There is a quiet confidence about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in these early days of training camp.
For all the continued questions over his knee following offseason surgery and all the uncertainty over the timetable of his full return, Griffin smiles like someone who knows everything is fine. “Operation Patience,” he calls it.
Griffin is already showing needed maturity in his second year. He may have been the second coming of “Cool Hand Luke” last season as a rookie, but there was an occasional immaturity. It caused him to take several hard hits — including one which led to a concussion when he was seeking an extra yard or two instead of running safely out of bounds.
Griffin didn’t want to show weakness. But a cataclysmic injury in the playoff loss to Seattle taught him that playing hurt can harm the team.
Griffin has responded to this training camp with a new mentality. He’s not trying to do more than doctors permit. Instead, he’s acting loose and sliding like a baseball player once he’s downfield, provoking cheers from fans and laughs from coaches.
He doesn’t have the pressure to prove himself that he had last year, after he was drafted second overall. Nor does he need to show teammates he can lead. That’s already been done.
The Redskins are willing to wait till the Sept. 9 opener against Philadelphia to ensure Griffin’s overall readiness. Forget the preseason. Exhibitions are mostly meant to make owners money and decide a few roster spots, not risk the franchise’s top player.
If Griffin needs even longer, so be it. Coach Mike Shanahan, team doctors and Griffin now trust each other to do the right thing and wait. Otherwise, Griffin’s future will likely last only a few seasons before he breaks down.
Last season seemed like a comedy with Griffin, Shanahan and Dr. James Andrews failing to communicate properly. If anything, the trio may now be overly conservative, if that’s possible.
“Coach wants to be real cautious with me and that’s understandable,” Griffin said. “So I go out to prove to my teammates, coaches and the fans I’m ready to go.”
It’s “little small victories” that Griffin now enjoys: throwing off his back leg, being able to slide properly so he can run in the middle of the field or showing Shanahan he can be trusted and given more time with starters during training camp.
“I don’t worry about my leg anymore,” he said. “I just play football.
“There’s no mental obstacles for me.”