The return Washington Redskins fans have waited 246 long days for has finally arrived.
Robert Griffin III will finally get back under center at FedEx Field on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, a little over eight months after he was carried off the field after tearing his ACL and LCL in the NFC Divisional Round game versus the Seattle Seahawks.
The road to recovery has been long, arduous and some would say over-covered. Throughout the offseason, Griffin's name had been blanketed across all specters of media. Every story, half-story and morning Starbucks order was covered. It was as if RGIII was becoming something of a Tebow 2.0, minus the whole Tebowing thing and subbing in some, you know, football ability.
Simply put, the coverage of RGIII and his healing process up to this point has been vast.
But it's also totally understandable.
Griffin, in just one season in the nation's capital, has been groomed as the next "face" of the National Football League. His tremendous rookie campaign fundamentally changed the outlook for the Redskins, a franchise bereft of superstar talent for what feels like decades now, and he helped revolutionize the quarterback position alongside many other young arms.
So, in the grand scheme of things, at least we've begun over-covering good players. And with Griffin just hours away from his official return to the sideline, it's only right that we take a look back at these past eight months and chronicle his recovery.
Here's a look at a complete breakdown of the important events in Griffin's road to Week 1.
Jan. 6: The Play That Started It All
Hobbled after reaggravating a knee injury suffered in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, Griffin struggled mightily against the Seahawks as the game went on. His passes sailed above their targets, his designed runs ineffective and the Redskins' offense floundered after holding a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
With Seattle having finally pulled ahead 21-14 early in the fourth, the most fateful drive of Griffin's career began with a 12-yard sack from Bruce Irvin. The next play was an aborted snap from Redskins center Will Montgomery.
As Griffin attempted drop down and scoop up the low snap, this happened:
And the rest, as they say, well, it kind of stunk.
Jan. 9: Dr. James Andrews Performs Knee Reconstruction Surgery
Initial reports suggested that Griffin only suffered partial tears to his LCL and ACL. While the injury would still require surgery regardless, the recovery time and risk with partial tears is not as significant.
However, when given a full examination by Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who also serves as the Redskins' team doctor, the prognosis was far more dire. ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported that a total reconstruction would be necessary, which Andrews confirmed later that day when announcing Griffin had undergone "successful" surgery:
Robert Griffin III had successful knee surgery early this morning. He had a direct repair of his LCL and a re-do of his previous ACL reconstruction. We expect a full recovery and it is everybody's hope and belief that due to Robert's high motivation, he will be ready for the 2013 season.
Griffin previously tore his right ACL during his sophomore season at Baylor. He returned the next season to account for over 4,000 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns. I imagine that stat line is how most Redskins fans kept themselves from crying themselves to sleep at night this offseason.
February: Source Says RGIII Has Chance to Start Opener, Dr. Andrews Applauds Recovery Time
Mum was the word for almost the entire first month of Griffin's recovery. There were some whispers here and there, some statements from Griffin about persevering and the usual bluster that comes along with a superstar's recovery from a major injury.
And then someone decided to start sprinkling crazy dust on the whole scenario. First, it was an unnamed Redskins official who told ESPN's Adam Schefter that there was optimism that Griffin would start Week 1:
Redskins officials already are encouraged enough with @RGIII's recovery to believe he has a legitimate chance to start on opening day.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 14, 2013
Keep in mind that, one month into the process, very little is known about how the body will recover from such an injury. Not that Griffin himself was doing anything to halt the hype. In accordance with Adidas, which also helped run Derrick Rose's #TheReturn campaign, Griffin released a promotional video saying he was "all in" to start the first week of the regular season.
As for the man who might know a thing or two about knee recoveries? Dr. Andrews also seemed pleased with his patient's progress through the first month or so, according to Dan Loumena of The Los Angeles Times.
"We've got him well on his way," Andrews said. "He is an unbelievable athlete as you well know. His recovery is way ahead of schedule so far. We don't have to do much but try to hold him back, if you want to know the truth."
Regarding Week 1, he was a little more noncommittal.
"Our whole mode for him, though, is to do what is best for his career, not necessarily what is best for the first game next season," Andrews said. "So all of that has to be put on hold and let him get well."
March: First Signs of Rift With Redskins/Mike Shanahan Surface
Things continued their hunky-dory tone for much of March.
Griffin appeared at the Texas Capitol early in the month, where he claimed his knee was "good" and that he would be ready without specifying a date as to when, per the Associated Press via ESPN. Shanahan attempted to temper expectations a bit by saying he'd heed to the doctors' recommendations, but acknowledged that RGIII was "ahead of schedule," per Jim Corbett of USA Today.
Andrews did no such tempering, though, effusively heaping praise on the quarterback's recovery, calling it "unbelievable" and comparing him to a superhero, per ESPN.com.
