NEW ORLEANS -- As Robert Griffin III held the golden AP Offensive Rookie of the Year trophy at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on Saturday evening, he appreciated how much he had to accomplish to realize that moment.
As if outplaying one of the greatest classes of rookie quarterbacks in NFL history wasn't enough, the simple fact Griffin walked to the stage without crutches or a limp to accept his award was monumental.
"It's truly a blessing to be up here and to be able to stand, first and foremost," Griffin said.
Griffin, less than a month after surgery to revise the reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament and repair the torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, declared he is surging down the path to recovery.
His first public appearance since the surgery was such a contrast from the last time we saw him, when he limped off FedEx Field on Jan. 6 defeated and severely injured. On Saturday, he exuded supreme confidence he will be ready for the Redskins' regular-season opener on the weekend of Sept. 8.
"No doubt in my mind," he said.
Among the crowd of NFL stars and other celebrities Griffin addressed Saturday night was Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. About 90 minutes after Griffin was named Rookie of the Year, Peterson won the league's MVP award -- an incredible accomplishment considering he tore the ACL, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee on Christmas Eve 2011.
As Griffin works to get healthy in time to start the 2013 season, Peterson's astonishing return to form is proof that such quick, complete recoveries are possible.
Peterson had not spoken to Griffin by the time Peterson met with reporters Saturday night, but he said he planned to share with Griffin certain elements he believes made his rehabilitation so successful.
"I think mental toughness; it's really all about how you approach the recovery," Peterson said. "There's a lot of guys that really talk about coming back and recovering from a serious injury but don't really put the work in to do it.
"My advice would be just don't talk about it, be about it. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity that you have during the recovery process to get stronger, get faster and just gain more confidence. Approach it like you approach the game."
That shouldn't be a problem for Griffin, whose work ethic can border on obsessive. Doctors in Florida have had to restrain him during the first few weeks of his rehabilitation, Griffin said.
"I just got to make sure I'm being smart about it and think long-term rather than short term," Griffin said.
His experience rehabilitating his torn ACL in 2009 assists him with that, he said.
"I can know what peaks and valleys there's going to be, what milestones I need to hit and when I'm gonna hit them and just give me the confidence to know that I can come back better than I was before," he said.
Griffin and his father said he is further ahead in his recovery than he was after the same amount of time following his ACL reconstruction surgery in 2009. He still was on crutches three weeks after that procedure.
Robert Griffin Jr. suspects his son's progress this time has been aided by the fact he did not lose much muscle mass in his right leg following the surgery. He said the 22-year-old did not completely tear the right patellar tendon graft that served as his ACL.
Orthopedist James Andrews, however, detected some instability at the top of the graft and believed it would serve Griffin best to completely revise the reconstruction using a patellar tendon graft from his left knee, the quarterback's father said.
"You've just got to make sure you don't get complacent, and no matter how far ahead you get, you've still got to be smart about it," Griffin said. "That's what my dad said. He told me the other day: "If you feel something in your knee, just stop. You've got to be able to do that."
So far, so good. In fact, he moved so smoothly down the red carpet Saturday that a Redskins public relations official had him circle back to the start and walk it a second time with his fiancee so media could record it and show the world.
"To be able to walk around and do all this stuff, I'm pretty far ahead," Griffin said. "But I don't want to scare anybody. I'm going to take it slow. My goal is Week 1. That's all I'm really worried about, so I'll make sure I'm ready to go."
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