There is absolutely no reason Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III should set foot on a football field for his return until Week 1 when his team welcomes the Philadelphia Eagles to FedEx Field.
It was only last January that Griffin went down with a torn ACL after reeling in the NFL Rookie of the Year Award, and ever since fans have been bombarded with reactions and opinions from all sides.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan made it official recently that RGIII will not see the field for any preseason action, according to Mike Jones of The Washington Post:
The Redskins' official Twitter account further reinforced that notion:
The funny thing is a controversy has been created in Washington simply because RGIII wants to play ball and Shanahan wants to take things slow with his franchise player.
Redskins general manager Bruce Allen told the media he understands both sides, per a quote obtained by John Keim of ESPN:
We have a very competitive player who's dying to play football, and we have an experienced coach who is doing the right thing...I know somewhere Billy [Kilmer] and Sonny [Jurgensen] are laughing that we created a quarterback controversy with Robert Griffin.
In reality, there is no conflict between the quarterback and his coach. Like Allen said, this is a competitive young man going into his second year in the NFL at 23 years of age who just wants to be on the field. He's still learning what to say to the media.
I'm real close to 100 percent...That's the great thing. Even though there's been a process of getting back and getting back into practice it's all been worth it. Coach's plan has been great about me feeling good. Because every day I don't get those team reps I feel that much better...Bottom line is I have to talk to coach more...Coach has a lot of stuff going on on gamedays whether it's offense, defense, substitutions, talking to the refs all those different things. Any time you've got a situation like mine, you've got to talk to the coach directly.
As good as Griffin was on the field last year, he's still learning as he goes when it comes to the media. The coaching staff is handling the situation in a precautionary manner, and while that frustrates a competitor like Griffin, the best thing he can do is roll with the plan.
That plan is a good one.
Shanahan knows what he is doing. He has a franchise quarterback worth $21 million who could be worth well over $100 million soon. He understands Griffin has to stay on the field to earn that money.
Whether or not Shanahan's conservative plan for Griffin is in part because of backlash for his decision to play Griffin while hurt last year—in turn leading to the full tear—does not matter. What matters is it's a smart football decision.
Saving Griffin for the regular season makes sense. There is no need to risk another injury in a preseason contest for the sake of getting back into the swing of things. A case can be made that he needs to take a few hits to see how the knee holds up, but that's something that can wait for the regular season.
We're talking about a league that wants to possibly reduce the amount of preseason games anyway, potentially en route to an extended season, according to Mike Florio ProFootballTalk. Preserving players for when it matters most is the name of the game for the NFL, and that applies in Washington as well.
The Redskins must have RGIII for Week 1. Washington starts the season off with an NFC East rival and then must travel to take on the Green Bay Packers and an explosive offense led by 2011 MVP Aaron Rodgers.
As important as it is to have RGIII early, his availability all season will decide the fate of the Redskins in 2013. Washington has a ridiculously tough schedule, with opponents like the Atlanta Falcons, Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers fresh off a Super Bowl appearance and, of course, the always tough AFC East.
Why risk the season on a few risky preseason games?
Even if RGIII were to get off to a slow start as he gets back into the swing of things, there are plenty of pieces around him to provide quality support.
Second-year running back Alfred Morris rushed for over 1,600 yards as a rookie and scored 13 times. Washington would get by relying on a power-running approach with a dash of play action in the first few weeks of the season if necessary.
After all, Philadelphia is undergoing a scheme change and could be sloppy in Week 1 as players still adapt to the nuances. Green Bay struggled against the run at times last year, and Detroit and Oakland, the Redskins' Week 3 and Week 4 opponents, respectively, perennially struggle against the run.
It's later in the season that the Redskins have to worry about RGIII not being up to speed, but by then he will be, health provided.
Griffin is the guy who as a rookie threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns to five interceptions while completing over 60 percent of his passes. He added another 815 yards on the ground, although expect to see less of that in 2013 with the coaching staff protecting its investment.
Last season, Griffin took a 5-11 team from the year prior and flipped it into a 10-6 squad. With a year under his belt, chemistry with all of his offensive pieces and a coaching staff taking a cautious approach to his recovery, Griffin and the Redskins could be in for a special year.
Patience is one of the staples of the NFL—patience with rookies, patience with head coaches still building a team, etc. The list goes on. The Redskins are taking this approach with RGIII, and while he may not always agree, all parties will be better for it in the end.
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