of the Washington Redskins franchise, with fans willing to overlook almost any and all mistakes and missteps, while the former is generally considered the cause of all that ails the Kansas City Chiefs. In Sunday's games, both men suffered concussions, both would leave the field, neither would return, and controversy would immediately follow both teams.
For Cassel, his controversy surrounds the fans, for Griffin his team. In both cases, the fallout was immediate, much discussed and often hyperbolised. Cassel Knocked Out of Game, Fans Cheer. To suggest that Matt Cassel is not the most popular man in Kansas City right now would be a huge understatement. Fairly or not, Cassel has become a effigy of every struggle that the Chiefs have faced this season. Fans are understandably disgruntled, and calls for his replacement have been growing louder and louder with each passing week. Against the Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs finally seemed to have found the cure for most of their biggest issues.
Their defense looked solid against the Ravens potent offense, limiting Baltimore solely to Field Goals. The Chief's run game too has demonstrated time and again that it can be relied upon to deliver the goods, with Jamaal Charles and co racking up 214 yards on the ground. However. Matt Cassel remained the weak link. After struggling to maintain any kind of drive on the Chief's first two possessions, Charles finally seemed to begin to get things moving during the Chiefs third possession. On second and a makable 6 yards, Cassel's a pitch to Cyrus Gray was fumbled, and recovered by the Ravens. Though Gray was at least equally to blame for the mistake, this was enough to set Cassel's detractors going.
Calls for Brady Quinn, the Cheifs backup began to grow, and two interceptions, and another fumble for Cassel, this time on the Raven's one yard line, did nothing to silence Cassel's critics. As the game progressed, the boos became louder almost every time Cassel touched the ball. Early in the fourth quarter, however, the Chiefs fans finally found something about Cassel that they could cheer—his concussion. As Cassel got laid out by on a jarring hit by Haloti Ngata , the cheers began to ring out. He laid on the field, obviously shaken up while being attended to by Chiefs medical staff for several minutes before finally living the field, clearly unsteady on his feet. All the time, the cheers grew louder. Some would claim that the fans were cheering the completion, others that he appeared okay, and still more, that they were cheering on Brady Quinn, not Cassel's injury.
But reports from those in attendance made it abundantly clear. The fans were cheering the injury. They were cheering the fact that Ngata had done what they had all been asking GM Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel to do for weeks, and take Cassel out of the game. Unsurprisingly for anyone, this didn't go down well. Chiefs OT Eric Winston called out the fans immediately after the game. "People pay their hard-earned money when they come in here and I believe they can boo, they can cheer and they can do whatever they want, I believe that." Said Winston after the game. "But when somebody gets hurt, there are long lasting ramifications to the game we play, long lasting ramifications to the game we play."
Winston then said "When you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don't care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel -- it's sickening. It's 100 percent sickening. I've been in some rough times on some rough teams, I've never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there." before adding "Hey, if he's not the best quarterback then he's not the best quarterback and that's OK. But he's a person. And he got knocked out in a game and we have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?" Kansas City is known for it's history, it's pride and it's rabid fan base, but this most recent controversy is yet another ugly stain on the Chief's proud tradition. Redskins to be Investigated by League Over RGIII Injury Reporting For Robert Griffin III, things were a little different. Like Cassel, Griffin III was caught up in a low-scoring affair, struggling to make anything happen through the air.
Like Cassel, Griffin III had failed to score a touchdown in spite of multiple chances to do so. In fact, Griffin's completion percentage and yards passing were near identical to Cassel's. Yet when RGIII hit the turf, and did not spring back up, the fans reaction couldn't be more different. Though Griffin III was able to get up on his own after a matter of seconds, there was nonetheless a reverent and shocked silence as Griffin laid motionless. Once he got up, rapturous cheers and applause greeted him.
No in Washington, the controversy took place in their front office. The Redskins initially stated that Griffin III was "shaken up", and that his return was questionable following a brief on field assessment. After he left for the locker room, Griffin III was assessed by team doctors who determined he had a concussion, according to coach Mike Shanahan. Unfortunately, the team failed to update his injury report, in spite of clear NFL rules requiring accurate and timely injury information to be posted. The NFL will investigate if the Redskins broke their rules in this regard, but the team certainly didn't help their cause after the fact. Speaking after the game, coach Shanahan classified his injury as a "mild concussion". "When he really wasn't sure what quarter it was, what score it was, we knew he had a mild concussion, at least according to the doctors," Shanahan said after the game. The NFL have taken a very hard line on head injuries recently, and many analysts didn't take kindly to classifying any head injury as mild, many of which took to their blogs and twitter feeds to call out Shanahan.
Many seemed unaware that, medically speaking, all concussions are classified as mild traumatic head injuries, instead calling for an end to words like "mild" or "shaken up" in reports regarding head injuries. Although it seems clear that Griffin is already well on the road to recovery, and that he himself views his injury as relatively minor compared to some, the NFL may yet take a hard line with Washington over this misstep, due to their failing to report a head injury during the game, though clearly diagnosed at the time, and for failing to change his status from questionable to "will not return" when it became clear that he was suffering from the symptoms of a concussion. Griffin believes that he will pass the necessary exams, and be cleared to play in time for next week's game. We shall wait and see.