ASHBURN, Va. — Robert Griffin III felt good enough to attend something called a Rookie Success Program meeting Monday morning and seemed, by all accounts, to be doing just fine on the day after suffering his first NFL concussion.
Griffin still has to complete the league’s mandated return-to-play protocol before he’s cleared for practice, but his Washington Redskins teammates and coach Mike Shanahan were optimistic the Heisman Trophy winner will be able to play in this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“We should fine out in the next few days exactly what happens,” Shanahan said. “Right now it looks good. I’m not really sure if it stays that way. The professionals will monitor his situation and let us know if able he’s able to play or not. We surely have nothing to do with it.”
There’s nothing like a head injury to the future-of-the-franchise to make the ins and outs of concussion rules and symptoms suddenly the trendy topic inside Redskins Park. Shanahan described in detail the process Griffin will undergo, defended the decision to have the rookie described as “shaken up” during the game, and — most importantly — talked about ways to help prevent such an injury from happening again.
“In my experience, when the quarterback gets that first hit like he received, they slide a little bit sooner in plays to come,” Shanahan said. “They kind of protect themselves a little bit more.”
Griffin was injured while scrambling near the sidelines on a third-and-goal play. He couldn’t find an open receiver, so he tried to turn the corner and lost his footing — just in time for his helmet to ram into the upper body of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
In retrospect, he should’ve just run out of bounds or simply thrown the ball away, but Griffin is a valuable commodity in part because he’s a threat as a runner. The Redskins (2-3) cut back his designed runs after he took some jarring hits in the first three games, and there’s only so much more they can do other than hope he makes wiser decisions in the future.
“He’s very competitive, like most young quarterbacks are,” Shanahan said. “They want to make every first down, they want to extend every play to the last second, but part of that is knowing that, hey, we have to have you out there, so these quarterbacks learn in time when to slide. Now if it’s a Super Bowl or you’re going for a playoff win, you’re going to take some of those chances. But part of the process is staying healthy and being out there for your teammates.”
Griffin insisted he was fine when he came to sideline and was able to recite the score and quarter, but Shanahan looked into the rookie’s eyes and knew right away that something was wrong. A few moments later, Griffin didn’t know the score or what quarter it was. He was then taken to the locker room, where the concussion was formally diagnosed.
The Redskins announced the injury by saying Griffin was “shaken up” and that his return was “questionable” — and never updated his status. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was reviewing whether the team violated a league policy by supplying “blatantly false and inaccurate information” about an injury.
That policy was stated in a 2003 memo after Shanahan, who was then the coach of the Denver Broncos, put out false information about Jake Plummer’s injury during a game, telling the club to announce that the quarterback had a concussion instead of a separated shoulder. Concussions didn’t keep players from returning in those days, and Shanahan didn’t want the other team to know that Plummer had a bum shoulder.
Shanahan said Griffin’s concussion wasn’t confirmed until the examination was conducted in the locker room, although the coach didn’t explain why the status wasn’t updated later.
“I knew when he didn’t know the quarter that the chances of him coming back were zero,” Shanahan said. “Now could that have been said to you sooner? Possibly.”
Shanahan said Griffin experienced “no dizziness, no headaches, no vomiting” on Monday. Griffin was scheduled for tests, and, if he passes them, will get a session on the treadmill Tuesday. If all goes well, he’ll be able to practice Wednesday without contact and be on pace to play the Vikings. A possible complication is that Griffin suffered a concussion last season with Baylor, and the side effects are known to be cumulative.
If there are any setbacks, Shanahan will have to choose between rookie Kirk Cousins and veteran Rex Grossman. Fourth-round pick Cousins finished Sunday’s game and threw more interceptions in one quarter (2) than Griffin has all season (1). Grossman has been inactive all year as the third-string quarterback, a humbling experience for a player who once led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl.
“Kirk has been No. 2 for a reason, because we feel like he’s earned that right,” Shanahan said. “We feel very good about him and where he’s at, but we also have a lot of confidence in Rex as well.”
Notes: The Redskins will work out kickers to seek a possible replacement for Billy Cundiff, who has missed four field goals in the past two games, including a 31-yard attempt Sunday. NFL kickers are 81 for 86 inside 40 yards this season; Cundiff has two of those misses. … Shanahan said S Brandon Meriweather, who has two sprained ligaments in his left knee after a pregame collision a week ago, is expected to miss four more weeks.