Assessing Injury Return Scenarios for RG3

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Assessing Injury Return Scenarios for RG3

The return of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has finally hit Adrian Peterson levels. 

On Monday, and only six months removed from reconstructive knee surgery, RG3 tweeted that doctors had cleared him for practice ahead of Redskins training camp. The second-year quarterback will now avoid landing on the active/PUP list, giving him a very obtainable opportunity to start the Redskins' Week 1 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 9. 

Now that the Redskins know they'll have RG3 available for training camp, head coach Mike Shanahan must decide on the best timetable scenario for his full return.

While quarterbacks are fully protected from hits during training camp, playing Griffin III in preseason games could unnecessarily and prematurely expose him and his knee. However, not giving the quarterback live-game reps before the regular season also comes with inherent risks. 

Below are the four most plausible options available to Shanahan in assessing RG3's recovery timetable. We also talked with Will Carroll, Bleacher Report's lead writer for sports medicine, about his thoughts on each scenario.

 

Full Participation in Training Camp, Full Preseason

In this scenario, Griffin III would be allowed the freedom to practice fully from the start of training camp to the end, while also taking the full starter's reps during the preseason. In essence, this path would treat RG3 as a completely healthy quarterback ready for the full work load of any other starter.

Consider that during his rookie season, Griffin III attempted just 31 passes and ran five times over three preseason games last August. While those totals equate to nothing more than a single regular-season game, replicating them in 2013 would mean exposing the QB over three finger-crossed, breath-held weeks. 

Likelihood: Very Low

Carroll's Take: "I think the thing to keep in mind is there's going to be a separation between what he could do and should do. He could play now. He probably could have played a month ago. If Week 1 were next week, I think he'd be in there, but it's not."

 

Limited Participation to Start Camp, No Preseason Games

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According to various reports, including from ESPN's Adam Schefter, this path appears to be the most likely. It's also the same avenue taken by Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings last fall, and the results of that decision obviously paid off in a big way.

The idea is very simple: By limiting RG3 in camp and keeping him away from the obvious re-injury risks of the preseason, the Redskins will ensure their starting quarterback is as healthy and strong in the restructured knee as possible before Week 1. 

Remember, the Vikings safe-guarded Peterson to the nth degree last summer. While Peterson eventually came out of the regular-season gates a little slow (at least by his standards), the decision to ease him back into full-contact mode ended up looking like a wise choice. 

Likelihood: High

Carroll's Take: "I think it's more a confidence thing than a physical thing. Lots of athletes don't play or don't play much in the preseason, and I've never seen where it hurt them. This isn't the equivalent of a holdout."

 

Limited Participation to Start Camp, One or Two Very Limited Preseason Games

While less likely than the above scenario, allowing RG3 to play a series or two during the preseason has roots in wisdom. 

No one wants to see Griffin III get hurt during one of these series, but it would allow the young quarterback to get a feel for live-game action before he starts the regular season.

The speed of the game never appeared to be a problem for Griffin III as a rookie, but missing the entire preseason could make for a sloppy start to 2013. Re-adjusting to the speed of the game on the fly in Week 1 might also open RG3 up for the same type of re-injury the Redskins are trying to avoid. 

Likelihood: Relatively High

Carroll's Take: "I think [the Redskins' best decision] would be more the limited participation with one or two games. I think he does need to get out there, test the leg, show he can take a hit, make those instinctual cuts, but not expose him to too much risk."

 

No Participation in Camp or Preseason Before Returning for the Regular Season

This scenario looks like a no-go, as the Redskins have already allowed Griffin III to work in a limited fashion on the first day of camp (per Mark Maske of the Washington Post). While he may be forced to sit out for long stretches of camp, RG3 will be taking part in the process.

The only scenario in which he would have sat out all of August and returned for the regular season would have involved a trip to the active/PUP, which Griffin III avoided. Still, there's never enough protection you can give to a second-year franchise quarterback coming off a devastating injury. 

Likelihood: Nearing Zero

 

Carroll's Take: "Can he make those instinctive cuts? We've already seen him run and cut, but those are scripted...Can he make every workout? Does the knee swell up and need lots of attention? Does he wear a brace and does it slow him down?"

 

Conclusion

Should Robert Griffin III participate during the 2013 preseason?

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The Redskins will have risks and rewards in each scenario, but minimizing the risks would appear to be the best return strategy available for both the team and RG3. With that mind, Shanahan and his staff must decide if giving their quarterback live-game reps during the preseason has significantly more reward than the risk associated. 

While Carroll doesn't believe holding Griffin III out of the preseason would be a huge factor to start his 2013 season, he does think building some confidence in the knee—via hits and cuts—would benefit the recovering quarterback. 

Either way, it's clear the Redskins have a plan in place for the return of RG3. Let's just hope the staff in Washington handles this situation better than the original injury.

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