ASHBURN, Va. – Because he is smart and thoughtful and speaks for himself in a league where players are terrified to go off script, you must parse every word that comes from Robert Griffin III. Is there something more? A hidden message?
On Thursday, Griffin gave a 20-minute news conference following the Washington Redskins' OTA that was supposed to clear up the lingering confusion about those harried moments in the team's playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks when a sprained right knee became a torn ACL and LCL. But instead of answers came more questions.
One example was this response to a direct question about whether he was happy with the way Redskins coach Mike Shanahan used him last season.
"I was happy with the wins that we had, the way we came out into the season and the adversity we faced being 3-6 and then 10-6, going to the playoffs and win the division," Griffin said. "Now it's about continuing to make that relationship grow – together so we can sprout into a nice beautiful tree."
But what about the coaches? Did he have a problem with how they used him?
"I didn't have a problem," he said then quickly looked down.
After four months of dissecting blame for Griffin's damaged leg, it's still hard to know who Griffin believes is responsible for the torn ligaments in his knee. He referred to a meeting with Shanahan in which he and the coach " hashed everything out" and said, "We are moving forward from that." But he was never specific about what was "hashed out" and the phrase "moving forward" hinted at a greater dissatisfaction.
It is almost as if Griffin is quietly signaling he wished Shanahan would have saved him from himself and pulled him from the Seattle game. Otherwise, why didn't Griffin run away from comments made by his father Robert Jr., who said he hopes his son will run less and throw more next season and that he would have pulled his son from the playoff game at the first sign his leg wasn't right – two quarters before the knee finally gave.
Instead Griffin said "I don't have my parents on a leash." Then he went on to say that the only thing he told his father was "thank you because that's what he's supposed to say as my father." Later RG3 added "I was just proud of the fact he stood up and said something."
Few players and coaches in the NFL need each other as much as Griffin and Shanahan. Given the way RG3 has torn his knee apart twice in three years and already has missed all or parts of four professional games, he must get the most of these next couple years in case it is all the career he has. For Shanahan, Griffin is his best chance at the Hall of Fame, perhaps his last John Elway who can take him to that elusive third Super Bowl.
They are both brilliant and stubborn men, deep in their grasp of offenses but too sure-willed for their own good. Griffin is forever trying to prove something – that he can learn the offense fast, or make an impossible throw or take a hit. Shanahan is simply used to having his own way.
What remains confusing so long after the Seattle game is where they stand with each other. Is Griffin saying he thought he should have come out and wanted Shanahan to pull him even as he gave an obligatory assurance he was OK? Did he think he was exposed too much in the Redskins' revamped read option and Pistol offenses? The questions raised by a cryptic winter text that said, "all parties involved know their responsibilities" didn't vanish on Thursday when he never said who he thought was involved – especially when he said there were "no apologies" in the winter meeting with Shanahan and the coach later said the meeting was a breakdown of each game last season, not just the playoff game.
There's really little doubt RG3 is going to start the Redskins opening game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 9. He ran well in Thursday's practice, a highly anticipated offseason practice. Many of his teammates expressed surprise at seeing their quarterback moving so easily across the practice fields behind Redskins Park. Offensive tackle Trent Williams had heard the reports of the torn ACL and LCL in Griffin's right knee and imagined he would see a man far from recovered when he arrived here this week.
"I thought he would have a knee brace from his thigh to ankle, barely able to walk with a nasty old scar on his knee," Williams said. "Obviously that's not the case."
Griffin took snaps with other injured players away from the regular workouts, balanced carefully on his feet and fired 30-yard passes into the end zone. He ran a few light sprints, pushing the limits placed on him by trainers who said he couldn't sprint or cut. He said he woke up from his January surgery hoping that maybe Dr. James Andrews didn't have to rebuild the knee and then cried with his family when he learned of the seriousness of the operation.
After wiping away the tears he changed his phone's passcode to the date of the first Sunday of the coming season and set a goal of starting that game.
He said he is "ahead of schedule," though it appears as if the Redskins don't have a rigid schedule for his recovery. Neither he nor Shanahan would commit to an offense for next season, ducking questions about whether Griffin will run less by saying defenses will dictate what they do.
If anything, RG3 knows he has to be more careful in the future. He even said that when he has a third down and is scrambling for the first and sees Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark roaring at him, that he will now use discretion and slide to the ground or run out of bounds rather than lunge for the first and risk a serious injury.
But even in making that vow he also said this:"I just feel like everyone's gong to be very hypersensitive about anything that happens. My biggest fear is that I roll an ankle and they put me out for the year. That's being serious."
Given the last four months and the vague non-answers that still linger, how can everyone not be oversensitive? The most important knee in the NFL is almost healed now. The Redskins have to hope the remaining scars will go away too.
More from RG3 following Thursday's OTA session:
Related RG3 coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Robert Griffin III plants and throws during Redskins OTAs
• Slideshow: Robert Griffin III and his fiancée Rebecca Liddicoat
• Redskins fans explain their RG3 registry shopping spree