RICHMOND, Va. — Robert Griffin III doesn’t think he’ll play in the preseason unless it’s an absolute necessity. Given the exhibition games will be all but forgotten when the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles in a Monday Night Football season opener, the chances the Redskins will need Griffin under center are about as strong as wet piece of paper.
The quarterback put on his knee brace and passed the perfunctory Redskins conditioning test on the eve of training camp, then declared he has “nothing left to prove” — at least physically — in his return from major knee surgery.
That’s doesn’t mean he’s all the way back.
Griffin said Wednesday he won’t participate in 11-on-11 drills in the early days of camp and likely won’t play in any preseason games. The quarterback who likes to keep the throttle wide open is going to have to exercise a bit more patience as he and coach Mike Shanahan — who have shared blame for how Griffin got hurt — try to work together to get him on the field for the regular season opener Sept. 9.
“They want to make sure we’re not doing anything too soon that we don’t have to do,” Griffin said. “Let some of these other guys get ready for the preseason. If it comes around that I’m ready to go, then maybe in the third preseason game, but as far as my understanding goes, preseason’s really not even in the air. … I think Coach feels like I can play without any preseason, so there no need really for that. Patience is the key.”
Griffin had reconstructive surgery on two ligaments in January after injuring his right knee multiple times in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Team doctors and coaches cleared him for practice within the last week, setting a remarkable pace for a rehab that can typically take a year or more.
“In my mind there’s nothing left to prove,” Griffin said. “And that’s the way you have to approach the game when you’re coming off of an injury. If you pass the test, then in your mind, you feel like you’re ready to go.”
But Shanahan is determined to play it safe with his franchise quarterback, having said he wants to make sure Griffin is 100 percent before playing in a game. Shanahan will meet with reporters Thursday, but Griffin appeared to lay out the key points in the latest important conversation between player and coach.
“I think we’re on the same page,” Griffin said. “When we sat down and talked about what I was going to do in training camp and the weeks to follow, it was a good moment for me because of all the hard work had paid off. And they’re going to allow me to get back out there and do what I do, and that’s play football and just have fun with the guys.
“We all made mistakes last season. We all understand that. We all talked about it, and it’s time to move on. … Me and Mike Shanahan’s relationship is paramount to this team being successful.”
Shanahan was not only criticized for leaving Griffin in the Seahawks game too long, but there was also scrutiny over whether the Redskins’ offense — along with Griffin’s aggressiveness — left him too vulnerable. He led the team to its first division title in 13 years, but he missed all or parts of four games with various injuries.
“The goal is longevity in the league. You also want to win,” Griffin said. “And so, as a quarterback, I don’t like to conform and say you can’t win outside the pocket. I think you can win outside the pocket. You’ve just to be smart about it. And that’s what I’ve learned over the past six months about myself and what we need to do to win. Maybe that’s keeping me in the pocket a little bit more. Maybe that’s throwing the ball away a little bit more.”
Griffin said he’s been an “overachiever” his whole life, so the thought of being eased back into the practice routine and skipping the preseason isn’t part of his nature.
“If they want to me to patient right now and ramp it up later, then I’m willing to do that,” he said. “And they know that I’m going to be — I wouldn’t say compliant — but I’m going to follow those rules, follow those guidelines, do as much as I can within that, and when it’s time to go full-go, then I’ll be ready to go.”
“If you talk to a lot of the vets, they don’t like the preseason,” he added. “That’s a well-known fact. Even I know that — and I’ve been the league only one year.”