INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Griffin III's ongoing recovery from knee surgery points to a possible disconnect between the star quarterback and the Washington Redskins.
Recent reports that Griffin is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, an Adidas advertising campaign indicating he will be back for the season opener and a couple of Twitter posts from him have combined to portray a somewhat conflicting picture of how he's progressing a little more than a month after having reconstructive surgery on his right knee. Griffin had both the anterior cruciate ligament and the lateral collateral ligament repaired on Jan. 9.
As one person close to Griffin said Friday: "I don't understand why we're talking about how close he is to playing or not right now. Let him just get better; there's a long way to go."
The feeling from some of those close to Griffin is that both the team – which took great criticism for allowing Griffin to play through injury in the playoffs against Seattle – and others around Griffin will put undue pressure on him to return too quickly and risk reinjuring the knee.
ESPN's Adam Schefter cited team and league sources in reporting on Feb. 14 that Griffin has "a legitimate chance to start in the 2013 opener." Adidas then began an ad campaign with Griffin in which the company declared that Griffin was "All in for Week 1," an indication that Griffin would be ready to play in the first week of the season. That included a tweet from Griffin that referred to the ad campaign.
Griffin then backed off on Tuesday with a pair of tweets.
"Feel like I need to say this," Griffin wrote in the first tweet. "Although my goal is to start Week 1, that doesn't mean I will compromise my career to do so."
Griffin then followed that up with a second tweet: "Starting Week 1 will be the result of healing, hard work, dedication & God's anointing. No rush, just determination."
After Griffin gently hit the brakes, renowned orthopedic surgeon and Washington team physician Dr. James Andrews, who performed Griffin's surgery, appeared to accelerate things again during a Friday interview with the NFL Network.
"We have him well on his way," Andrews said. "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. 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. So all of that has to be put on hold and let him get well."
While Andrews tried to maintain some perspective on Griffin's recovery, the mere inference that he's ahead of schedule adds to the pressure on Griffin that some around him feel is unnecessary. This also comes after the performance of Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who came back from a torn ACL at the end of the 2011 season to be the Most Valuable Player in 2012 after posting the second-most rushing yards in league history. Peterson's performance, which came less than nine months after surgery, seemingly made ACL surgery a non-issue.
Considering all of that, Andrews said he is trying to temper expectations for anyone who has ACL surgery.
"I was telling somebody earlier today that I need to put a sign on my back that says, ‘Slow down,' because what's gonna happen is the average high school, college athlete is going to think that they can do the same thing, and we're going to have a lot of kids going back, playing early and getting their ACL graft injured," Andrews said. "There's an old saying, 'You can't bargain with Mother Nature.' So we can do all we want to get somebody well – they can be motivated, they can work hard – but Mother Nature still dictates when they can go back to play.
"And Adrian is a whole different athlete, so we can't extrapolate what he did to the average athlete with an ACL injury. So, we've got to overcome that problem."
Andrews also admitted having a second surgery to repair an ACL can lead to a more complicated recovery. Griffin had surgery to repair the ACL in the same knee in college.
Of course, any hint that Griffin could come back earlier is going to echo much louder than tempered expectations.
"Again, it's been like six weeks; what are we doing this for?" the source said. "He's not running yet. …It's ridiculous to talk about."
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