Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
RICHMOND, Va. - And now, for the latest in a series of remarkable steps in the rehab process of Robert Griffin III: Just over seven months after suffering a second torn ACL in his right knee, the Redskins' second-year quarterback is set to take part in his first contact drills tomorrow.
It is a day RG3 has looked forward to only slightly less than Sept. 9, which would mark his official return when the Redskins host the Eagles in the regular-season opener.
"Just live action, getting guys flying at you," Griffin said Monday, clearly relishing the idea of being that much closer to returning as the starter. "I just think it's time to get back out there with my teammates. I've proven that I can protect myself, and [I'm] dang nearly close to 100 percent. I feel good and now I'm glad Coach [Mike Shanahan] feels the same way."
Griffin feels so good that Shanahan and his staff have had to dial it back for the 23-year-old. Although Griffin has expressed a desire to hasten the rehabilitation process, his coaches want him to take the longer view and not run greater risk of another injury.
"Our game plan is to play him Week 1,'' Shanahan said after Monday's practice, in which Griffin looked sharp during his seven-on-seven work. "But if there's a setback, he won't be able to play Week 1.''
Shanahan respects Griffin's fighting spirit, even if it means the coach has to play the role of "bad cop'' in holding him back. Such as the part about Griffin wanting to see at least some preseason action. Shanahan said it's not happening, period.
''I like competitors,'' Shanahan said. "I like people that want to go. The great ones do that.''
So it hasn't been an easy transition to navigate for the coach or the quarterback. There are still some fundamental disagreements about the pace of rehab.
Asked if he understands his recovery plan, especially the part about not playing in preseason games, Griffin said: "I can't BS that answer. No, I don't like it. I don't understand all of it. I don't understand the whole plan at all. I can't lie about that. But when you give your word to somebody, that's all you have, so I'm just banking that [the coaches] will stay true to their word, and I'm staying true to mine. I'm doing everything they've asked me to without any gripes."
And if there were any questions about being on the field next month against the Eagles, Griffin answered in emphatic, unambiguous terms. "There is no doubt that I'm playing Week 1," he said.
For anyone who saw Griffin's right knee dangling after he injured it in a playoff game against the Seahawks -- he suffered a less severe injury to that knee four weeks earlier -- the mere possibility that he'd be ready to play so quickly is stunning. That it was the second ACL reconstruction in the right knee -- the first was in 2009 during his sophomore season at Baylor -- makes it even more remarkable.
Maybe the only guy who isn't surprised is Griffin.
"I am proud I have good genes," he said. "Thanks, Mom, Dad. I am healing very well and thankful for that."
Good genes? Maybe. But it's also what goes on inside Griffin's head that has brought him this far. He works out like crazy, to the point where those around him have to make sure he doesn't do too much too soon.
That's where the part about disagreeing with Shanahan's timetable comes in. Griffin wants to go faster -- "I want to play [in preseason], let's get that straight," he said -- but Shanahan wants to be more deliberate. Especially after facing a firestorm of criticism for not taking Griffin out of the playoff game.
"He's expressed regret," Griffin said. "Everybody had a little error in what happened in that situation. We've addressed it. We've moved on . . . I have to be patient. That's why I call it 'Operation Patience.' "
But it's getting there. He'll put on the pads Wednesday for the first time since that grisly injury in January. Less than a month later, he plans on rejoining the huddle for the start of the regular season, the culmination of an extraordinarily swift rehab.
Even if Griffin feels as if it's taken forever.