Posted January 15, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Nations: RG3 needs to take his time in comeback

Jeff Nations

My knees told me to write this column.

The sudden drop in temperature from this past weekend's balmy 60s to the current below-10 (feels like it, anyway) has prodded my decrepit old joints into a near-rebellious state. They creak, they pop, they snap -- any auditory way of letting the rest of me know just how unhappy they are to not be living in Florida or Hawaii right about now.

Naturally, that got me to thinking about Robert Griffin III.

No, the Washington Redskins' sensational rookie quarterback doesn't share the equivalent of my 171-year-old knee ligaments. Until quite recently, as we know, his knees were altogether springy.

Now, not so much. Not after the pounding he took in the Redskins' NFC first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 6. The home-field loss was bad enough, but the extent of Griffin's knee injury made the day a truly catastrophic one for Washington. Griffin, the fresh-faced, star-in-the-making leader of the offense, had obviously stayed in too long on a bum right knee. Injured in the first quarter, he played on until that same knee crumpled in the fourth quarter.

The sight was grim, the prognosis even more so -- Griffin needed reconstructive surgery on his right knee for the second time in four years. The 22-year-old underwent surgery last week, and his prognosis is far from certain -- anywhere from six months, to a year, to never playing again.

That's worst-case stuff, obviously, but even if Griffin does make a miraculous recovery and does get back in time to log significant snaps for the Redskins next season, this is the sort of injury that is bound to have long-term repercussions.

There's all the normal stuff an athlete has to deal with in terms of staying true to the rehabilitation process and learning when to trust the damaged joint once more. Watching Griffin play, it's easy to imagine his trouble will be with the former -- pushing himself to do too much, too soon -- than worrying about whether that knee will hold up under his assortment of cuts and plants as he runs the football.

Here's hoping that the Redskins, and Griffin, learned a valuable if painful lesson -- one that can be put to use, instead of the sort which solely accompanies regret.

When Washington agreed to send three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft -- the pick they used to nab Griffin, the fleet-footed, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Baylor -- the commitment and faith that the Redskins had found "the guy" to lead their offense for years to come was clear enough.

The charismatic Griffin rewarded that investment immediately, putting together a tremendous rookie season. The starter from Day 1, Griffin completed 258 of 393 passes for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He certainly lived up to his potential as a lethal threat running the ball, as well, racing up 815 rushing yards on 120 carries (that's eight yards a pop) and seven TDs.

Without question, Griffin was the overwhelming reason the Redskins even reached the playoffs. Although Pierre Garcon was a nice addition at wide receiver and Alfred Morris was a revelation at running back, Griffin largely inherited the same group that went nowhere under his predecessors, that two-headed monster that was Rex Grossman and John Beck.

And just like that, the player known as RG3 became the toast of the Beltway, arguably the most popular sports figure in the D.C. area. That's saying something, considering the star power of the Washington Nationals' youthful duo of pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper, the steady presence of the Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin, or even the still unfulfilled promise of Washington Wizards point guard and former No. 1 overall pick John Wall.

D.C. has long been enamored with its quarterbacks, starters and backups, but Griffin's play eliminated any question of a controversy despite the presence of fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who looked good in a spot start against the Cleveland Browns.

Next season, Cousins will most likely open the season as the Redskins' starting quarterback. That's not a bad scenario. What would be bad for Washington, possibly short term and most definitely in the long run, would be to give into temptation and speed along Griffin's recovery. Win or lose without him, RG3 should not be on the field until that knee is 100 percent.

That's a lesson the Redskins learned the hard way this season. Let's hope they don't need a refresher.

Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at (540) 465-5137 or at jnations@nvdaily.com

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