So, Robert Griffin III is superhuman. At least that’s what Dr. James Andrews thinks. “RG3 is one those superhumans,” the orthopedic surgeon to the stars and Washington Redskins team physician told ESPN recently. “First patient I ever had like that was Bo Jackson. And recently I, of course, had Adrian Peterson, who is also superhuman. They have an unbelievable ability to recover, whereas a normal human being may not be able to recover.”
That didn’t exactly slow the torrent of hyperbole, much as Redskins coach Mike Shanahan tries, that accompanies Griffin’s rehabilitation from the right knee Andrews repaired in January.
Sure, Griffin wears Superman socks and stocks his locker with action figures from the Incredible Hulk to Captain America.
But he’s human, one whose right anterior cruciate ligament has been repaired twice since 2009.
No lasers shooting from his eyes. No telepathy. No X-ray vision. No ability to duplicate himself (though that would be handy given the Redskins’ pinched salary cap and desperate need for defensive backs). Not even the ability to recover from any wound that Wolverine, Marvel Comics’ mutant with supercharged senses, boasts.
No matter how well Griffin’s recovery goes — and the quarterback appears to be on a remarkable trajectory 2 1/2 months after serious injury that tore two ligaments — labeling his exploits as superhuman recall the same attitude that put him in this position to start.
Maybe time has dulled the memory of the debacle that unfolded on FedEx Field’s shredded turf in January during the wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. No tall buildings (or linebackers) were leaped in a single bound. No footballs moved faster than a speeding bullet. And the only thing more powerful than a locomotive was the sense of dread that roared through the stadium.
Sure, Griffin hobbled through the game with a brace to protect his sprained lateral collateral ligament, without the usual speed or elusiveness or throws or ability to protect himself. This wasn’t the same quarterback. But he didn’t leave. The coach didn’t pull him. Neither did the doctor.
There wasn’t much superhuman about what happened next. You know. The 12-yard sack. The bad snap. Planting the right foot in the turf that gave way in a spray of green paint and gloom. The right knee, never mind the brace, twisted at a grotesque angle.
No, Griffin’s knee didn’t exist in a place beyond the laws of physics. The ligaments weren’t made of some indestructible material from a distant galaxy. Griffin can break like everyone else, even if he does things with a football that are consigned to video games for the rest of us mortals.
Still, the breathless pronouncements that surround each step of his recovery seem, well, hollow.
Why add the pressure of a “superhuman” comeback, especially from the best-known surgeon in sports?
Why compare his rehabilitation to Peterson’s near-ideal recovery when significant differences exist in the type of injury, history and circumstances?
The legend around the quarterback has already been ballooned to near-impossible levels thanks, in large part, to his on-field brilliance (with a healthy assist to well-picked endorsements), and his recovery, his future, really, shouldn’t be subjected to the same burden.
Last month, Griffin backed off his most recent Adidas advertisement that proclaimed “all in for Week 1.” That won’t be true, he tweeted, until the knee is completely healed.
Caution, not hype, should rule the return, the sort of thing Shanahan preaches each time Griffin’s knee comes up. The same conservative approach that didn’t appear during the game in January. What’s to lose in patience? Keep the ultracompetitive quarterback from feeling as if he must take the first snap of Week 1, as if his recovery somehow needs to set the same sort of records his rookie season did.
The rehabilitation is scampering along with the haste of his 76-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings. That’s hardly surprising for an athlete gifted with Griffin’s physical tools and maturity. Isn’t that enough without turning him into a comic book character?
Leave the hyperbole, instead, to Griffin’s NCAA tournament bracket. Seven of his Elite Eight picks remain alive, including all of his Final Four predictions, in this upset-plagued tournament.
That’s, well, superhuman.