Dr. James Andrews and Robert Griffin III during the playoff game against Seattle. (Johnathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Robert Griffin III has made his way through the first four-plus months of his rehabilitation from his January knee surgeries at an impressive rate. Throughout the whole process, Griffin by all accounts has remained upbeat and confident. Teammates that have trained with him on a daily basis since the winter say they have never seen him discouraged.

Griffin said on Thursday that’s because he has never lacked confidence during his rehabilitation, and that he has yet to suffer a setback. He admits that the most challenging point of his journey to date actually occurred when he woke up right after surgery. That was the moment when Griffin realized the extent of his knee injury, and how hard he would have to work to return to top form. Griffin said reflecting on that moment remains painful.

“There was no point in the injury process or surgery that I woke up and said, ‘Oh no, I might not play again,’ ” Griffin recalled. “That was never a thought that crossed my mind.  You know, the tough part about it honestly was I went in the surgery not knowing what was wrong.”

Griffin hobbled off the field in the fourth quarter of his team’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks knowing that his knee was badly injured. MRI exam results showed that his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) was at least partially torn, and people with knowledge of the situation said at the time that it was believed that Griffin’s ACL was at least partially torn as well.

But questions remained about the full extent, and doctors didn’t expect to find the answers to those questions until they opened Griffin’s knee up.

“The doctor told me after he looked at the MRI that he was not sure if the ACL was gone, which gave me, my family and the organization a little bit of hope that the injury would not as serious,” said Griffin, who until Thursday hadn’t spoken extensively about the surgery or his rehab.

Griffin said his father told him that Dr. James Andrews examined the quarterback’s injured right knee on the operating table for 15 minutes, initially unsure what to do. Griffin added, “He said if I were 40 years old and I was not going to play football anymore and just play pickup game of basketball here or there, I would not have needed the surgery on my ACL, but because of the player that I am and the type of game that I can play, he went ahead and did it for me because he felt it was needed.”

Griffin, of course, didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t find out until he groggily felt his knees to learn what had happened.

“I knew I was going to have to get my LCL repaired but looking at the MRIs and everything we couldn’t really tell if my ACL needed to be repaired,” the quarterback said. “So, you know, I have been through this before [in 2009], so I know if you have a patella tendon graft [to reconstruct the ACL] on the same knee, you can’t get it from the same knee. So I knew when I got put to sleep if I woke up and felt my left knee [where the patella tendon was taken from], that I’d had surgery on my ACL.”

He continued: “So I woke up, the nurse didn’t notice I was up, and I felt my left leg and I went back to sleep because I didn’t want to have to deal with it at that time. Yeah, it’s tough for me to talk about it. It’s one of the things I get emotional about because it’s tough at that time. I woke back up and I told everybody who was there in that room with me and it was tough. I mean that’s the easiest way to say it.  Yeah, I cried, real men cry. It doesn’t matter and I moved on. As soon as we finished our little cry festival, I put the date of the first week in my phone and that was my goal since then. You know, the doctors have tried to keep me down and keep me from doing so many things, and I appreciate that from them because that is what they are supposed to do, while at the same time, I have to push through it because that is what you have to do with an injury like this.”

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