Two situations spring to mind when I think about Robert Griffin III under center for the Washington Redskins just eight months removed from a torn ACL, not to mention without attempting so much as a single pass in a preseason game this summer.
First, I think of Donovan McNabb in 2007, less than one year after his torn ACL. It was not Five’s finest season, particularly the first few weeks while he was shaking off the rust. McNabb posted passer ratings of 60.7, 74.5, and 61.0 in three of his first four games back – all losses – and the Eagles wound up finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
Next I think of Michael Vick in 2012, when he more or less missed the entire preseason with injuries. Vick attempted all of seven passes between two exhibition games, and when the regular season arrived, it showed. He completed 51.8% of his passes and threw four interceptions while narrowly escaping Cleveland with a 17-16 win, a sign of things to come as it turned out.
Although it would seem there are multiple forces at work against Griffin, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan reiterated on Monday that Griffin will be the starting quarterback for the season opener against the Eagles next week. Having seen signal callers in similar situations before, I have to wonder whether the second-year player will be ready for live action.
For what it’s worth, his head coach and teammates sound impressed by what they’ve seen from Griffin. Shanahan claims he wouldn’t put his 23-year-old franchise quarterback on the field if they weren’t confident he was able to do everything they asked. According to the guys inside the huddle, like Villanova product Darrel Young, it’s the same RG3.
“You guys [the media] aren’t out there [at practice], but let me just tell you this: He looks damn good,” fullback Darrel Young said. “The way he’s moving around, making plays . . . he’s full go with everything.”
If he is truly as good as new, that’s great news for Griffin and for football fans. After watching Adrian Peterson run wild over the NFL less than a year removed from the same type of injury, it certainly looked like players can come back faster than ever.
Even if it’s not a question of physical limitations for Griffin though, what about the lack of a preseason? Griffin only began practicing 11-on-11 against the Redskins defense a few weeks ago, but even had he been going against them all training camp, they can’t simulate a live pass rush that’s coming to get the quarterback, or what it will be like the first time he takes a hit.
Vick has come to understand the importance of getting some work in during the preseason since last year's disastrous opening-day performance. In Reuben Frank’s story for CSN, the four-time Pro Bowler talks about how much more prepared he is for this season over last.
“Honestly? Yeah, I think it did affect me, a lot,” Vick said, referring to last year's preseason. “It takes a while to get adjusted, and yeah, I’ve been in the game a long time and I’m a veteran and I know what it feels like to be in the game, but sometimes there’s really no way of simulating that -- the game-type atmosphere.
To be fair, Griffin may already be a more well-rounded player in year two in the NFL than Vick ever was, but does that mean he’ll be ready to hit the ground running on September 9? That’s a little difficult to take on faith based on the historical and anecdotal evidence. Even Peterson didn’t really hit his stride until a month into the season, and there’s a lot less going on for a running back.
Granted, Griffin is a rare breed, but will he be as ready as possible for Monday night when the lights go on? It seems like a stretch.