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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

NFL life turns harsh in RGIII's sophomore season

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looks back

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looks back at the bench during the first half against the San Francisco 49ers. (Nov. 25, 2013) Credit: AP

A year ago, he was an NFL darling, the quarterback with the catchy initialized nickname who had revolutionized the game with his running and had recaptured the imagination of a generation of Washington fans used to little else but heartbreak and frustration.


It's a far different dynamic for Robert Griffin III -- more affectionately known as RGIII -- whose injury problems, whose relationship issues with coach Mike Shanahan and whose record -- 3-8 after another stinging loss on Monday night -- make this the season of his discontent.

His play has been criticized. His leadership has come under the microscope. As has his relationship with coach Mike Shanahan. For that matter, the fact that he's even playing after recovering from offseason knee surgery has been questioned.

RGIII is now learning how quickly things can turn in the NFL, and how easily the spotlight that burned so brightly last year is now just burning.

In the end, though, Griffin believes the struggles that he and his team are enduring will make them better off for having gone though them.

"I think you have to fight through adversity," Griffin said on Wednesday as he began preparing for Sunday's game against the Giants at FedEx Field. "This is the time where you can see a man's true character. Guys that sit down and fold, those aren't the guys you want on your team. I don't think we have any of those guys on this team. I know for certain that I'm not."

Griffin made a remarkably quick return from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament and the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, the result of an injury he suffered in Washington's first-round playoff loss to the Seahawks. But he was only able to participate in a handful of offseason practices, and even then in a limited role. And he didn't take a single snap in a preseason game, as Shanahan opted to point to the regular-season opener for Griffin's first appearance.

Not that he wasn't concerned about it earlier, but Shanahan's concerns about so little work in the offseason were only reinforced by Griffin being out of sync in the regular season.

"I think it's hard for anybody to miss an offseason, especially the quarterback position," Shanahan said. "I think it's very hard to miss unless you've been in the league for a long time, but even that is pretty tough. That's why you have an offseason program, so you can improve and get better. Especially as a quarterback when it's your second year, when you're starting to feel comfortable with the terminology, comfortable with the system."

Giants quarterback Eli Manning can attest to the importance of an offseason program. Fortunately for his sake, he has never missed his own team's offseason workouts because of an injury.

"For me, I work on my mechanics and work on gaining strength and getting with your receivers and working on timing," Manning said. "It's putting in new plays and new schemes. If you don't have that, it does set you back."

Griffin's numbers are down across the board. After throwing for 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions to produce a 102.4 rating, Griffin has 14 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and an 81.9 rating. Last year, he ran for 815 yards, and so far this year, he has 367 rushing yards.

The scrutiny has been intense, especially because of the losing. After Monday night's home loss to San Francisco, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks suggested Griffin shouldn't even be in the lineup. "He's a man, he has the heart of a warrior and is going to go out there and play regardless of the circumstance," Brooks said. "Everybody can see it. Everybody can see it. He shouldn't be playing."

Nonsense, Griffin says.

"I don't agree," he said. "I appreciate his compassion and they have a good defense and they played well and we didn't play well and we've got to play better."Griffin was roughed up throughout the game, and was unintentionally kicked in the groin by 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith. That prompted an unscheduled visit from RGIII's father in the locker room afterward, a meeting that was questioned by some as inappropriate.

The quarterback was angry at the insinuation his father had overstepped his bounds.

"My dad came to check on me to make sure I wasn't injured," he said, referring to Smith's kick. "Anybody out there that's going after my dad needs to back up. That's my father. I will protect my family. I hope people will respect that."

RGIII did put his dad at ease over the injury, saying that some day RGIII would be a grandfather.

"There will be an RGIV," he said.

A rare moment of levity from a young quarterback who has discovered the hard way that life in the NFL can change quickly.

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