When Robert Griffin III stands in the tunnel at FedEx Field next Monday night and prepares to set foot on the field to play in his first game since he shredded ligaments in his right knee in Washington’s playoff loss to Seattle on Jan. 6, the quarterback admits he expects to encounter a wide range of emotions.
Griffin says he doesn’t have any anxiety over getting hit for the first time in eight months. And he has no fear of getting hurt again.
But Griffin knows how he will get through those challenging final pregame minutes.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said on Wednesday, speaking to the media for the first time since orthopedist James Andrews cleared him last Thursday for Week 1. “I don’t think there’ll be tears, and if there will, they’ll be tears of joy. But, it’s just been a long journey. It’s been an adventure, it’s been fun. You don’t necessarily want to go on the journey that I had to go on this offseason. You try to enjoy it along the way and hit those milestones. But, to come out of that tunnel with the team Monday night is going to be a great moment, not only for me, but for the fans, my teammates, who have seen me work so hard this whole offseason to get back out there. They will help me manage my emotions. I’ve told them I’m going to need them for that. It’s going to be tough. No way to know how I’ll feel in that moment, but we’ll work through it together, and I’ll be alright.”
Once the game begins, Griffin expects to be fine. Instinct and preparation will take over, and emotions will be forgotten. Griffin aims to “play tough, play strong, play fearless and at the same time, play smart.” But he will rely on his teammates to make plays for him so he doesn’t have to force things.
Sunday will mark Griffin’s second comeback from a right knee reconstruction. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament three games into his sophomore season at Baylor in 2009 and made it back onto the field 12 months later in time to kick off the 2010 season as the starting quarterback once again.
Griffin said that he has drawn on those experiences during this second recovery, and because of it, his confidence has remained high every step of the way.
“I think the first time, I was working to get back and I was working hard, but I didn’t have anything to base it off of. Lot more scary at that time,” Griffin recalled. “You come back and you don’t know how you’re going to be. You still believe you’re going to be great and play well, and I was able to come back and do that. So, the second time around, I know more of what it takes to get to where I was and get better, and that’s what I did. That’s why I have the confidence to know I’ll be ready to go, and it’ll be smooth sailing.”
Griffin has practiced without limitation for four weeks now, and he feels sharp and in control of the offense. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said that because of all the game-speed reps that Griffin has gotten in practice, he has received rust is “not a concern … He’s ready to go.”
Although Griffin has his timing down with pass-catchers, running backs and offensive linemen (because all 11 offensive starters return from last year), he has yet to take his first hit since last season. But Griffin insists he isn’t overly worried about that first hit. Griffin early in his first game back at Baylor took off scrambling early and got hit on that play. But he got back up just fine.
Griffin expects the same thing around this time, if he does have to scramble.
“It’ll feel good. Football’s football. You’re going to get hit when you play the game,” Griffin said. “I don’t really worry about it. You go out and play. This is what we get up every morning and do, and we enjoy it. I’m not afraid of it, and not really anxious about it. You just go out and play.”
And play he will, with no concern about forcing plays or having to knock off rust.
“I just have to lean on my teammates,” Griffin said. “We’ve got a lot of playmakers on my team. One of them is directly behind me, that’s Alfred Morris. So, those guys will be ready to play. They know it’ll be my first game back. I think everyone’s anticipating me being rusty. But that’s not the way I think, and it’s just not how I’m built to think. So, I think those guys know I’ll lean on them and I think they’re ready to make plays. I think everybody’s ready to go out, make plays and be dynamic.”
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