With ‘hit test’ now out of the way, Robert Griffin III focused on Week 2

September 11, 2013

Robert Griffin III returned to practice, intent on taking the next step forward in his return this week. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Two days removed from his first action in eight months, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said that his surgically repaired right knee feels fine, that his confidence remains healthy despite the loss, and that he and his teammates will build on the second half of Monday’s season-opening loss to Philadelphia.

Griffin on Monday made his much-heralded return, playing on the same field where eight months earlier, he tore ligaments in his right knee in the fourth quarter of Washington’s playoff loss to Seattle.

Griffin’s every move since his surgery on Jan. 9 have been well documented. From his Adidas “All in for Week 1” campaign, to weekly media appearances during offseason practices that he wasn’t yet cleared to take part in, to his progress throughout training camp and the Gatorade documentary on his recovery, no stone has been left unturned. Each one – as well as Griffin’s dramatic pregame introduction on Monday night – helped stoke intense anticipation and whip Redskins fans into a frenzy.

Griffin’s return was not one of triumph, as he struggled through the first two-and-a-half quarters of play and looked very much like a player that hadn’t played in eight months. The quarterback said although he and the Redskins didn’t win, he was more at peace with he and his teammates’ second-half play, and said the most important part of his return mission – outside of the victory – had been accomplished.

“You guys played that up, too. So, don’t put that on me,” Griffin said with a laugh when discussing the hype surrounding his return. “Everyone was excited about it. I talked to my family about it, and at the end of the day, we lost the game. So, you’re disappointed about that, but the fact of the matter is, we went through a hard offseason this year – not just me but this team. To get out of that game healthy, to move forward to next week, I think that’s a huge load off everybody’s shoulders. The game didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to turn out. We wanted to get that win, we wanted to win at home, you want to protect your home field, and we didn’t do that. So, if anything, it’s going to make us even hungrier. Not just me, but the team as well, because the team wanted to win that game just as much as I did. Yeah, it’s disappointing, but it doesn’t ruin your season, and you move on to the next week.”

Griffin and the Redskins on Sunday will face the host Green Bay Packers. The quarterback expects to be more confident now that his first licks are out of the way, and expects a better rhythm for the offense now that he and his teammates have played in an actual game. The mission for Sunday is simple.

“We’ve just got to win. Period,” Griffin said. “Offensively, we’ve got to clean everything up. I passed the hit test. I got hit a lot. I got hit every kind of way, too. I think that’s another huge relief for everybody; the coaches, players, myself. Other than that, I think we just have to clean up the execution on offense.”

Robert Griffin III, Mychael Kendricks
Griffin is sacked by Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

The Eagles sacked Griffin three times and hit him another nine times. He got up slowly from several of his hits – particularly a play in which linebacker Mychal Kendricks slammed Griffin to the ground just as he unleashed a pass. But none of the hits caused any damage to Griffin’s knee.

“Knee feels fine. Typical soreness from being hit,” Griffin said. “Philly got me pretty good a couple times, but that’s the way it goes. You just work those kinks out, but as far as the knee goes, it’s fine.”

Following the game, analysts questioned Griffin’s confidence in his knee and claimed that he didn’t fully plant on his right leg on passes, and didn’t step into throws with authority. Griffin dismissed such claims, but said that improvement in his mechanics naturally will improve as he continues to play. He added that he believes every one of his movements draw greater scrutiny because of his injury.

“I think you can always improve your mechanics,” Griffin said. “There’s going to be times when you’re in the pocket and you have to make an off-balanced throw. You’ve just got to do that. But I’m not paying attention to any of that stuff. If I make a bad throw coming off an injury, it’s my mechanics. I’m not driving off my back leg. But if a healthy quarterback makes a bad throw, it’s just a bad throw. So, I understand that, and it’s just stuff you have to not look at. You know when your technique is sound, you know how you throw the ball, and you know what you have to do if you make a bad throw you fix those things in practice and you fix them in the game, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Griffin’s teammates shared his confidence.

Wide receiver Santana Moss said, “This was his first game. Every week he’s going to get better and we’re going to get better because we’ll have more time together to mesh.”

As for Coach Mike Shanahan, the loss to the Eagles hasn’t caused him to alter expectations for the season. The team had to turn around and quickly prepare for the Packers with one day fewer than it normally would have. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the coach believes.

“We feel good about our football team,” Shanahan said. “Obviously, we had a setback, and now we just concentrate on practices day by day. We have got to get back our momentum, and it’s a tough place to play in Green Bay, but our players are looking forward to it, and we are glad we have a short week, so we can play a little bit quicker.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice Thursday at 1 p.m.

More on the Redskins:

NFL ‘miscommunication’ led to Griffin covering up knee brace

Amerson, Baker limited in practiceMeriweather practices fully

D.C. Sports Bog: Goodell on the Redskins’ name More Bog

Barnett returns to Green Bay | Thompson eager to improve punt returns

The Early Lead: Colts’ Irsay wants better protection for Luck | More NFL

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · September 11, 2013

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