Every other Redskins player ran out of giant inflatable helmet before Griffin in the last minutes before kickoff. The end to ‘Operation Patience,’ the nickname he gave to his dissatisfaction over not playing during the preseason, appeared in sight. Same with the offseason where each utterance, each phase of his recovery that didn’t include a single mention of a setback from the organization, each training camp drill in Richmond was parsed. Finished. Fireworks blasted off when he emerged.
Bam. Bam. Bam.
Griffin, in full view of the packed stadium, dropped to his knees and pounded the turf. The crowd’s roar grew. This felt like a revival. The months of drama and off-message bickering? Gone.
But Griffin wasn’t himself. Not at first. That’s to be expected after an injury that would’ve sidelined lesser athletes for another month or two. But the everything-is-great message from Griffin, Shanahan and company didn’t allow for the possibility of an adjustment period. The lack of game experience showed. Griffin’s footwork was off. Throws didn’t zip like normal. He locked onto receivers. Routine swing passes floundered. Timing wasn’t there. One deep ball dropped to the turf with no receivers nearby.
Forget last season’s array of exotic formations and creative uses for Griffin’s unique ability to scramble and rocket passes. Instead, the Redskins used him with all the aggressiveness of a high-priced vase wrapped in layers of protective bubble wrap.
“I think everyone involved,” Griffin said, “coaches, doctors, trainers, everyone’s relieved — parents, fans — that I came out of the game OK.”
After Mychal Hendricks tossed him to the ground in the second quarter, Griffin drew a flag for intentional grounding. The third hit Griffin absorbed in the half left the quarterback slow to push himself up from the turf. He limped for a minute, then found his footing.
That’s how Griffin’s return went. Ragged, ineffective, at times, and absolutely necessary.
Glimpses of the old quarterback returned in the second half, those moments when he makes escaping trouble in the backfield to fling the ball downfield look simple. In the fourth quarter alone, Griffin rolled up 169 of his career-best 329 passing yards to go along with two touchdowns. The erratic start faded. The damage, though, had been done in the 33-27 loss to the Eagles.
But the fast-paced recovery overshadowed the equally challenging task of returning to play football’s most demanding position in situations bearing little resemblance to the languid days of training camp.
The wait ended Monday night, but the healing continues.