In a text message exchange with ESPN's Trey Wingo on March 26, Griffin again was nothing short of positive with his recovery. But one particular portion of the message, which I've bolded for effect below, struck a chord with folks in the District and across the NFL:
My knee is getting better every day. The doctors say I'm ahead of schedule. My goal is to return healthy in week one but if I'm not ready then i will wait until i am, however long that is. My first NFL season and my injury that ended it showed me a lot about the league, my team and myself. i know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well. I m looking forward to playing the game we all love so much again and not behind at the negative. thanks for the overwhelming level of support that i've received, sic em bears and hail to the redskins!!
There are many folks (yours truly included) who took that as a thinly veiled shot at Mike and Kyle Shanahan. Both men took a pile of criticism in the aftermath of Griffin's injury for not taking him out of the game when he first aggravated the injury, and especially for their calling of multiple designed runs.
It wasn't known at the time if this had any level of veracity, but NFL.com's Ian Rapoport later confirmed through a source Griffin was upset about the play-calling.
May: First Word, Then Video of RGIII Throwing Leaks
For a process that got more press than Miley Cyrus' twerking habit, some pretty big developments somehow went under the radar.
Particularly, Griffin's return to football activity went unreported for about a month. Jim Corbett of USA Today spoke with Griffin's father, Robert Griffin II, in mid-May in an interview that revealed that RGIII had been throwing passes for about a month.
Prior to the NFL draft, in fact.
"He was throwing some prior to the draft," Robert Griffin II said. "Everything seems to be on cue. Everybody in the organization is targeting that season opener.''
While RGII indicated that the workouts weren't too strenuous, the news still reverberated around the league. And almost on cue, the Redskins' official Twitter feed released a Vine of Griffin participating in voluntary offseason workouts about a week later:
Griffin's drop-back in that video showed no major signs of hesitation in his knee, though they were practicing without pads. After his first public throwing appearance, Griffin also indicated that he was just weeks away from being allowed to cut "explosively," which, as everyone knows, plays juuuuust a bit of a factor in his game:
Griffin III: "Explosive sprinting is in the next couple weeks and cutting is a few weeks after that. Goal is to be ready for training camp."— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) May 23, 2013
He also, for the first of what would be many times, denied a rift between himself and the Shanahan family:
On relationship w coaches "only thing that needs to be repaired is my knee"— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) May 23, 2013
June: "Explosive Sprinting" Returns to RGIII's Repertoire
Remember that whole thing about RGIII cutting and sprinting I just talked about 10 seconds ago? Yeah, that stuff happened right on schedule as Griffin indicated.
At a June 11 workout, Griffin showed off his renewed sprinting ability by bursting from one sideline to another, per the Associated Press via ESPN. After the practice he reiterated what he had claimed throughout the offseason: That he'll be ready for Week 1 and his goal was to be in practice when the team started training camp.
"I've said it a bunch a times," Griffin said. "I'm pretty confident I'll be ready."
July: RGIII Puts a Ring on It, Returns to Practice—but Not to Preseason Action
It's safe to say that in the grand scheme of things, July was a pretty damn good month in the life of Robert Griffin III. Things tend to be good when you marry the love of your life and get to return to the game you love all in a 31-day span.
We're focusing on Griffin's recovery here, but we'd be remiss without mentioning Griffin's marriage to his college sweetheart, Rebecca Liddicoat. Baylor coach Art Briles sent out a photo of RGIII on his big day:
NFL Rookie of the Year - Heisman Trophy Winner - most importantly Baylor QB. RG3's wedding! pic.twitter.com/aeyMl4wUNx— Coach Art Briles (@CoachArtBriles) July 7, 2013
Redskins fans also found out about the impending nuptials. And through some crack investigative journalism (which just involved a quick search. But whatever.), the fans in the District and around the nation showed just how much they supported their quarterback by buying everything on his and Liddicoat's registry:
Thank you to the Fans who are helping buy ALL the items from our wedding registry at Bed Bath & Beyond … http://t.co/VM5BB2A1lE— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) May 19, 2013
A nice gesture that, of course, was blown out of proportion by folks upset about the poor buying for the rich.
Whatever. On to football.
About two weeks after his wedding, RGIII had another important milestone—testing with team doctors to see whether he'd be cleared for practice. As he had throughout every point in the recovery process, RGIII had no problem acing his test with flying colors:
Doctors cleared me to practice. Coach is going to ease me in. Thank you for your support & See you in Richmond— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) July 22, 2013
ESPN's Adam Schefter later reported that Shanahan put Griffin through an extensive workout when he was cleared, though team sources indicated he was still a long shot to play in the preseason. That sentiment was later confirmed by the Redskins coach, who seemed wholly unconcerned with No. 10 missing the entire preseason slate:
Shanahan on @RGIII: "It just doesn't make sense to play him in the preseason...It does take some times to get back in football shape."— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) July 25, 2013
Despite his return to practice, Griffin was entirely confined to 7-on-7 drills to avoid injury. While that level of conservatism made waves around the league, most were satisfied with a Week 1 target date. At least at first.
