Projecting RG3's Recovery Timeline As QB Comes Back from ACL Tear

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Projecting RG3's Recovery Timeline As QB Comes Back from ACL Tear
Al Bello/Getty Images

In the fourth quarter of the Washington Redskins' 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, quarterback Robert Griffin III could do nothing more than lay with his head down on the FedEx Field dirt. 

A muffed snap. A buckle of his already-hurting knee. More writhing pain.

Griffin III's day was finally over. 

Nearly 48 long hours later, the full extent of his knee injury is still mostly a mystery. 

If Griffin III's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is completely torn—a result that doctors cannot confirm or deny at this point, according to the Washington Post—the former Heisman Trophy winner will again approach a recovery timeline he's faced before while a sophomore and junior at the University of Baylor. 

And if Griffin III's first recovery is any indication, the second may be more Adrian Peterson-like than the slow, year-and-a-half process that some Redskins fans are fearing the most now. 

First, the original story of his first knee injury. 

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Back in September of 2009, Griffin III's knee first buckled during the first half of Baylor's eventual 68-13 win over Northwestern State. Griffin III remained on the ground for several quiet minutes before exiting the game, wrapping up his knee and then returning to finish out the first half. 

Up 41-10 at the half, Griffin III took a seat on the Baylor bench, still assuming his knee was going to be fine to play on the rest of the season. 

A few days later, reality hit: Griffin III had an "isolated tear" in his right ACL, according to ESPN, and his 2009 campaign at Baylor was over. 

Most wondered what a knee reconstruction would do to the transcendent quarterback, one equally dependent on his ability to run at Olympic speeds and his prowess throwing the football downfield. Would he ever be the same? Was the NFL dream over? 

Regardless of the implications, Griffin III's injury required surgery, and he successfully underwent the procedure in October of 2009. Ironically enough, the surgery was completed by a former Redskins player and Baylor alumni, according to Cindy Boren of the Washington Post. 

Mark Adickes, a guard for the Redskins in the 1990s and an orthopedic surgeon in Houston, used two screws and rubber band to help hold together Griffin III's newly constructed ACL

The previous injury and subsequent surgery remains one of the main road blocks for doctors currently diagnosing the extent of damage from his new injury. Results from his MRI are hard to differentiate between his former injury and the damage he suffered Sunday.

However, if we assume a complete tear of the ACL—as was the case in 2009—a recovery timeline can start being sketched out. 

Back in 2009-10, Griffin underwent surgery in October, and was running and cutting by February, according to this feature from KWTX in Waco, TX. While missing all of Baylor's offseason programs, Griffin III told Sports Illustrated in late June that he felt "faster" and "stronger" following the surgery. 

And wouldn't you know it, Griffin III started Baylor's season-opening win over Sam Houston State on Sept. 4, 2010, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. A little under 11 months after surgery to reconstruct his right knee, Griffin III showed no ill-effects from the surgery. 

Of course, his first injury was an "isolated" tear, meaning no other damage was suffered to stabilizing ligaments in the knee. This time around, Griffin III may have tears in the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). 

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson provides the most optimistic timeline for Griffin III. 

In late December of last season, Peterson tore both his medial collateral ligament (MCL) and ACL on the very same field where Griffin III suffered his knee injury Sunday. Peterson underwent surgery in January of 2012 but was able to rehab and return by the start of the 2012 season—a scenario previously seen as impossible, especially for a running back like Peterson. 

Not only did Peterson return, but he came back better than over. Over 16 games, Peterson came just nine yards short of the NFL's all-time rushing record while leading the Vikings to an unexpected playoff berth. 

Normal recovery from an ACL injury and surgery is nine to 12 months, which would put most of Griffin III's 2013 season in jeopardy. The rehab includes intense physical therapy that is often times worse than the actual surgery.

However, athletes like Griffin III and Peterson are different than 99 percent of the population. 

Griffin III has already proved an ability to return from such a devastating injury, and like any athlete playing now, Peterson's recovery timeline provides a fresh look at the potential for returning to the playing field healthy and stronger than before. 

If Griffin III's diagnosis comes back as a completely torn ACL, the 2013 season isn't over for the Washington Redskins.

Griffin III will be hard-pressed to be back to playing health by the start of the season, but is anyone ready to count him out after the recoveries we have already witnessed in this sport?

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