The Washington Redskins say Robert Griffin III is safe in their offense, but a source told ESPN's Trey Wingo that Dr. James Andrews has expressed concerns about how the team uses its star quarterback.
Andrews, who performed reconstructive knee surgery on Griffin in January, cleared Griffin to resume playing after the Redskins' preseason finale Thursday at Tampa Bay.
Operation Patience....Complete. Cleared. To God Be The Glory http://t.co/GxYMw8Cs57
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 30, 2013
According to the source, however, Andrews does not want the Redskins to expose Griffin's knee to too much potential punishment during games, the source said. Andrews' exact concerns were not spelled out. But running the zone read offense, Griffin ran 120 times in 2012, leaving himself in position to be hit more.
In a text to ESPN 980's Chris Russell, Andrews didn't condemn the Redskins.
"He is in their hands," he said. "They will take good care of him."
Neither of Griffin's injuries last year occurred from the zone read. Fifty of his runs came on scrambles, and he received a concussion at the end of a scramble in Week 5 against Atlanta. He also injured his knee Dec. 9 on a freak hit by Baltimore's Haloti Ngata at the end of another scramble. Griffin opted to cut upfield rather than try to get out of bounds. He gained several more yards on the second-and-19 play late in a game the Redskins trailed by eight. Washington won in overtime.
Griffin's posterior collateral ligament was injured on the play, and he sat out a week. Then, in the Jan. 6 playoff loss to Seattle, Griffin's knee gave out as he ran to his right, looking to pass as he neared the sideline. The knee gave out again when he reached down to pick up a low snap from the pistol formation in the fourth quarter.
The Redskins declined comment Thursday, and coach Mike Shanahan said after the game that he would address the situation Monday, when the team resumes practice in preparation for the opener.
Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, have maintained that the zone read protects Griffin. On runs, as defenses adjusted, the Redskins tweaked their blocking schemes, using a fullback and tight end alongside Griffin in the pistol, with a running back behind him.
In Griffin's final seven games, he was hit 58 percent of the time from the zone read, either after he handed off or ran. In the first nine games, he was hit 77 percent of the time in those situations. The zone read helped in the passing game, too, as it often caused ends to hesitate and linebackers to panic on their pass drops, leading to clear throwing lanes.
The Redskins also often pointed out that Griffin would be more vulnerable as just a pocket passer. In the offseason, Kyle Shanahan said: "He stayed healthy last year running the zone read. So I feel pretty good about that. You really hope no one gets hurt. It's hard to control injuries. … When you do the zone read, everyone [on the opposing defense] is accounted for. There's not many free hitters in it."
Griffin was asked in May whether he liked how he was used in the offense. He deflected the question by saying how well the offense performed. When pressed, he said he was OK with how he was used. There's no doubt some wonder how long Griffin, or other zone read quarterbacks, can last if exposed to more hits.
"If they can stay healthy, they can have dominant careers," ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden said. "Now, the style in which they play concerns me because I'm not accustomed to seeing quarterbacks take the kind of hits, and as many hits as these men take. The quarterbacks that just got paid a lot of money, if you just look at the contracts of Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, they just got $100 million deals. Yes, they're talented but they're healthy.
"We already have seen Robert Griffin get injured, unfortunately, and I'm concerned with any quarterback that runs the ball and plays the position recklessly because, as far as I know, the quarterback is the only guy that can't play on Sunday if he has a sore passing shoulder.
"That's my only concern. I love watching them play. I love the style of offense that they play. The combination of drop-back passing and option football is just downright nasty to a defense to defend. But can they sustain that style of play deep into their careers and eventually become $100 million quarterbacks, as well?"
On Tuesday, in an interview with ESPN 980 radio, Griffin said he liked running the zone read. But he also wants to pass more.
"Any quarterback would say that," he told 980. "We want to throw the ball. You think pass first, run second. That's just the way it is.
"It's not that I don't want to run the read option. Because I know what the read option can do for this team, and I know what it did for us last year. It's just, we don't have to run the read option. And that's something we've talked about. You don't have to run it. You just have to have the threat of it. And if teams are going to give it to you, you take it, and I'm all for it."