- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Robert Griffin III, never shy in front of a camera or with teammates, said he learned a lesson in communication last season. And that lesson will result in him dealing differently with coach Mike Shanahan.
“The bottom line is I have to talk to coach more,” the Redskins quarterback told Hannah Storm. “Coach has a lot of stuff going on on game days, whether it’s offense, defense, substitutions, talking to the refs. Anytime you have a situation like mine you have to talk to the coach directly.”
During the playoff loss to Seattle, Griffin had told teammates his knee was fine and that he could continue. He typically has lobbied to remain in games, or, as was the case before Cleveland, to play in them when hurt.
Will Shanahan listen to Griffin? The problems might have started because he did listen when the quarterback told him during the playoff loss that his knee felt fine. As the game unfolded, it was clear his knee was anything but fine after a first-quarter scramble in which his knee buckled. Later, Griffin limped out of bounds on a 9-yard run around left end. And, on his last play, he crumpled to the ground in pain while trying to field a low snap from center. Griffin eventually needed ACL surgery, in addition to fixing the LCL and MCL.
“Every good leader has to know how to listen,” said Griffin, who initially laughed when asked the question. “It’s hard to say that. ... Coaches coach. I’m a player. He doesn’t have to listen to me. I have to listen to coach. That’s just the way it goes. Everybody has a boss in this world. Our boss is Mike Shanahan. ... I trust him.”
Griffin took three days of snaps against the scout team in 11-on-11 work last week and will not play in the preseason. Both Griffin and Shanahan maintain the goal is to get him ready for the Sept. 9 opener against Philadelphia. Griffin has suffered no setbacks during camp and did not take any days off to rest his knee.
“I’m real close to 100 percent,” Griffin told Storm. “That’s the great thing. Even though there’s a process of getting back and getting back into practice, it’s all been worth it. Coach’s plan has been great as far as me feeling good because every day I don’t get those team reps I feel that much better.”
Griffin said he knows the zone read-option will remain a part of the offense.
“Teams are going to give that to us,” he said. “Some teams won’t. Teams that do, we’ll take it. It’s my job to make sure I stay safe in those situations. That’s something I learned from last year. It doesn’t matter what play’s called, what happens at the end of the day I’m the quarterback and the ball’s in my hands and what I decide to do is entirely on me.”
What he decides to do could be shaped by visions of what he did. Griffin was not hurt running the zone read-option, though he obviously got hit running them at times, but rather on scrambles. That’s how he suffered the concussion versus Atlanta. And that’s how he got hurt against Baltimore, turning a scramble back to the inside rather than running out of bounds -- he gained, perhaps, 3 or 4 extra yards. Haloti Ngata hit him in the knee.
“The voice in my head will be the image of Haloti Ngata bending my knee in half and then what happened in the Seattle game,” Griffin said. “It’s not a sense of fear but it’s something I learned from and, yeah, I had to learn the hard way and I want to be in the NFL for a long time.”
Griffin said as he walked off the field against Seattle, he knew his knee didn’t feel right and that he would not return.
“It was a sign to me from God saying, ‘Hey, it’s time to get off the field.’ And I got off the field,” Griffin said. “It was devastating for me because I knew I let my team down, I let my parents down, I let my fans down. That was tough for me.
“I promised my parents I’d never get hurt again after I got hurt at Baylor. That was part of the reason it was tough for me to wake up from that surgery and see my parents in that room. That’s the little things you have to deal with as a man. It was tough for me to deal with but I have.”
Just don’t call Griffin’s a comeback story.
“Technically I was never gone,” he said. “Adrian [Peterson] had a great year last year but I don’t consider his a comeback story either. He recovered from a knee injury over the offseason and quite well. Now, you want to talk about Peyton [Manning]? Peyton’s a comeback story because he missed the whole season. But for me it’s not a comeback story. You always have to play like you were never gone.”