RICHMOND, Va. — At 2:05 p.m., under partly cloudy skies, with a few scattered chants of “R-G-3!” from the crowd, Robert Griffin III took a snap from center Will Montgomery at the 50-yard line and handed the ball to running back Alfred Morris.
History made, Washington Redskins style. Griffin’s first 11-on-11 play of the 2013 training camp. Like the moon landing, the sort of thing where you always remember where you were when it happened.
“Not quite that dramatic,” third-string quarterback Rex Grossman said. “But I hear your point.”
Actually, the payoff didn’t match the hype. Griffin ran 16 plays with the first-string offense against a scout team that was mimicking the Pittsburgh Steelers defense in preparation for the Redskins’ next preseason game.
Wearing his familiar black brace on his right knee, Griffin completed 7 of 10 passes with an interception. He moved well in the pocket, although he didn’t face much of a pass rush.
“It’s like he never left,” right tackle Tyler Polumbus said. “We hardly even noticed that he just got back in there. He was the same guy he was last year, and the same guy he’s been in walkthroughs and 7-on-7 and all that.”
Griffin had been limited to 7-on-7 drills during camp as he works his way back from reconstructive knee surgery, part of coach Mike Shanahan’s cautious approach that has tested Griffin’s patience. The difference between 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 is the presence of pass-rushing linemen who can test the quarterback’s ability to change directions in a hurry.
Yet Grossman said it would be a stretch to categorize Griffin’s snaps Wednesday as true 11-on-11 work. Second-stringer Kirk Cousins, for instance, took back the reins when the starters faced the starters in the two-minute drill, with Griffin again a spectator.
“He looks great,” Grossman said. “Right at seven months is where I felt like I was healthy when I tore my ACL. He’s pretty much ready to go. I would say he’s 90 percent capable of doing everything.”
Even so, Grossman understands Shanahan’s approach.
“If somebody were to fall in a competitive drill on his knee, everybody would have second-guessed it,” Grossman said. “I think everybody’s playing it smart, and Week 1, nobody remembers anything that happened before that. They remember the playoff game and Week 1, and whatever happens in between, nobody cares.”
Except that they do. Wednesday’s announced of 10,111 was one of the biggest of camp, and it drew a disproportional amount of national media. Adding to the drama has been the back-and-forth between Shanahan and Griffin, who has said he doesn’t like the coach’s practice plan but is following along if it means playing in the regular season opener on Sept. 9.
Pierre Garcon, who caught Griffin’s first 11-on-11 pass, was asked for his take on the way the quarterback has publicly challenged the coach.
“We don’t necessarily like it, but that’s the kind of player he is,” Garcon said. “He wants to be out there, he wants to help the team. But he’s still got some time. We don’t need him for just Week 1, we need him for the whole season.”