WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Today’s much-anticipated first glimpse of the post-surgical Robert Griffin III was more than expected but also not quite real.
While he wasn’t just standing on the sideline or pulling a blocking sled like several of his fellow rehabbing teammates, he wasn’t really taking part in the organized team activities at Redskins Park either. Wearing an all-black outfit instead of his gold No. 10 jersey, Griffin threw and handed off on a section of the main field with receiver Pierre Gracon, tight ends Fred Davis and Jordan Reed, and running backs Roy Helu and Chris Thompson in what the quarterback termed “an all-World uncleared [to practice] team.”
While on schedule to be back in uniform for the start of training camp two months from Saturday – after being cleared to sprint explosively and then cutting within a month — and in the lineup for the Sept. 9 season opener, Griffin said that he and coach Mike Shanahan have long laid to rest the controversy over whether he should have kept playing after re-injuring his right knee early in the wild card loss to Seattle.
“Me and Mike hashed everything out,” Griffin said during his first press conference with local media since the Jan. 9 surgery to repair his right ACL and LCL. “The injury and what happened with the injury clouded the success that we had the whole season. It left a bad taste in the mouth of everybody. I don’t have a problem with the way I was used [last year]. It’s proven [that] when you have consistency at the head coach position and the quarterback position, everybody’s on the same page, you win a lot more. I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be repaired. The only thing that needed to be repaired from last year was my knee and that’s repaired.”
Both Griffin and Shanahan danced around the question of whether the offense, which led the league in yards per play, would be adjusted so that there wouldn’t be so many designed runs for the gifted athlete who broke the NFL record for rushing yards by a rookie in 2012.
“You talk about things that you could have done differently,” Shanahan said. “Robert’s the first person to tell you that this year, ‘I’m going to be a little bit more conservative than he was a year ago.’ If you’re not on the field, you’re going to hurt our football team. … We’re going to try to protect Robert as much as we can. We’re going to let him do the things we think he does best and hopefully it will be as productive.”
Griffin, who argued to stay in the Seahawks’ game even he was obviously operating on one healthy leg, echoed that message.
“I can’t change my mindset, but I can be smarter about what I do out there,” Griffin said. “I know what I have to do and what I don’t have to do. It’s about limiting those hits, making sure that I’m staying out there for my teammates. If it’s third-and-7 and I’m three yards away from the first down and here comes [Pittsburgh safety] Ryan Clark trying to take my head off like he did last year, you slide or you get out of bounds. After what happened to me and what happened to this team at the end of the year, I understand that I have to more careful when it comes to that. I’m not going to risk my career to play in one game. I’m definitely all-in for Week One, but I’m also all-in for my career as well.”
Shanahan and the Redskins’ medical staff are intent on ensuring that Griffin doesn’t overdo it now or during the summer because what matters starts on Sept. 9 against Philadelphia. The coach said that as long as Griffin takes some practice snaps with the regulars, he could skip the entire preseason and still start against the Eagles.
As for today, Griffin, who admitted he cried when he woke up after surgery and realized that his ACL had been operated on as well as his LCL, said that his knee felt great and that he was able to do everything without any hesitation. Which is how he plans to play in 2013.
“You come back like you were never hurt ‘cause that’s the only way you can play,” he said. “You don’t play the game afraid to get hurt. You play the game like you’re supposed to be invincible while at the same time being smart.”
And if he didn’t know before the knee injury that he wasn’t invincible, Griffin is smart enough to know it now.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin