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Column: Wilson stands tall as only rookie QB left

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Column: Wilson stands tall as only rookie QB left

This was always going to be one of those once in a decade quarterback classes, even before Russell Wilson announced his arrival from what is arguably the loneliest outpost in the NFL.

Everyone expected big things out of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Wilson was more of a pleasant surprise, catapulted from third-round obscurity to what passes for football stardom in a city far removed from the media spotlight.

Now he's the only rookie quarterback left in the playoffs. Next thing you know, he'll get some Subway commercials of his own - or maybe something even better.

A rookie quarterback winning a Super Bowl? The way Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks have been playing, the notion is no longer so unimaginable.

On a Sunday that was painful for RG3 and brutal for Luck, it was the undersized and once-unappreciated Wilson who emerged a star. He played with the calmness and efficiency of a veteran, rallying the Seahawks from a 14-0 deficit against the Washington Redskins almost before he had a chance to fasten his chin strap.

And if you didn't know enough about him before, one look at Wilson racing downfield to block for Marshawn Lynch on the go-ahead touchdown should get everyone excited about this kid.

``Marshawn always tells me, `Russ I got your back,''' Wilson said. ``I let him know I have his back, too.''

What was billed as a matchup of young stars turned into a mismatch of sorts when Griffin reinjured the knee he sprained a month ago and limped noticeably from the first quarter on. He wasn't coming out, and coach Mike Shanahan wasn't taking him out, a pair of decisions that will be debated.

Football is a game of pain, and Griffin played on. But a running quarterback who can't run is not exactly a recipe for playoff success, and he struggled mightily.

When the night finally ended for him late in the fourth quarter, he lay crumpled on the turf at FedEx Field after fumbling and then collapsing with his leg twisted around him in a frightening moment for anyone watching. Among those who were watching was Wilson, who went to a knee and prayed for his fellow rookie.

``He's a tremendous football player,'' Wilson said. ``I just prayed he was all right.''

Just how bad the injury is won't be known until Griffin gets an MRI on Monday. He said after the 24-14 loss that he wasn't sure himself whether he had further injured it.

But the dreadlocked rookie star made it clear that standing on the sideline watching the game wasn't an option. He carried the Redskins into the playoffs, and they weren't going to play without him.

``I had to go out there and do what I could to help the team win,'' he said. ``Period.''

It was a disconcerting end to a spectacular season for Griffin, whose personality and promise got him sandwich shop commercials even before he started winning games for the Redskins. He and Luck started the year as the most talked about pair of quarterbacks coming into the NFL in years, and both lived up to their billing by carrying their teams into the playoffs.

Luck, though, couldn't overcome a Baltimore defense fired up by the pending retirement of Ray Lewis. Luck was pressured all day, and his receivers dropping six passes didn't help as Indianapolis was eliminated 24-9 by the Ravens.

And while Griffin looked as though he would pile up some points for the Redskins by opening the game with two touchdown drives, he felt the knee go while planting to pass on the second drive and was never the same. By halftime, his team was barely clinging to the lead, and he faced a talk with Shanahan about his immediate future.

On that, both agreed. He had gotten them this far, and deserved the chance to take them even further.

``He said, `Trust me, I want to be in there. I deserve to be in there,''' Shanahan said. ``I couldn't disagree with him.''

Almost lost in the debate over whether Griffin should have stayed in was that Wilson still had some work to do to bring the Seahawks back. He did it on a fourth-quarter drive that Lynch capped off a 27-yard, broken-field run - with Wilson barreling ahead of him to block at the goal line.

That's hardly surprising because the quarterback that even Seattle didn't really seem to want when training camp opened - the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to a lucrative offseason deal to be their No. 1 - always seems to flourish when it matters most. Wilson doesn't play with the proverbial chip on his shoulder because he felt slighted in the NFL draft, but the whole team plays that way because Seattle wasn't even in the postseason discussion when the year began.

``I don't know,'' Wilson said when asked if he had felt left out of the rookie quarterback discussion. ``The goal is to win a lot of games and help my football team win games. That's all I know.''

Something else Wilson should know is he's two wins away from being the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks will have to do it on the road, but they're peaking at just the right time and are just slight underdogs in Atlanta next Sunday.

Who knows, soon there may be a lot of people ending their sentences with a ``Go `Hawks!'' the way Wilson likes to end his. If it sounds a bit collegiate, just remember he is still a rookie quarterback.

Only now there's something different. He's the only one left.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Lamar Jackson has his best practice yet

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Lamar Jackson has his best practice yet

Kick off your Friday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

1. The Ravens are hopeful Earl Thomas will be a leader for their new defense which Thomas called "very complex." "This defense is very complex compared to what we were doing in Seattle,” Thomas said to Ravens media. “We were just playing Cover-3 all the time. Now, we’re making calls on the fly. That’s the biggest adjustment for me.”

Additionally, Thomas told media members after practice that he's made "fast friends" with quarterback Lamar Jackson. "He's a very funny guy, I don't know if you all know that," Thomas said.

2. Speaking of Lamar Jackson, he reportedly had his best day of practice so far this offseason according to Ravens media. Jackson's throws looked much better and he was quick in the pocket.


Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens and Rotoworld for news points.

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RG3 likens KD's desire to play hurt to his own injury in 2012

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RG3 likens KD's desire to play hurt to his own injury in 2012

Like most athletes, Robert Griffin III was empathetic towards Kevin Durant when he first went down, taking to Twitter on Monday night to voice his concern. 

Today, the Ravens' veteran quarterback told ESPN's The Undefeated that he's all too familiar with Durant's decision to play and subsequent injury. RG3 likened it to his own brief playoff stint in 2013. Just four weeks removed from an injury to a knee that required reconstructive surgery in college, RG3 started – only to get hit late in the fourth and watch both his season and career come to a screeching halt. 

But that's not how RG3 views it. 

"I was looking at it like I'm out for here for my brothers. I'm out here for my team. And that was the only place I wasnted to be." 

And Griffin doesn't believe he's alone in that thought process, suggesting it was KD's mindset ahead of Game 5 as well.

"Most of us are built to fight. So whenever we get a situation where we’re a little injured or a little banged-up, our first reaction isn’t to get out of there and rest. Our first reaction is to figure out how we can keep going. That’s what makes a guy like Kevin Durant great." 

It remains to be seen whether KD's recovery will be smoother than RG3's. The former Heisman Trophy winner never came close to matching his breakout rookie season, eventually losing his starting job in Washington in 2014.

Durant will miss all of next season, meaning the former Montrose Christian star's next NBA appearance would be as a 32 year-old.