When the ball popped loose, Griffin scooped it up the fumble and took off downfield. The fans, who had been watching him mostly stand around during the drill, roared their approval. Finally, he stopped at about the 35-yard line, pointed to the sky and smiled.
Thursday was opening day for the Redskins new camp facility in Richmond, nestled behind the city's Science Museum and Children's Museum and not far from the railroad tracks. Owner Dan Snyder stood on the sideline, wearing a burgundy shirt in the morning and a white shirt in the afternoon. Several thousand fans lined the field across the way, and the main attraction was the franchise player easing his way back from reconstructive knee surgery.
"Even though he's cleared, I've got to see it on the football field," coach Mike Shanahan said. "It just doesn't happen like that. If you're dealing with trainers, you're dealing with doctors, they can tell you when that knee's ready to go, but they can't tell you when he's ready to play."
Griffin was cleared by doctors late last week, but Shanahan said it will take two-to-three weeks for RG3 to get into "football shape." Griffin will therefore be restricted to individual and 7-on-7 drills, at least initially. The coach also said it "doesn't make any sense" for the quarterback to play in any preseason games, in part because the Redskins' exhibition schedule -- with games on Thursday, Monday, Saturday and then Thursday again -- is so wacky.
"I think so many times that the repetition in preseason is so over-exaggerated," Shanahan said. "Coach in college for 10 years, and you never had a preseason game. You go into the (first regular season) game ready to play. A lot of times when you practice and you practice at game speed, you can go into a game without exhibition games."
Griffin started the morning practice without the familiar big black brace on his right knee, but he soon put it on. Shanahan joked that Griffin will be fined for not wearing it.
"He's supposed to do everything with his knee brace on," the coach said.
Shanahan addressed yet again his complicated relationship with Griffin, which has been analyzed to the hilt since the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks in which the coach was criticized for leaving the quarterback in the game after Griffin had clearly reinjured the knee. Griffin reiterated Wednesday that both he and Shanahan made mistakes last season.
"It's part of any football team, is relationships. And people have to trust each other," Shanahan said. "And (what) I've asked Robert to do is just be as honest with me as he possibly can. And I think Robert sees this year how important being honest with each other is, and that's what we have to do. I've told him that I'll be as straightforward as I can possibly be with him, and I'm hoping that he gives me the same."