Griffin, who on Jan. 9 had his right knee reconstructed after he tore ligaments in it against Seattle, has been gunning for a return to action by the start of the NFL regular season on Sept. 9. He has healed at an impressive rate, making strides each week. Because of that progress, Griffin said a return on Day 1 of training camp is his realistic goal.
“Without a doubt,” he said after Thursday’s offseason practice.
“One, it’s a mind-set, and two, it’s how I felt and how it’s progressed,” Griffin said. “Over the last three weeks, I’ve had a lot of progress and I feel a lot better. If you think training camp is a month, month-and-a-half away, two months, I feel really good about that. And the start of the season is even farther than that, so I feel good about that, and that’s why I say, ‘Without a doubt.’”
Griffin on Thursday concluded a four-day stretch of on-field work – the longest such stretch of his rehab. Griffin again did work with fellow rehabbing teammates on the side while the rest of the squad practiced. The quarterback, as he has in each of the two previous weeks, took snaps from a trainer, dropped back or rolled out and passed to wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight ends Fred Davis, Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson.
For a second straight week, he wrapped up practice by doing a series of explosive sprints, only this time, they were longer. Rather than sprinting back and forth across the field as he did last week, Griffin – along with Reed – sprinted down one sideline, walked across the end zone, then sprinted back up the opposite sideline and then made the lap again a handful of times.
“This week was a big week, going four straight days on the field,” Griffin said. “On previous weeks, we’ve had a day off, so to go four straight, throwing every day, planting, cutting, doing the routes to the receivers.”
Further laying out his progress, Griffin said, “I’m throwing on the run a lot more, doing a lot more planting out of the play-action – the type of throws we do in our offense. That’s the encouraging part. I also bumped up the long-distance running, as you all saw today. I ran a little bit more. That’s all good. I’m feeling more comfortable doing everything, and coaches are saying I look a lot better – when they do get to chance to sneak a peek in there. They say I look a lot more comfortable throwing the ball, I look relaxed and it shows.”
Griffin said he experienced no soreness or setbacks at the practice or following any of the consecutive days of practice.
Left to do on his check list: “Advanced running and cutting stage where you run full-speed to the right and cut to the left,” he said. “That’s the type of stuff I have to get done in the next two months, and it will get done.”
Griffin said, “I’m getting tired of watching” practices. Now, a total of 49 days stand between Griffin and the start of training camp.
The question remains as to whether or not he should shoot for a July 25th return.
Griffin says the answer is yes, but he conceded that he wouldn’t attempt to do so if there were any limitations or uncertainties remaining.
“I think it is the right target if I’m healthy,” he said. “I’ve talked to coach, I’ve talked to the doctors and I’ve talked to Larry, and I’ve talked to everybody that’s close to me. If I’m ready to go Week 1, then I’ll play. If I’m not ready to go, then I can swallow my pride and not play. It’s that simple. That’s what I talked to coach, I said I’ll be honest with him and if I feel like I’m ready to go and there’s no doubt in my mind that I can play, then I’ll be ready to go. But if there’s an ounce of doubt or a minor setback, then I won’t play.”
Coach Mike Shanahan praised Griffin’s mind-set, but said the decision isn’t in the hands of he or Griffin.
“I don’t think anyone knows for sure. I like that goal,” Shanahan said. “You always want somebody to have goals, that’s for sure. You want him to come back, assuming he’s ready to go, but the doctor’s got to okay him. From the beginning, they talked about the recovery time being seven months to nine months. I think Aug. 9 is seven months, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Allowing Griffin to return prematurely would put the quarterback at risk of a setback, and put the Redskins at risk of losing a franchise quarterback that they gave up three first-round picks and a second-rounder to acquire.
But Shanahan said he doesn’t feel pressure to handle this comeback – compared to those of other players — with extreme caution.
“I do the same thing I do during the season, and I do the same thing I’ve been doing 40 years of coaching: I ask the doctors,” the coach said. “They’re the best at what they do. They’re going to tell me if he’s ready to go and when he’s ready to go. That’s what they do for a living. They take a look at the ACL, the LCL, they’re going to look at it inside and out, they’ll test his strength, they’ll watch his agility drills and tell me where he’s at. These guys know what they’re doing, and when the doctors say he’s okay, then I’ll evaluate it on a day-to-day basis and I’ll try to make a decision on if he can do everything full-speed, just like he did last year.”
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