Aug. 12: A Whole Bunch of Stuff Happens
The ramping up of activity between Griffin playing in 7-on-7 drills and him returning to regular 11-on-11 drills was a slow burn. It was happening at the perfect-storm time for media as well. The baseball season was in the dog days of August, college football was still weeks away and everyone was excited about talking in earnest about the kinda-sorta games that go on in the preseason.
Griffin obviously sat out the Redskins' first preseason game, a 22-21 win over the Tennessee Titans. Backup Kirk Cousins looked phenomenal in that contest, completing 6 of 7 passes for 52 yards and a score.
And then suddenly RGIII was ready to ramp up his activity. Immediately.
In a press conference on Aug. 12, Griffin not only confirmed that he'd be returning to 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday (Aug. 13), but he also indicated that he wanted to show off his recovery in the preseason, per The Washington Post's Mike Jones:
Griffin says "I've heard multiple reports, but yes, that's the plan to do 11-on-11 tomorrow."— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 12, 2013
Griffin: "I want to play in the preseason. ... if things go great these next couple days, maybe, but it's a hard 'no' right now."— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 12, 2013
Oh, and Griffin wasn't finished with those quotes. The Washington Times' Rich Campbell had the one that really had everyone talking.
But like Coach said, and he’s 100 percent right: I don’t have to understand it, I don’t have to like it. But at the end of the day, if he plays me Week 1 and I’m ready to go, then I’ll give him a salute and I’ll go play my butt off for him.
You can imagine the reaction. Perhaps knowing that he said something that would set off a firestorm, Griffin immediately took to Twitter to (again) deny tension with Shanahan:
There is no friction. There is an understanding between coach and player. That is all. Don't have to like everything— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 12, 2013
Meanwhile, the Redskins coach hit the "automated message reply" button to repeat what he's said all along:
Shanahan says "no possibility" of Griffin playing in the preseason.— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 12, 2013
Rest of August: Wheel-Spinning, Concerns (?) and Clearance
Set off in part by Griffin's controversial comments, this was about the time where the only thing we didn't know about him was what type of pajamas he wears. Redskins practice became a constant barrage of reporters asking the same questions, getting the same answers and reporting on the same things when even one word differed from Shanahan and Griffin.
I'm not knocking the hustle. I'm just noting that almost nothing of significance came out of the District for almost a two-week period for the remainder of the month. Andrews examined Griffin, continued nodding along and patting himself on the back for another job well done (I'm assuming) and everyone was playing the waiting game until Week 1.
During that time, talks of dissatisfaction all but ceased and RGIII went to the daily grind of working with teammates. It was a pretty normal training camp except for the one looming question on the table: Would Griffin be cleared for Philadelphia?
With one picture, Griffin answered that question for the world:
Operation Patience....Complete. Cleared. To God Be The Glory http://t.co/GxYMw8Cs57— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 30, 2013
That said, Dr. Andrews wasn't quite ready to give his rubber-stamp of approval just yet. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted out a note from colleague Trey Wingo, who received word that Andrews was worried about how Griffin would be used in the Washington offense:
Per ESPN's Trey Wingo: doctor has expressed concern about how Redskins plan to use RGIII in their offense.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 30, 2013
Of course, Andrews subsequently denied this when speaking with The Washington Times' Brian McNally:
Dr. Andrews disputes ESPN report on his "concerns" about RG3's use. Via text: "Not true. Team will use [Griffin] appropriately. No concerns"— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) August 30, 2013
So, if you're having trouble following at home: ESPN reported Andrews had concerns. Andrews denied he had concerns. Just your basic huge story, turned to non-story, turned to no one having any idea what was really said behind closed doors.
The takeaway: Robert Griffin III would play Week 1 against the Eagles.
Sept. 2: "Operation Patience" Officially Ends, Shanahan Names Griffin Starter
While it had become perhaps the biggest "no duh" answer of the preseason, Shanahan finally ended what little speculation remained about Griffin's status on Sept. 2. As expected, Pat White would take over as starter and Griffin would be moving to a "special packages/punt protector" role.
Whoops, wrong Heisman winner. Wrong season.
Here's Shanahan naming Griffin the starter, via NFL.com's Jeff Darlington:
Mike Shanahan on @RGIII: "He’ll be our starter on Monday night, unless there is some crazy setback we don’t anticipate."— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 2, 2013
With that, the arduous process had finally concluded. Almost eight months to the day Robert Griffin III's career was placed on hold, he was officially named the Week 1 starter in the nation's capital once more.
He'll be under the Monday Night Football bright lights, taking on an Eagles team with its own bevy of intrigue thanks to the arrival of Chip Kelly.
One last question remains, though: Can Superman still fly?
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