In April of 2012, less than 48 hours after drafting his quarterback of the future, Robert Griffin III, Mike Shanahan spent another draft pick on another quarterback. That quarterback, Kirk Cousins, gained trade value with some strong performances during his rookie season, but Shanahan and the Washington Redskins refused to consider trading him.
They've invested deeply in Cousins as a reliable insurance policy for superstar starter Robert Griffin III. And that's why they can't be afraid to use Cousins at any point during the 2013 regular season.
Griffin can't put himself in a position to take big hits as much as he did last year. We'll likely get a feel early on for how much his style and the Redskins' offensive strategy have changed based on the state of his right knee. He hasn't seen live game action since he was injured in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend in January.
The idea of Griffin being on a leash sounds silly, but if he starts Week 1 and is getting himself in harm's way again and/or looks anything less than 100 percent, Shanahan shouldn't be afraid to sideline his stud quarterback in favor of Cousins.
Reports on Friday suggested that those concerns could be valid. ESPN's Trey Wingo heard from a source that Dr. James Andrews—who operated on Griffin's ACL and LCL—was somewhat worried about the Redskins' plans for him.
Andrews disputed that report, per Brian McNally of The Washington Times. But logically, there's a risk that comes with such a fierce injury, especially when you consider the expedited recovery time. Modern medicine is amazing, but coming back from an ACL tear in eight months is still quite a challenge.
His knee might have passed all of the tests, but Griffin must be in top mental shape as well. We'll get a fairly immediate feel for how prepared he is for contact and how much his approach has changed. If he looks tentative with the entire football world watching in next Monday's opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Shanahan has to consider tapping the brakes.
It would be nice for the 'Skins to have Griffin in the opener and in Green Bay the following week, but if he isn't 100 percent or it appears he's running the risk of re-re-aggravating that injury, it wouldn't be worth it.
The Redskins have to continue to think about the long game. That means that, for now, Griffin needs a leash.
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