Robert Griffin III had just finished watching a movie with his wife Saturday night when he saw the “shocking” news, splashed over TV and social media and the internet: Andrew Luck had decided to retire.
Their careers have been linked inextricably since high school, when they were both star quarterbacks in Texas. After graduating in 2008, they were reunited at the 2011 Heisman Trophy presentation, where Griffin claimed college football’s highest honor after a sensational season at Baylor. Also there in New York was Luck, a finalist whom Griffin had almost joined at Stanford.
The next year, they were the top two picks in the NFL draft: The Indianapolis Colts took Luck No. 1 overall, while the Washington Redskins selected Griffin. That season, Griffin beat out Luck for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. “I’ve always been competing against Andrew silently,” Griffin said Sunday.
Injuries soon derailed Griffin’s NFL ascent, and he sat out the 2017 season before signing with the Ravens last year. Even though he’s now entering his second season in Baltimore, his career back on track as Lamar Jackson’s backup, the experience gave Griffin another window into Luck’s own misery in Indianapolis. The four-time Pro Bowl selection, long bothered by shoulder injuries, said at his retirement news conference Saturday night that he "felt stuck, and the only way out of it is to no longer play football.”
“I can’t say I was to the point where I was making the decision to retire [in 2017], but I was at that point,” Griffin said. “You’re tired of being injured, tired of being hurt and tired of having to go through that process that I think he called it ‘pain, injury, rehab,’ and just repeating that process over and over and over. I can completely understand where he’s coming from, and it’s a little easier when you’re financially settled. ... I decided to keep pushing forward, but Andrew made the decision to retire.
“I know there’s a lot of guys in all the locker rooms around the league who have had to deal with a lot of pain and some have contemplated retirement. So I think the guys respect his decision to go out on his own terms in his own way and have the courage to do that, especially in today’s society, with the way we’re looked at. We’re looked at as superheroes, as these not-human beings, and for him to have that human element, express it in the press conference after the game, go and talk to the media to answer questions, I thought that was really big.”
Griffin, who’s not expected to play in the Ravens’ preseason finale Thursday against the Redskins because of a hand injury suffered early in training camp, said he hoped that the Colts fans who booed Luck at Saturday’s preseason game would come to realize they were mistaken for doing so.
"I think all those fans who booed would probably say that that probably wasn’t their proudest moment. As players, we get signed to these teams, and we give our all for those teams. I’ve personally never been booed in Washington, but if I had been after what I gave that team ... if you get that feeling from them, it makes it feel like they don’t appreciate what you’ve done and what you’ve sacrificed to put that helmet on every single day, to go out there and put on a show for them.
“So I know after the game, he said it hurt. And I think any player would be hurt by that. I hope those fans have their moment where they can look back and say, ‘Man, I really shouldn’t have done that.’ I don’t think he’s going to get an apology from the fans, but he’s done a lot for that city, a lot for that organization, so I think they should rethink that, and hopefully they have.”