After an anxious wait, RG3 returns to old form

After an anxious wait, RG3 returns to old form
October 21, 2013, 8:45 am
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RGIII on "most emotional" comeback of career

Six months ago, we wondered if Robert Griffin III would ever be the same. 

Six weeks ago, those concerns intensified after he got off to an unimpressive start against the Eagles and Packers.

But we can all stop wondering now. 

Griffin has (finally) returned to form. The centerpiece of the team’s future plans is once again a player worthy of that designation.  

And, if you were paying close attention, he announced his arrival via three distinct moments over the past eight days.

The first came on the Redskins’ second play from scrimmage in Dallas. With all of his passing options covered, Griffin tucked the ball and took off. He easily sprinted away from DeMarcus Ware, turned the corner and shifted into a gear we hadn’t seen since late last season. Fifteen yards later, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said, “Uh-oh, here’s one of those explosive runs that we haven’t been seeing. I think that bye week has done him some good. …If he can start doing that again, look out.”

Griffin finished the Cowboys’ game with 77 yards on nine carries, his highest total since Week 11 of last season. It was far from a complete effort—he completed only 48-percent of his passes in a 31-16 loss—but even that didn’t obscure the more significant storyline.

The second moment arrived Wednesday during his weekly news conference at Redskins Park. Asked about playing less cautiously in Dallas, RG3 explained his mindset, saying, “You can’t lose confidence in what you’ve done to get to the level you’re at. …It’s not a shot at anything else or at the coaches or anybody. It’s just saying, ‘Look, I’ve got to be the guy I know that I am.’”

The third and final moment came Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. Just like the previous week in Dallas, he put the Bears’ defense on notice only two plays into the game.

On a zone read call, Griffin pulled the ball, burst through an opening at the line, cut hard seven yards downfield, then turned the corner as he raced for a 23-yard gain. It might now have been the 4.3 speed he exhibited last year. But it was darn close.

Burst. Agility. Confidence. And flat out speed. That run had it all.

Griffin finished with a second straight season-high total on the ground, rushing for 84 yards on 11 carries. He also completed 62-percent of his passes, including a pair of touchdowns and going 5 of 6 on the game-winning drive in the closing minutes.

Afterward, Griffin confirmed what we had all just witnessed.

“Without a doubt,” he said flatly, asked if, at long last, he felt like the 2012 version of himself.

Griffin’s mid-October resurgence shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched an elite athlete return from a major surgery.

There’s the physical rehab. Then there’s the rehab that occurs between the player’s ears. No one sees that part. But it’s every bit as critical to the recovery process.

In an interview with 106.7 The Fan in September, Dr. James Andrews said, “I can tell you that generally when you think an athlete’s ready to go back, he’s still got about two months to go through the psychological aspects of it, to get his mind cleared about what’s happened to him and to be ready to get back to his previous level.”

Well, Griffin returned to the lineup Sept. 9 against Philly. And here we are, about six weeks later. For further proof, just look at Adrian Peterson’s stats from last season as he returned from major knee surgery. The Vikings’ running back didn’t have his breakthrough until Week 7, when he broke loose for 153 yards. It was the first of eight consecutive games of 100-plus yard performances.

I asked Griffin in Sunday’s postgame press conference whether he had “cleared a mental hurdle the past two weeks.” He acknowledged that he did.

“The mental part of it that I did get over was not thinking out on the field,” he said. “Just reacting. …That’s the breakthrough I feel like I’ve had for myself. I’m proud of that. To just go out there and play with your instincts. That’s what I meant when I said, that’s what got me here.”

“That,” he added, “is what makes me the player that I am.”

Indeed, it is.

Every aspect of his recovery has been according to a timeline. He spent August getting his legs underneath him, literally. The four contests in September were his preseason. His regular season began, in essence, after the bye week at AT&T Stadium.

Can the Redskins put together another run and climb out of the 2-4 hole their currently buried in? With Griffin playing the way he has the past two games, anything is possible. But even if they don’t, the biggest question facing the franchise has been answered.

RG3, without a doubt, is back.