Watching and listening to Robert Griffin III ease his way back into serious football on a reconstructed right knee is fascinating.
Mainly because he really, really hates easing his way back into it.
By contrast, the coaches and medical staff on the Redskins really, really hate how RG3 really, really hates easing his way back into it.
Thus, the best battle of training camp is the tug-of-war between two forces that, in the grand scheme of it, are both desirable and beneficial to the franchise and its supernova of a player. Even people with no vested interest or emotion in either RGIII or the Redskins, have to admit that he has “it,’’ and that they have to protect “it” to keep “it” around as long as possible and save “it” from the damage done to “it” last year.
The result: a subtle war of words that’s already getting less subtle with every Griffin public utterance, and the football equivalent of Griffin walking a tightrope while Mike Shanahan & Co. dash frantically back and forth with a safety net, ordering him to come down this instant.
Even with the most cautious of approaches – in which he doesn’t take a snap in live-game conditions until the Monday night season opener Sept. 9 – Griffin would still beat Adrian Peterson back to action by more than two weeks. And Peterson is the gold standard for impossible returns from torn knee ligaments, at about 8½ months.
Yet Griffin, if he had his way, would like to be on the field now, barely six months after that gruesome night in January.
Here’s an update from the first week of camp, starting with the day the team reported for conditioning drills and Griffin spoke for the first time since minicamps a month earlier:
- Griffin said he’s always been an “overachiever” and wants to “prove to everybody that I’m ready to go” because “I know everybody is going to question me and doubt me.” But, at the urging of Shanahan and the doctors he says, “I’m going to be – I don’t want to say ‘compliant,’ but I’m going to follow those rules.”
- After saying he’ll wear a knee brace in practice and games, he went out for the first drill without a brace. Later, he shrugged it off and said he just “forgets” it sometimes.
- After being restricted to non-contact drills, he raced downfield to chase a teammate returning an interception, then later dove onto a fumble, then after that finished off a scramble with a long, dramatic slide, to the delight of the fans watching.
- He never misses a chance to point out how the staff wants him to take it slow – and how he’d really rather not: “All I do is I go out there and prove to my teammates, prove to the coaches, to the fans that I’m ready to go. That’s my only goal.’’
On Monday, Griffin called the gradual build-up to his return “Operation Patience.” Daily, it seems like the operation has been botched and there’s a malpractice suit in the works.
If this carries the faint scent of Michael Jordan’s battle with the Bulls to come back as soon as he wanted to from his broken foot three decades ago, you’re on the right track. If anyone in the NFL today deserves the adjective “Jordanesque,” it’s Griffin, in every way, including his ferocious passion to play, lead and dominate, his absolute faith in himself and his way of instilling it in everyone around him … and his stubbornness and desire to use imagined slights as fuel.
The power play with MJ and the Bulls never ended. It won’t end with RG3, either. So, until he actually takes the field, enjoy how the Redskins put him in a straitjacket and convince him that it’s for his and everybody’s good.
And Griffith … he’ll be the guy smiling, nodding and attempting to wriggle out of that straitjacket so he can take his curtain call.