Is RG3 in Danger of Missing the Start of the 2013 NFL Season?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IJanuary 9, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins is injured on a bad snap in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The clock has officially begun on the race for Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to return in time for the start of the 2013 season. 

Griffin III, who damaged both his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in the Redskins' 24-14 loss to in the Wild Card Round last Sunday, had both ligaments reconstructed during a surgical procedure performed by world-renowned sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Florida Wednesday morning. 

ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported late Tuesday night that Griffin III would need surgery on both the LCL—which he sprained in November—and the ACL, the same ligament that he needed reconstructed after tearing it while at Baylor in 2009. 

Griffin III's father confirmed to USA Today that both ligaments needed reconstruction. 

With surgery completed, the question on the minds of most will become: Can Griffin III return from a second surgery to be ready in time for 2013?

Following his first knee reconstruction, Griffin III returned 11 months later.

He tore his ACL—and only his ACL—during a late September game in 2009 against Northwestern State. After undergoing surgery in early October, Griffin III was able to start Baylor's first game of 2010 in early September—a game in which he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another against Sam Houston State. A year later, Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy.

Mortensen's report included information from team sources that Dr. Andrews told the Redskins that Griffin III will have a six-to-eight-month recovery timeline, even with the repair of the LCL included. 

Griffin's recovery is projected at six to eight months, barring any setbacks, sources said. The rehabilitation plan will focus primarily on strengthening Griffin's quadriceps to help protect and help stabilize the knee, according to sources. The reconstruction of the LCL is considered a complication, but sources said Andrews informed the Redskins it should rehab well during the same six-to-eight-month time frame as the ACL injury.

As of Wednesday, the start of the regular season in 2013 is roughly 34.5 weeks away. Six to eight months of recovery time would allow Griffin III to return in time for the start of 2013. In fact, the recovery timeline would give Griffin III a chance to participate in portions of training camp before the season, and possibly even preseason games. 

Recent recoveries from knee reconstructions should give the Redskins and Griffin III hope of playing by the time 2013 kicks off. 

According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker played 32 weeks after ACL and MCL surgery and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson played after 37 games. As stated above, Griffin III is 34.5 weeks away from opening day.

However, neither Welker or Peterson had prior knee-reconstruction surgery, and the MCL and LCL operate in different ways in stabilizing the knee. The LCL is a much more difficult ligament to rehab than an MCL. 

At least two other medical experts believe Griffin III's recovery timeline could be much longer than just six to eight months. 

According to ESPN's Dr. Michael Kaplan, a reconstruction of both the ACL and LCL will lengthen Griffin III's recovery time. 

Via ESPN's Dan Graziano:

On "SportsCenter" on Tuesday evening, Dr. Michael Kaplan speculated that the LCL procedure alone would require a recovery time of four to six months and that the combination of an LCL and ACL reconstruction could keep Griffin out "nine to 12 months, or maybe even longer than that." 

John Keim of the Washington Examiner spoke with another doctor that was even less optimistic about Griffin III's recovery. 

According to Dr. Richard Lehman of the United States Sports Center for Medicine, the possibility could be "50-50" for Griffin III to not play in 2013.

I would say there’s probably a 50-50 or 60-40 chance he doesn’t play next year just because even though he’ll be pretty good, he won’t be pretty good enough.  He’ll have decent stability but he his strength won’t be back. He’ll have rotational issues.

Dr. Lehman wasn't done. He opined that the first surgery will make it very difficult for Griffin III to return playing as fast as some have already predicted. 

A breakdown in the joint creates swelling and irritation. It’s harder to get your motion back so that little bit of arthritis in the knee makes it tougher to get your strength back and to get your swelling down. That’s why everyone keeps harping on the old ACL because the joint will be jacked up from his previous injury and all those things really slow down and make it tougher to come back.

Dr. Lehman also stressed that rehabbing the knee and surrounding muscles is a key for Griffin III's recovery, and also why it might take him longer to return. 

The joint service breaks down because you haven’t recreated all your strength and your verticals aren’t there and your 40 time is down. What ends up happening is you’re chipping off pieces of joint so you’re creating arthritis. The reason to get rehabbed completely is to make sure the joint is safe going forward.

The majority of athletes in cutting-intensive sports need at least nine to 12 months to make a full recovery from ACL surgery. That timeline has been somewhat lowered, especially in the NFL, by recent recoveries of top athletes. 

However, the first reconstruction of Griffin III's ACL and the addition of the LCL reconstruction makes him a special case, independent of recoveries from Peterson or Welker. 

Redskins team sources and Dr. Andrews appear optimistic—at least right now—about Griffin III's ability to play in 2013. Others are not. 

All we know for certain right now is that the clock to the start of the 2013 season has officially begun.