- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Robert Griffin III stood behind the end zone inside the Washington Redskins‘ indoor practice facility Wednesday morning, pulled up his right pants leg and fiddled with that darned brace on his right knee.

Black plastic encircled his thigh. More plastic descended through hinges touching the sides of his knee to his burgundy-and-gold striped Adidas socks, where another piece of plastic encircled his calf.

The blasted thing is simultaneously an enabler and a disabler. It prevents Griffin from working all his RG3 magic on the football field, which is problematic because the Redskins host the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday.

But it does improve his chances of at least staying on the field for the duration of the Redskins‘ playoff run because it protects his mildly sprained lateral collateral ligament. 

And so Griffin continues to wear it. Not because he wants to, though.

“The doctors aren’t going to let me take it off, I don’t believe,” he said. “So I try to do as much as I can without the brace, and then whenever they find out that I don’t have it on, I have to throw it on.”

When the Redskins play their first home playoff game in 13 years, Griffin will be exactly four weeks removed from the gruesome tackle that jeopardized his availability to finish the team’s historic turnaround. He missed only one game.

He played in victories over Philadelphia and Dallas in the last 10 days, but he has not run or cut as explosively as he did before his right leg wrapped around Baltimore nose tackle Haloti Ngata’s back Dec. 9.

The injured ligament and the brace limit him, but the extent of each contributing factor has changed as time elapses. By now it’s mostly the brace, he said.

“Anytime you wear a brace like that, it’s to protect you, so it’s going to cause a natural limp,” Griffin said. “You’re not going to be able to bend your knee normally. It restricts your flexion and your extension. It’s just to protect the ligaments in there but at the same time you can still generate power.”

Griffin was more effective running the ball last Sunday night against Dallas than he was a week earlier against Philadelphia. He had 63 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries in Sunday’s NFC East division-clinching win.

However, he won’t completely return to form until he gets rid of the brace. Just ask the handful of Redskins players who have similar black braces hanging in their lockers.

“I’ve got a whole selection back here if you want to check them out,” said Kory Lichtensteiger, who returned this season from right knee ligament reconstruction surgery he had in late 2011.

“Your body isn’t used to having it on,” said defensive lineman Kedric Golston, who played with a knee brace at times in college and once in the NFL. “Your muscles react different. You almost have to relearn how to do things. When you change mechanically how your body reacts, you have to do a little something different, so you might have to take an extra little step and then go.”

Rex Grossman despised the knee brace doctors advised him to wear after he tore the ACL in his right knee in 2004. In fact, he hated it so much that he didn’t wear it.

“It just feels like you’re restricted,” he said. “Everything is stiffer. It’s like a stiff leg that you can’t fully bend. You’re flexion is limited. It keeps everything place, but it keeps everything in place, you know?”

Lichtensteiger straps his brace on even when he plays with his sons at home. In addition to physically stabilizing the ligament, there’s a mental benefit.

“There’s things I wouldn’t even attempt to do if I didn’t have my knee brace on, but I don’t think it would hurt me to do it without it. It has kind of become a big part of my psyche.”

Golston has known players who are so affected by a knee brace that they would rather sit out than play with one on.

He appreciates that Griffin has a different mindset

“He’s not that kind of guy,” Golston said. “He’s selfless. He’s like, ‘Hey, so what if I don’t look like my highlight tape at Baylor.’”

That doesn’t mean Griffin is OK with the limitations, though.

Considering the importance of Sunday’s game and each one after that if the Redskins continue winning, he’s sure to continue giving team doctors fits about getting rid of the brace.

“My leg, I can feel it healing,” Griffin said. “I might not wear the brace this week, but I’m sure [head athletic trainer] Larry Hess is shaking his head downstairs right now. We’ll see what happens. There is no ‘rest of this season’ right now. We’ve just got to focus on Seattle.”

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