With the preseason done and their roster trimming out of the way, the Washington Redskins can get down to the business of preparing in earnest for their season opener next Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field.
And that means, principally, it’s time to do whatever is left to be done to get quarterback Robert Griffin III ready to play in a regular season game without the benefit of offseason practices, a full-scale training camp or even a tiny taste of preseason action.
Griffin’s teammates say they expect him to be ready to play well against the Eagles.
“You can definitely accomplish that,” Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon said during the preseason. “It’s hard to not get game reps. But we practice like a game. So those reps are very important, and we have to take them seriously because those are the most live reps that he’s gonna get. It’s hard. It’s a lot of pressure. But he’ll be able to get past it.”
Many in the organization were particularly impressed when Griffin took virtually all the snaps in practices the previous two weeks at Redskins Park. People who viewed that work by Griffin said he resembled the same dynamic playmaker who was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year last season.
Griffin missed offseason practices after undergoing knee surgery in January. Coach Mike Shanahan eased Griffin back toward full-time duties during training camp and withheld him from the entire four-game preseason.
Griffin is expected to play against the Eagles after being cleared last week by orthopedist James Andrews, who performed the surgery on Griffin’s right knee. Andrews reexamined Griffin’s knee in Tampa on Thursday when the Redskins played their preseason finale there. Griffin declared himself, via Twitter, cleared and ready for takeoff.
Shanahan said following the game that night that Griffin was cleared but Andrews still had some concerns that Shanahan would discuss with Griffin over the weekend. But several people familiar with the situation said that night that there were no concerns significant enough to keep Griffin from playing and speculated that Shanahan merely wanted to see Griffin have another good week of practice while keeping the Eagles guessing just a little bit. It’s not much of a secret anymore, though, and Andrews denied Friday he had any concerns.
So the major issue appears to be Griffin’s sharpness, not his availability.
“He’s had a good week of preparation this week,” Shanahan said after the Redskins’ third preseason game. “He was in a lot of team situations, offense versus defense, some . . . work [facing the scout team] as well. He got a lot of reps this week, the majority of the reps, and there was no setback with his knee. That was a good sign. So hopefully next week he can get similar reps and be ready for the Monday night game.”
Griffin’s top backup, Kirk Cousins, also is coming off an injury. He missed the final two preseason games after suffering a sprained right foot. He said he plans to practice fully this week. But the Redskins, who are scheduled to practice Monday, kept four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster after Saturday’s NFL-mandated cutdown, with fourth-stringer Pat White joining Griffin, Cousins and veteran third-stringer Rex Grossman. That was perhaps in part due to having both Griffin and Cousins returning from injuries.
But Cousins said during the preseason that he expects Griffin to do just fine with only practices as his tuneup for the season.
“I think the coaches are going to do a good job of preparing him through the reps in practice,” Cousins said. “We’re gonna go full speed, and he’s gonna get a lot of great looks. He already has, starting in Richmond in training camp. He’ll be sharp. He’ll be ready. I don’t know that had he played in a [preseason] game that it would make a lot of difference, especially after he’s already got a year under his belt.”
The Redskins had three starters at quarterback during the preseason — Cousins, Grossman and White — and none of them was Griffin. Even so, Garcon said the offense didn’t find that overly disruptive.
“It’s not disruptive,” Garcon said. “It’s just part of football. Guys get injured. Offensive linemen get injured. Receivers get injured. Guys get in there and you just have to move on to the next person. We all practice hard. We all work hard to be prepared for whenever our number is called. It’s part of the game. It’s part of life. So you just have to go with the flow.”