Robert Griffin III suffered a Grade 1 lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain in his right knee and Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told reporters Monday that his franchise rookie quarterback is "definitely not ruled out" of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
"You just never know," Shanahan said. "When I looked at it on film, I thought it was going to be worse than it was."
The injury occurred in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter in Sunday’s 31-28 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Griffin scrambled for a 13-yard gain and was hit by Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata, a collision that caused Griffin’s right leg to whip violently.
Griffin underwent an MRI after the game. Shanahan said Monday that Griffin is day to day and he will be evaluated during the week. He also doesn’t know if Griffin would practice on Wednesday.
The LCL runs down the outside of the knee and is one of the four major ligaments that stabilizes the joint. Tears and sprains are graded on a scale from 1 to 3 with Grade 1 being the least serious.
Griffin’s injury is in the same knee that was surgically repaired while he was at Baylor in 2009, a procedure performed by Houston-based orthopedic surgeon and FOXSports.com NFL injuries columnist Mark Adickes. Adickes said that those who have reconstructive knee surgery are more susceptible to future injury, although the relative minor injury that resulted from Sunday’s scary collision is a testament to Griffin’s work ethic in years since surgery.
"I could definitely see him back out there on Sunday," said Adickes, a former offensive lineman with the Redskins. "I don’t think they will send him out there unless the knee has heeled to the degree that he’s mobile enough to perform. It’s largely about pain. The body will shut down as a means to protecting itself (if the pain is too intense)."
Adickes said that a Grade 1 LCL sprain can sometimes be more more painful than more severe injuries to the ligament.
Shanahan said coaches tutor Griffin each week on how he can better protect himself, although he didn’t fault Griffin for this latest injury.
"What Robert was trying to do was score a touchdown," Shanahan said. "It’s what competitors do. He’s trying to make a play. It was like a playoff game for us because we knew we had to win.
"Most quarterbacks, at least the quarterbacks we would want, would put themselves in that situation."
Shanahan, knowing full well that it makes the other team work extra to prepare for two quarterbacks, will no doubt wait as long as possible to publicly commit one way or the other to Griffin, the NFL’s top-rated quarterback, or fellow rookie Kirk Cousins.
”Both of them will have a game plan,” Shanahan said Monday.
A Grade 1 sprain typically means the ligament is stretched or has some minor tears and usually doesn’t require surgery. Griffin will get multiple treatments daily and will probably have to wear a brace for several weeks.
The next major benchmark is whether Griffin will able to take part when practice resumes on Wednesday.
”You’re hoping with rehab it gets better very quickly,” Shanahan said. ”But we don’t know for sure. … He’s definitely not ruled out for the Cleveland game.”
Griffin’s father, Robert Griffin Jr., said in a text message that his son was ”feeling good” and that ”we will know by Thursday” whether Griffin III will be able to suit up against the Browns.
The most severe knee injury usually associated with sports is a season-ending torn ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament. Griffin tore the ACL in his right knee while playing for Baylor in 2009, but Shanahan said Griffin’s reconstructed ACL ”looks great” and that there’s ”no problem there.”
”He’s doing good. He’s in high spirits,” left tackle Trent Williams said after speaking with Griffin on Monday. ”It was a pretty nasty, awkward hit, and for him not to be seriously injured is a blessing.”
No. 2 overall pick Griffin has become a phenomenon in his debut NFL season, leading the Redskins, a team that went 5-11 last year, to four straight victories to put their record at 7-6, one game behind the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East. His performance Sunday put him atop the league with a 104.2 passer rating, better than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and everyone else.
Fourth-rounder Cousins might not be much of a drop-off, especially after his super-sub performance against the Ravens. When Griffin left for one play, Cousins converted a third-and-6 with a pass to Pierre Garcon that drew a pass interference penalty on Chris Johnson.
When Griffin left for good later in the drive, Cousins completed two passes in two plays, and his nice pump fake allowed Garcon to get open for an 11-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left in regulation.
Cousins then did his best RG3 impersonation, running the quarterback draw on the 2-point conversion to tie the game.
”You’re running the scout team the majority of the time, and you’re expected to go in there and perform,” Shanahan said. ”So there’s a lot of pressure on people. Some people can handle it; other people can’t. But when you prepare yourself like he has, it didn’t surprise me that he was flawless in what he did.”
Shanahan defended the decision to have Griffin return to the game for four plays after the injury, saying he left the decision in the hands of Dr. James Andrews, the renowned sports physician who is on the sidelines for most Redskins games.
”He’s the one that gives me that information,” Shanahan said. ”It’s way over my head.”