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FENNO: Now that RG3’s knee is rebuilt, it is time to reconstruct some trust

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

By any measure, the rehabilitation of the quarterback with an affinity for Superman socks has verged on, well, superhuman.

So has the unnecessary, unending drama that's turned each step of Robert Griffin III's recovery from surgery to revise the reconstruction of the ACL in his right knee into an experience better suited for afternoon soap operas.

When Griffin starts Monday night's season-opener against the Eagles, the long-expected move Mike Shanahan confirmed Monday afternoon, the season will be as much about rebuilding eroded trust as regaining confidence in the repaired right knee.

Take one head-shaking 24-hour period last week that's typical of the low-grade conflict and ham-handed communication the involved parties can't seem to escape.

On Thursday, Dr. James Andrews cleared Griffin to return eight months after the knee buckled into FedEx Field's battered turf against the Seahawks. This should have triggered celebration, right?

Griffin's rightful sense of accomplishment after months of effort — including workouts during his July honeymoon in France — shone through his tweet that night: "Operation Patience. ... Complete. Cleared. To God Be The Glory."

Then at the news conference following Thursday's preseason game in Tampa, Fla., Shanahan shoved those good feelings off course by mentioning "a couple concerns" Andrews had about Griffin's return and wouldn't commit to the quarterback starting the season-opener. The coach didn't detail the concerns or why they were concerning enough to mention to assembled reporters, but not serious enough to keep Griffin from being cleared.

So much for any celebration.

A series of tweets from ESPN's Trey Wingo followed: "sources telling me the "concerns" about [Griffin] have less to do with health of the knee, much more on how the team plans to use him." That brought back dissatisfaction Griffin's father expressed back in May — and his son never denied — about the Redskins running Griffin too much instead of developing him as a pocket passer.

To add to the confusion, Andrews denied the existence of such concerns in a Friday text message to our Redskins beat writer Brian McNally.

"Not true," the doctor wrote. "Team will use him appropriately. No concerns. No further comments except from team."

Shanahan attempted to end the latest minicontroversy Monday: "You'll have to trust us that the doctor feels good about it regardless of what those concerns were." Why he introduced a word as loaded as 'concerns' in the first place wasn't addressed. Days before the opener, when one would expect the focus to be on Griffin's ferocious, successful rehabilitation, the disconnect between coach and quarterback only looked wider.

The confused back-and-forth isn't new. And perhaps the dissonance isn't surprising when two men as stubborn, hypercompetitive and ego-driven as Shanahan and Griffin are involved. The result, though, makes the organization look adrift.

After Griffin first injured the knee against the Ravens, he tried to remain in the game despite hobbling on one leg, then sulked through the postgame news conference when he didn't play in Cleveland the next week. The well-chronicled debate over remaining on the field while barely able to walk in the playoff loss to the Seahawks followed.

Griffin suited up for the first preseason game, unheard of for veterans who aren't going to play. Every veteran had the option to participate in warm-ups, Shanahan allowed afterward. Still, Griffin had been cleared to resume team drills that coming Tuesday, but after the game, Shanahan declined to confirm the step forward.

Griffin ended up doing the drills as scheduled.

The quarterback didn't like Shanahan's plan not to play him in the preseason, but adopted the "Operation Patience" monicker and abided by the coach, amid the leaks and counterleaks and non-answers and off-the-record comments where the private conflict has seeped into public.

An hourlong ESPN documentary last month called "RG3: The Will To Win" chronicled Griffin's return. In addition to the starring role, the credits listed Griffin as the executive producer.

Between repeated shots of Gatorade and Adidas logos (Griffin endorses both companies), the artful hagiography ignored the simmering disconnect or, really, the legion of other NFL players returning from similar injuries without dramatics or documentaries. Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, for instance, tore the same ligament in the same game. While not of Griffin's stature on the field or off, he's returned at a similar pace and made the 53-man roster with little fanfare.

But the will to end the drama in Washington hasn't been as successful. What should be lauded — the quick return to health of the franchise quarterback the Redskins sought for two decades, the one thing everyone in the fractious city can support — is instead corroded by passive-aggressive sniping.

Playing is the only way to end the problem. That comes, thankfully, at 7:10 p.m. Monday. Put both men on the field where they're both doing what they do well, where they're working toward the same goal and the soap opera can finally end.

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