Making his weekly appearance at the podium following the Redskins’ morning walk-through, the second-year quarterback appeared and sounded antsy — yet calculated — as he expressed confidence he can handle a full workload in practices as he recovers from reconstructive knee surgery.
Wanting to guard against the quarterback rushing back to full action prematurely, Coach Mike Shanahan has limited Griffin’s snaps since camp began. When camp began, the quarterback was allowed to take only seven snaps during the seven-on-seven portion of practice each day. Full-team practices have been off limits. In the past week, Griffin’s workload has increased to 17 snaps in seven-on-seven drills, but he still has seen no 11-on-11 action.
Shanahan praised Griffin’s progress Saturday and said the quarterback was close to earning clearance for the next step in the plan contrived by the coach and team medical personnel. Shanahan declined to share the details of the next phase but said it wouldn’t begin until after the team returned from Thursday’s preseason opener at Tennessee.
Griffin, however, said Monday he is ready for more reps now and that an additional wait isn’t necessary.
“I’m ready to move on. You can only do so much in seven-on-seven,” Griffin said. “The completion percentage is there. I feel like the rhythm is there with the guys. We’re finding the holes in the defense when we have to. We’re throwing the check-downs when we have to as well. So Coach will tell you something else, but I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to go to team reps and other things. So I just have to keep doing what Coach asks me to do.”
Said Shanahan: “You always want your guys to be ready to go, and you want them to be a little bit antsy. But your job is to get them ready. I don’t want to put him in too quick for the obvious reasons, but I like what I’ve seen.”
This is Griffin’s second comeback from knee reconstruction. In 2009, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee while at Baylor. He recovered in time to put himself on the map in 2010, won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and went second overall in the NFL draft the following spring.
Griffin has said repeatedly that because of his initial comeback from knee surgery, he knows how to walk the line between aggression and patience during this return. Griffin said Shanahan has forced him to proceed through this second comeback at a slower pace. Although seemingly agitated, Griffin said he is “at peace” with the decision to hold him out of all preseason games and understands Shanahan’s mind-set.
“I was doing a whole lot more at this time after my recovery at Baylor,” Griffin said. “Obviously, with this situation and what we have to deal with here in the [D.C. area], there is a lot of scrutiny, so Coach also has to account for that. In college, you are trying to make it to this level, and in the pros, you are trying to make sure you stay here for a long time. You can say whatever you want about what he is doing, and I can feel any kind of way about it. But at the end of the day, we all have to be on the same page, and that is what I’m trying to do: Just do everything the coaches ask me, show them that my rhythm and timing is there, show them that I can play. At the end of the day, they have to come through for me and play me Week 1 if I do everything they ask me to do.”
Shanahan said he had no problem with Griffin’s growing antsiness, but the coach said he will not deviate from the predetermined timeline regardless of how hard the quarterback lobbies for an increased workload.
“We do have a plan for him,” Shanahan said. “He may not always like that plan, but that’s my job, sometimes not to be liked. My job is to do the best thing for him. And that’s what I’ll do.”
Shanahan has described Griffin’s arm as “off the charts,” and the quarterback said he agreed with that assessment. The quarterback has displayed great accuracy in practices, and rather than force throws when going against defensive backs, he has displayed good decision making, working through progressions and finding holes in the coverage.
“I feel like I’ve been consistent with everything, getting to what the defense is giving me, whether it’s check-down, touchdown throw or anything in between, and that’s really making me focus,” Griffin said.
Coaches, trainers, reporters and fans alike have closely watched Griffin as he has taken snaps, dropped back and stepped into throws. At one point last week, he didn’t appear as crisp in his footwork or as strong in his plant before passes. But after that rainy day, Griffin looked on point again.
Griffin said his confidence in the leg has never wavered. He said his impressive arm strength is a byproduct of good lower-body mechanics. Griffin said those movements again come as second nature.
“It’s nothing I’m thinking about,” he said. “I feel like it’s consistent. Everything from the timing to the mechanics of everything out there that the coaches are asking me to do, whether it’s a plant throw, hitch throw, short throw, deep throw, I feel like I’m in tune with all that and the leg’s not an issue.”
During their daily talks, Griffin updates Shanahan on his physical and mental state. He continues to relay nothing but positive reports to the coach and has declined any rest days because he hasn’t experienced any fatigue or signs of a setback.
“I talked to Coach about it. Fortunately, I haven’t had any soreness or any swelling in my knee, particularly to the injury, and I haven’t had any sore legs, so that’s a good thing,” Griffin said. “I’m one of the guys who hasn’t had a day off, and that’s not just because I’m stubborn or hard-headed. It’s just because my body has felt good.”