Four months and two weeks removed from right knee ligament surgery, there, for all to see, was evidence to justify the Washington Redskins‘ optimism that their franchise quarterback will be ready to start the regular season Sept. 9.
Griffin at the team’s spring practice demonstrated for reporters and TV cameramen how far he has progressed from surgery to revise the reconstruction of his anterior cruciate ligament and repair his lateral collateral ligament and meniscus.
And after he appeared relatively spry on the field, he met with the team’s media corps for the first time since Jan. 6 to discuss his rehabilitation, his relationship with coach Mike Shanahan, and how the injury will affect his play and the team’s offense.
Griffin’s greatest revelation: He hopes to be ready for training camp when it begins July 25 in Richmond.
“The knee feels great,” Griffin said. “I’m able to do all the stuff out there without any hesitation, so that’s the best part about it. I’m excited about that. It’s all about having that confidence. If you put the work in, you’ll have that confidence when you get back out on the field. It’s about playing like you were never injured.”
For the first 20 minutes of the 90-minute practice, Griffin threw to receivers and practiced handing off. There were no pass rushers or defensive backs, just a quarterback and receivers working at a measured pace through the script of plays healthy quarterbacks would later run during team drills.
He wore a plastic black brace and moved quite smoothly. On a couple of drops, he stopped and restarted to simulate the timing required for a double-move route. He also rolled out toward the sideline after handoffs to simulate bootlegs.
Only two major elements of his rehabilitation remain, he said. He’s scheduled to begin explosively sprinting in a couple of weeks. Cutting is scheduled for a few weeks after that.
He has experienced no setbacks during the recovery, and he now hopes to be ready to practice with the team when players report to camp in two months. He still expects to be the starting quarterback when the Redskins host Philadelphia on Monday night in the regular-season opener.
“Do I need to practice every day? Probably not,” Griffin said about training camp. “But that’s for coach to decide. I’m just worrying about what I can control. As far as the season goes, I know everyone has seen the commercials and the statements of ‘All in for Week 1.’ I stand behind that.”
He insisted his relationship with Shanahan is healthy, which the coach has said in recent weeks. They have discussed the factors that resulted in him staying in the Seattle game after he aggravated his knee injury in the first quarter.
“Me and Mike hashed everything out,” he said. “We’re on the same page, and we’re ready to go win.”
“It was an unfortunate situation there at the end of the season,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be repaired. Obviously we all just need to move forward and continue to just let that bad taste that was in everybody’s mouth just get out and move forward to the next year.”
“I was happy with the wins that we had, the way we came out through the season and the adversity that we faced being 3-6, finishing 10-6, getting to the playoffs, winning the division,” he said. “I think all those things are the building blocks, and now it’s just about continuing to make that relationship grow together so we can sprout up into a nice beautiful tree.”
But did he have a problem with how he was used?
“Nah, I didn’t have a problem with it,” he said.
Griffin confirmed he cried after waking up from surgery and realized he faced his second right ACL rehabilitation in less than four years. He also revealed he did not completely tear his LCL.
Avoiding a similar injury in the future is among his and the team’s highest priorities.
“I can’t change my mindset, but I can be smarter about what I do out there,” Griffin said.
Shanahan added: “I think Robert is the first person to tell you that, ‘Hey, this year, I’m going to be a little bit more conservative than I was a year ago.’ If you’re not on the field, you’re going to hurt our football team. And you have to take those dives. You have to throw the football away, regardless of if it’s a drop-back pass or a scramble or if it’s a quarterback keep.”