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RG3's displeasure with team's plans for him actually works best for Mike Shanahan, Redskins

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

On Monday, Robert Griffin III declared, "there's no doubt I'm playing Week 1. That's the way I feel about it."

It's a welcome statement for Washington Redskins fans, yet such optimism about returning from a knee injury suffered in January's playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, or even his disclosure he's getting additional live reps in practice, wasn't the most encouraging thing coming from Griffin's weekly meeting with the media.

Instead it was his reaction when asked about whether he liked coach Mike Shanahan's decision to sit him through the preseason, which Griffin wants to play in. 

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Redskins QB Robert Griffin III isn't expected to see any preseason action this month. (USA Today Sports)

"I can't b.s. that answer," Griffin said. "So, uh, no. I don't like it. There's some part of it that I do understand. I don't understand all of it. At the end of the day he gave me his word. We talked privately. I know the whole plan. I'm not telling the whole plan. I don't understand the whole plan at all and I can't lie about that."

[Related: New hairstyle for RG3]

Griffin is a little confused and a little defiant on this issue, and that's a good thing. What the above says is that Shanahan is back in charge here, his decision to sit the franchise quarterback through the preseason is set in stone (as it should be), and the coach isn't particularly concerned whether RG3 agrees or even understands. In the interest of communication, he apparently tried to explain whatever the plan is.

Moreover, Griffin is still the competitor who believes he is indestructible. The knee injury hasn't left him gun-shy – at least when it comes to talking about returning. While what happens on the field remains to be seen, this is exactly what you want a guy coming off repair work to both his LCL and ACL to say.

Griffin promised he'd see "live action" – albeit wearing a red jersey in practice – on Tuesday.

"Definitely tomorrow," Griffin said. "I look forward to it. I've been ready for it … You'll get to see me play football instead of seven-on-seven. Team drills, live action, having fun with my boys. That's how it is … It's just time to get back out there with my teammates. I've proven that I'm capable of protecting myself."

This is a far better balance to the coach-player relationship than the one that helped doom Washington's playoff game last season.

Despite Griffin being hobbled and ineffective due to the knee injury, and despite having a 14-0 lead and a capable backup in Kirk Cousins, Shanahan kept his starter in the game. Washington gained just 41 total subsequent yards, Seattle mounted a comeback and RG3 suffered an additional injury in the fourth quarter when he crumpled to the ground after trying to pick up an errant snap.

Shanahan's decision to stick with Griffin made no sense. His reasoning afterward was worse.

"I talked to Robert and he said to me, 'Coach, there's a difference between being injured and being hurt," Shanahan said that day. "He said, 'I can guarantee I'm hurt right now, but give me the chance to win this football game because I guarantee I'm not injured.'

"That," Shanahan said, "was enough for me."

It shouldn't have been, something Shanahan has acknowledged in the aftermath. The two have discussed it, according to RG3.

[Mike Florio: Preseason play would be mistake for RG3]

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Coach Mike Shanahan took heat for keeping Robert Griffin III in January's playoff game. (AP)

"We ironed that out," Griffin said.

Players are trained to talk their way out of injuries and back on the field – it's part of what makes Griffin such a dynamic player. They lie, hide, fake, hold in the pain, whatever it takes. He just wanted to win a playoff game. It's the coach's job to see through the blind confidence and give the team the best chance to advance (let Cousins nurse a two-touchdown lead) while avoiding further injury to a franchise level talent.

That Griffin wants into pointless preseason games – which would be a completely unnecessary risk – isn't surprising. At least at this point, away from the intensity and heat of a wild-card game, Shanahan is making the sound decision.

So Griffin doesn't like it. So he doesn't understand it. Yet he says there is an actual plan in place. Good. He says he's doing everything to be ready for the Monday Night opener against the Philadelphia Eagles four weeks from now and he is counting on the coaching staff living up to its side of the bargain, presumably to start him if he gets doctors' approval.

"When you give your word to somebody, that's all you have," Griffin said. "So I'm just banking that they're going stay true to their word and I'm staying true to mine. I'm doing everything that they ask me to do without any gripes."

Mike Shanahan is in charge again. Robert Griffin III is accepting the appropriate limitations on his understandable but unnecessary belief that he ought to be out there so soon after being injured.

That's how it's supposed to work, and whether RG3 is truly back for Week 1 or by Week 4, this is the coach-player dynamic that bodes well for the long, long haul.

And that, at this point, it is all that Washington should be focused on.

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