History tells us the Washington Redskins shouldn’t expect much from quarterback Robert Griffin III this season. Most players who have had reconstructive knee surgery don’t regain top form until their second season following the procedure. As he has shown repeatedly, however, Griffin is not like most players.
In college, Griffin won the Heisman Trophy. He had the greatest season statistically for a first-year NFL quarterback. The league’s 2012 offensive rookie of the year made a fast recovery from the surgery pro athletes fear most.
And don’t be surprised when Griffin gets rolling again as soon as the season starts. His teammates won’t be.
“Man, he’s just so different,” tight end Fred Davis said. “He has the type of mental strength to come back and be confident right away with whatever he’s doing. . . . To be honest about it, the surprise wouldn’t be if Robert plays like Robert. The surprise would be if he didn’t.”
With his right knee finally sound again and his mind focused on football, Griffin will complete his impressive comeback when he starts Monday against Philadelphia in one of the NFL’s most highly anticipated openers. For Griffin, being all in for Week 1 is a finish line — but it also marks another beginning for someone who plans to climb many more mountains.
Griffin is determined to be better than ever and continue leading a Redskins turnaround that began after he arrived in the District. He’s driven to become the greatest player in history at his position while adding to the Super Bowl trophy case at Redskins Park. His injury temporarily derailed him. Griffin isn’t about to waste another second.
From the moment Coach Mike Shanahan permitted him to participate in 11-on-11 drills during preseason practice, Griffin showed how much he has grown from last season, teammates say. Command of the offense, reading the defense, recognizing the best choice on every play — it’s all second nature to him now.
“You guys [the media] aren’t out there [at practice], but let me just tell you this: He looks damn good,” fullback Darrel Young said. “The way he’s moving around, making plays . . . he’s full go with everything.”
Even while wearing another big piece of equipment. Griffin is expected to wear a brace this season to provide additional support for his right knee, which has been reconstructed twice.
Still, the Redskins say, Griffin in practice has displayed the quickness and speed (no quarterback was more elusive last season) that often frustrated would-be tacklers. His head seems to be in great shape too.
For a quarterback, Griffin’s powerful passing arm and second-to-none athleticism are great tools. His mind is his best one. Some players would get rusty while watching from the sideline throughout organized team activities, minicamp and most of training camp. Not Griffin.
By studying other Redskins quarterbacks on the field and concentrating during film sessions, Griffin actually uses the so-called mental reps to improve his game. Griffin’s commitment to detail and his ability to absorb information quickly were big factors in his smooth transition from Baylor to the Redskins. Those attributes also will aid him in his comeback.
So will the experience he gained about life in the NFL in general. Griffin understands the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates on offense. He knows what running plays worked best for 1,600-yard rusher Alfred Morris and where top wide receiver Pierre Garçon prefers to catch the football.
The team captain also has picked up on the tendencies of opposing defensive players. It’s all about knowing the tricks of the trade to provide the Redskins with a little boost from time to time. Griffin sees all the angles and knows how to play them.
Having his head in the game will enable Griffin “to get right back at it and have some fun,” Morris said. “He’s so smart and so prepared. Nothing catches him by surprise because he’s always working to get better.
“He stepped right back in after being out so long. Sometimes [at practice] it’s like he was never gone. If you didn’t know what happened to him you really wouldn’t know. You could say he looks like the same Robert, but you could also say he looks better.”
All of the praise for Griffin from inside the Redskins’ locker room begs the question: What should fans expect from the second-year superstar?
The Redskins’ offense could be the league’s best. Bank on Griffin driving the bus.
In 2012, the Redskins won 10 games and their first NFC East division title in 13 years. Twelve victories, another division title and a playoff victory or two is what will come next.
Griffin ranked third in the league with a 102.4 passer rating and fourth with a 65.6 completion percentage. He’ll cycle through his progressions and find open targets even faster this time around.
As a runner, Griffin set a rookie rushing record for quarterbacks. Now, Griffin is intent on showing he has the passing chops to be one of the NFL’s best in a more traditional drop-back attack, and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is expected to call fewer designed quarterback runs as Griffin gets back in the groove. Griffin has promised his family and teammates he’ll protect himself when he does run, which falls under the category of great news for the Redskins.
“He definitely knows he has to be smart,” Davis said. “But he’ll still be exciting. You know Robert will put on a show.”
The second act is about to start. The first was one great — this one will be better.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.