Severe Knee Injury for RGIII Doesn't Mean It's Time to Panic in Washington

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

No, Washington Redskins fans, I'm not going to sit here and patronize you by doing my best Kevin Bacon impression. All is not well with Robert Griffin III, your 22-year-old franchise savior. 

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Twitter late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning that the highest-rated rookie quarterback in NFL history is indeed undergoing surgery to repair two fully torn ligaments in the right knee that have acted as his body's lone villain for the better part of the last four years. 

And I use the present tense because Mort also reports that the famed Dr. James Andrews is performing said surgery this morning. Assuming the Redskins' 2013 regular season kicks off on Sun., Sept. 8, that gives Griffin 242 days to rehab and get back into playing shape. 

In the tweet above, Mortensen stated that the projected recovery would take six to eight months. While that might seem ambitious considering Griffin has already torn the ACL in this knee, even the worst-case scenario in that timeline wouldn't likely cost RGIII more than a game or two.

In the best-case scenario, he's back for the start of training camp. 

So while all is far from well, it truly isn't time to panic. Andrews operated on Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson at this point last year. Peterson, who is five years older than Griffin and much more reliant on his knees to perform his job, wasn't just able to return for Minnesota's opening game 253 days after surgery, but he went on to have one of the most productive seasons in NFL history.

Peterson might be a special case, but Griffin is a special player and a supernatural athlete. When he tore his ACL in 2009 at Baylor, he was running and cutting within five months, telling a local Texas television station he was between 70 and 80 percent healthy. He didn't suit up for the Bears' spring game six months after surgery but was already practicing at that point.

Of course, this injury is both new and old. There's no telling how quickly he'll recover this time, but most signs still point to RGIII getting back before it's too late for 2013 to be successful. And while it's nearly impossible and arguably a little cruel to call something like this a blessing in disguise, I'm tempted to say that we may very well view it that way one day. 

That's because this could end up serving as the wake-up call that Griffin, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins organization needed. This franchise sold the farm and more for the right to select Griffin with the No. 2 overall pick. And so if they're going to protect their hefty investment, what happened to him in 2012 can never, ever happen again. 

Had Griffin avoided serious injury in this case, would the 'Skins have learned their lesson? The man can't take the hits he took last year and survive in this league. His game has to change. He doesn't have to become a Manning-esque pocket passer, but he's risking becoming another Michael Vick

In Atlanta, Vick never had an injury this scary. Instead, he's spent his entire career dealing with a series of bumps, bruises, rung bells and the occasional broken bone. As a result, he's never truly been forced to change, and his coaches have never felt an urgent need to compel said change. 

Even before the excrement hit the fan on Sunday, it was becoming clear that the Redskins had to bolster their pass protection and mold Griffin to become more of a pocket passer. His ability to scramble is a nice weapon, as is the read-option, but the former should only be utilized when all else has failed, and the latter has to be special rather than the norm.

So breathe, Redskins fans. Breathe. Griffin isn't even 23 years old yet. If the 'Skins play their cards right, they'll have plenty of big moments ahead with him under center. They knew he'd be at risk, which is a big reason why Kirk Cousins is on the roster.

The fourth-round pick out of Michigan State can hold things down in the meantime, while RGIII focuses on absorbing what's left of Shanahan's playbook (he didn't learn it all as a rookie) and getting healthy. 

If all goes according to plan, 2013 will be salvageable. And if this scary experience has in any way altered Washington's overall plan in order to prevent an incident like this from happening again, this could be the hour that optimists claim is darkest before dawn. 

If this injury helps to ensure that the Redskins get even a little more serious about keeping the city's most important athlete out of harm's way, then maybe it will one day be looked back on as somewhat of a necessary evil.