RICHMOND — Robert Griffin III made his long-awaited debut in 11-on-11 action at the Washington Redskins’ training camp practice Wednesday and left his coaches and teammates encouraged by his continued progression toward full strength.
Given the green light by Coach Mike Shanahan to take 16 first-team snaps against the scout-team defense, Griffin completed 7 of 10 passes for an unofficial 108 yards and one interception. He also handed the ball off six times.
“It’s nice to get him into a team atmosphere, and I thought he did a good job working against our scout-team defense for the first time this season,” said Shanahan, who has kept Griffin on a short leash since training camp began. “It’s nice to set up defenses that you’re going to face in the upcoming game, but it was a good first day.”
Wednesday marked seven months and five days since Griffin had his right knee reconstructed after he tore ligaments in it during Washington’s playoff loss to Seattle on Jan. 6. Held out of action during the offseason, Griffin received clearance July 22 to resume practicing with his teammates on a limited basis.
Shanahan initially allowed Griffin to take part in individual drills and eight seven-on-seven snaps a day when training camp got underway July 25. That snap count eventually increased to 10 and then 17. Originally, Griffin was scheduled to take his first 11-on-11 snaps Tuesday, but Shanahan elected to push that back a day, further frustrating his quarterback.
But the wait finally ended Wednesday, and Griffin for the most part looked as efficient as he had during seven-on-seven. The only difference in these repetitions was the addition of five offensive linemen and three to four defensive linemen in front of him.
“He seemed like himself throughout this whole camp,” wide receiver Santana Moss said. “What people fail to realize is he’s been throwing out here to us every day in seven-on-sevens, so I don’t think there were any jitters or anything like that. He probably had himself psyched up inside, but he looked like himself. I’m pretty sure there were a couple of reads that he would like to have back but in due time.”
On Griffin’s fourth 11-on-11 snap, he lined up under center, dropped back and hit Pierre Garcon on a 25-yard play-action slant route. After making way for Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman and Pat White to take their allotted second- and third-team snaps, Griffin and the first-team offense returned to the field.
Griffin threw a low incompletion to Leonard Hankerson, who got both hands on the ball but couldn’t hang on as he got hit by a defensive back.
Then, operating out of the pistol formation, Griffin completed a 33-yard strike up the left sideline to tight end Jordan Reed. Griffin threw an incompletion off the hands of running back Alfred Morris on the next play.
On his eighth snap, Griffin lined up under center and completed a 10-yard pass to tight end Logan Paulsen over the middle. Griffin’s final snap before practice moved on wound up as an interception by linebacker Ricky Elmore on a dump-off pass.
The team broke for special teams drills, and after that segment, Griffin returned for four more plays.
“He looked good,” Niles Paul said. “I hate to use the word, but his swagger in the huddle is a lot different from any of the other QBs we have. Kirk and Rex all do a good job of taking care of the huddle, but with Robert, it’s just a different vibe. Little funny voices, mannerisms after plays, when he makes good plays. We all pay attention to that.”
Shanahan praised the efforts of the scout team defense and said Wednesday’s action represented the type of atmosphere and coverage looks Griffin will see in a game. The quarterback at times had to maneuver around linemen being pushed into the backfield. On a 10-yard pass to Paul, a defender came free; in a game, he may have sacked Griffin. The quarterback scrambled to his left and then located Paul along the sideline.
The coach declined to share what comes next for the quarterback in training camp, which continues Thursday and Friday before the team heads back to Ashburn. It’s expected that Griffin will continue to receive those first-team reps in practices. Shanahan said practices like Wednesday’s are what Griffin needs as he works toward opening the season as the starter.
“That’s one of the reasons why you practice,” Shanahan said. “He’ll get more accustomed every practice he has, every rep he gets, and obviously our goal is to get him ready for the first game. Hopefully there’s no setback.”