ASHBURN, Va. — Off the field, Robert Griffin III has decided he’s no Bill Belichick. On the field, he moved a step closer toward a Week 1 return Wednesday when he took full-speed, full-team snaps against the first-string defense for the first time since his knee surgery.
The Washington Redskins are home from training camp, but the new setting doesn’t change the team’s overriding narrative. The Sept. 9 Monday night regular season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles is less than three weeks away, and the question remains whether the franchise player who says he’ll be ready to go will indeed be ready to go.
“My eyes are set on Philly,” he said.
To achieve that goal, he must get the OK from his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, who examined Griffin’s reconstructed right knee on Monday and will do so again after the final preseason game. Even if Andrews says all is well, the final decision will rest with coach Mike Shanahan.
“If the doctor felt like he wasn’t ready to play, I surely wouldn’t play him,” Shanahan said. “But Dr. Andrews could tell me that he is ready, and if I thought something was wrong with Robert through our practice, I wouldn’t put him out there.”
Shanahan limited Griffin to 7-on-7 drills for most of training camp, then last week allowed the quarterback to run some 11-on-11 plays against a scout team defense for the first time. Wednesday was another benchmark. Most of the practice was closed to reporters, but the coach made it sound as if Griffin was working more or less like a regular starting quarterback.
“We see progress,” Shanahan said. “One of the reasons we didn’t throw him right into the fire is we didn’t think he was ready right away. If he keeps on progressing like he has been, he’ll be ready for Monday night.”
Griffin thinks he should have been progressing even faster, and his comments last week that he disagreed with Shanahan’s cautious practice plan created such a stir that the quarterback felt the need to make a special statement the following day to say there was “no conflict” between him and coach.
Griffin’s popularity is enhanced by his willingness to speak his mind publicly, but he said the backlash had him considering whether he should clam up.
“I sat down and talked to a few people to make a decision: ‘Do I stop being who I am, stop being honest with you guys and give you guys ammunition to turn against this team, or do I just go into a shell and Bill Belichick it all week?'” Griffin said. “I’m just going to continue to be who I am. And if something like that does happen, you make the statement to make sure everybody gets its clear. But I don’t think I can change who I am just because people are going to take my words and put them against me.”
Meanwhile, Griffin’s backup, Kirk Cousins, did not practice Wednesday after spraining his right foot in the Monday night preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was using crutches and wearing an immobilizing boot after that game, but both were gone when he appeared in the locker room around lunchtime.
“I’m still walking a little gingerly,” he said, “but it’s getting better every day.”
Cousins confirmed that an MRI showed “nothing serious, nothing long-term” with his injury. Shanahan said Cousins is a “long shot” to play Saturday against the Buffalo Bills.
“The balance between healing and wanting to play is what every athlete has to face,” Cousins said. “Right now in the preseason, it’s probably more important to rest and get healthy so that you’re there during the season.”
Griffin debuted an “Operation Patience” T-shirt when he was working out before Monday night’s game. Now Cousins could use one.
“We’ll see if Robert has one for me,” Cousins said.
In one respect, he timed his injury perfectly. Wednesday marked the first practice at the newly renovated Redskins Park, where the outdated training facilities have been upgraded as part of a $30 million makeover partially funded by taxpayers.
“Between the cafeteria and the hot and cold tub and the underwater treadmill — which I think I’m going to put to use here later today — and the weight room, it’s spectacular,” Cousins said. “When you get injured, you start to appreciate having the improved facilities.”
Notes: Shanahan’s relationship with Griffin isn’t nearly as contentious as the one he had with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth a few years ago. When told Wednesday that Haynesworth was opening a restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn., the coach smiled and said: “I hope he has a good crew working for him.” … Even though he’s from Michigan State, Cousins was wearing a Nebraska T-shirt when he entered the locker room. He changed to another shirt before talking to reporters. Why? Because Nebraska gear is sponsored by Adidas, and the NFL has a deal with Nike. “I can’t be getting fined on a league minimum,” Cousins said. … Shanahan said DT Barry Cofield (broken bone in right hand) would be able to play Saturday if it were a regular season game. WRs Aldrick Robinson (bruised left thigh) and Leonard Hankerson (bruised right knee) practiced. RB Keiland Williams (strained left knee) did not.
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