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Shanahan failed Griffin when Griffin needed his coach’s counsel most. My Aunt Jean, a wise woman and longtime Redskins fan, observed correctly that Griffin must start protecting himself and deciding when enough is enough. In short, my aunt said, RG3 must become his own best advocate.

“The emotional need of wanting to play and being a star always overtakes making a good decision,” Sharon Stoll, a sports ethics professor at the University of Idaho, told The Washington Post. “You’d like to think an athlete as intelligent as Robert Griffin III would be able to make that decision. But your humanness prevents you from making that decision. That’s why you need a community of medical authorities to step in and say, ‘No, you’re not [playing].’ The athletes themselves, they can’t do it. There’s too much emotional tie-in.”

I admire RGIII. I admire his commitment to the game, his courage to play through pain, and his fierce competitive edge. He’s a phenomenal athlete. But Griffin should also shoulder some of the responsibility for his health. He has to play smart football if he’s going to last in one of the most violent sports on earth.

RGIII is the Redskins franchise. He’s the team captain, the face of the Redskins, and owner Dan Synder is spending millions of dollars on Griffin in hopes of winning more division titles and even a Super Bowl – but only if Griffin stays healthy.

Which is why there are two precarious questions being whispered among the most loyal Redskins fans: How long can Griffin last? And can he return to the field in top physical condition?

Perhaps those are questions for Shanahan.

“He wants the team to win at all costs,” Tom Joyner, the syndicated radio host of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” said on the program this week. “But somebody is responsible — and that should be Mike Shanahan…he’s gonna get the boy killed.”

In the meantime, RGIII should do some soul-searching in the off season. Last week, Griffin told reporters that as the leader of the Redskins he needed to be on the field against the Seahawks. “I’m the best option,” he said with authority.

I appreciate RGIII’s young warrior mentality, but sometimes true leadership boils down to this: Deciding when it’s time to bench yourself for the good of the team.

(Photo: AP)

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