It’s hard to imagine that Robert Griffin III will seamlessly return to the field in Week 1 without showing signs of rust after missing the entire 2013 preseason.
Coach Mike Shanahan doesn’t seem worried, though, despite his quarterback not seeing even a second of live game action to this point. Shanahan said Griffin’s four weeks of practice without limitation and game-speed reps make rust “not a concern,” per Mike Jones of the Washington Post.
It’s smart to express confidence in a player who definitely needs the support. But is Shanahan being a little unrealistic about Griffin’s early performance in 2013?
The truth is, we don’t know how he will look to start the season. But it’s impossible to not be a little bit concerned about him taking a shot to the knee, especially considering his style of play and the NFL’s focus on avoiding hits to players’ helmets.
Griffin hasn’t taken a snap since tearing up his knee against Seattle in the playoffs. Washington’s offseason activities carried out while RGIII vigorously rehabbed his knee in order to be ready as quickly as humanely—or inhumanely—possibly.
So why is Shanahan so confident he won’t miss a beat?
His theory completely ignores a couple of things. First is contact. Griffin should be able to handle that OK, although the first big hit he takes might sting a little harder than usual. The second is pressure on his knee while making cuts and while planting to throw.
At least one analyst is concerned about how the injury will affect his passing. ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski offered the following insight on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike back in August, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk:
I was watching him throw the football — there were a few clips — and I was concerned in the weight transfer. I didn’t see the clean mechanics I’ve seen in the past. I’m not there every day, I’m not a doctor, but he just looks a little different right now. It’s pregame, it was warmup, people can discount that. I’m just saying from my eye, I didn’t see the clean drops, the weight transfer, stay on that back foot, snap the hips, that I’d seen out of him.
Look, RGIII is a great talent. But a lot of what allows him to be so much better than his peers is the structural stability of his body. While healed enough to take the field and run the offense, it’s impossible to believe his knee is ready to allow him to make the football movements that make him an elite threat on the field.
Adrian Peterson got off to a slow start after recovering from a similar injury and then standing on the sidelines all preseason. After slowly recovering and rebuilding the strength and muscle memory in his knee during the first six weeks of the year, Peterson exploded, becoming the truly special athlete that he is.
There’s no doubt that, barring injury, big things are coming for RGIII in 2013. But don’t be surprised if it takes some time before he’s the dynamic dual-threat player who took the NFL by storm in his rookie season.