Having suffered his third serious leg injury since 2009, Robert Griffin III is finally ready to return to the football field. The quarterback might have made a full recovery, but his most recent ailment could affect him for the rest of his NFL career.
When Griffin starts for the Washington Redskins in Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings, he should be completely healthy. A dislocated ankle in Week 2 forced Griffin to miss six games, but surgery wasn’t required and there’s no reason to believe he won’t return as one of the most athletic quarterbacks in football.
“I have treated multiple ankle dislocations,” Dr. David Chao, a practicing orthopedic surgeon with over two decades of professional sports team physician experience, wrote in the Sporting News. “In the absence of articular cartilage damage, it is routine to return to full football activities,”
“The good news for RG3 is that when recovered, he can be 100 percent.”
NFL players have returned from Griffin’s recent injury, as well as his ACL tear from the previous season, to have great success. Darren Sproles has played eight seasons after dislocating his ankle in 2006, and Adrian Peterson won the MVP a year after tearing his ACL and MCL.
If Griffin wants to avoid suffering any more injuries, he may have to change the way he plays. The 24-year-old has achieved most of his success by being a mobile quarterback, using his legs to run the ball and complete passes outside of the pocket.
In three full seasons as a starter with Baylor, Griffin never ran for less the 635 yards. As an NFL rookie, Griffin was a top 20 rusher, totaling 815 yards on the ground and leading the Redskins to a division title.
Griffin’s unique style of play has provided him with short-term success, but it will ultimately prevent him from sustaining it for long periods of time. Upon his return, the question remains whether or not Griffin can be as good as he was in 2012 by becoming more of a pocket passer.
The second half of the 2014 season should provide some answers about what the future holds for Griffin. He struggled last season, seeing his passer rating dip from 102.4 to 82.2, but he wasn’t fully recovered from the torn ACL, and was shut down for the final three games.
The season opener was Griffin’s first attempt at trying to be more of a pocket passer, and it did not provide satisfactory results. The quarterback completed over 78 percent of his passes and didn’t thrown an interception, but he wasn’t able to move the ball down the field. His average pass went just 5.89 yards through the air, and Washington scored just six points.
“If you’re going to be a professional football quarterback, you’re going to have to learn to be a pocket passer at some point in your career and he’s learning,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said, following the Week 1 loss. “He’s not a finished product yet by any stretch of the imagination, but he will get there.”
In Week 2, Griffin got hurt while reverting to his old ways and making a throw on the run. It may not be realistic to completely change Griffin's game, but limiting his time outside of the pocket might be the only way he'll be able to stay on the field.
A number of mobile quarterbacks are currently having sustained success in the NFL. Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick all rushed for over 500 yards in 2013, and haven’t missed any time on the field. However, Griffin’s injury history suggests that he’s more like Michael Vick, who’s played 16 games just once in his career, and can’t stay healthy while using his legs so often.
Washington went 2-4 in six games without Griffin, starting both Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. The Redskins need Griffin to stay healthy and play as well as he did in his rookie season. Cousins was considered to be the best backup quarterback in football, but he was exposed when he became the starter and was eventually benched.
Washington sits in last place in the NFC East, trailing the first-place Dallas Cowboys by three games.