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ACL damage could impact RGIII's availability for 2013

Robert Griffin III's was noticeably hobbled against the Seahawks, even before his injury. (Evan Vucci/AP) Robert Griffin III's was noticeably hobbled against the Seahawks, even before his injury. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The early word out of Robert Griffin III's Wednesday morning knee surgery was both expected and troubling.

Dr. James Andrews put Griffin under the knife to repair the injured LCL in Griffin's right knee, as well as to more carefully examine Griffin's ACL. Griffin's father, Robert Griffin II, informed USA Today that Andrews determined RGIII's ACL needed to be fixed as well.

"Robert's ACL is intact, but not enough for his profession,'' Griffin II told USA Today via text. "You and I could be fine. But he is an athlete. So they will replace.''

Mark Maske of the Washington Post seconded that news, tweeting that " Griffin's ACL found to be in decent condition but 'needs to be stronger.'"

The Redskins had been hopeful that Griffin III could avoid an ACL reconstruction -- his second in his right knee, the first coming when he suffered an injury while at Baylor in 2009. With Griffin requiring extensive work on both his LCL and ACL, his status for the 2013 season is very much in jeopardy. Initial reports tabbed Griffin's recovery at six-to-eight months, but injury expert Will Carroll told SI.com that may be pushing it.

"With a 'normal' ACL reconstruction, we'd normally say eight-to-12 (months), but even that is a bit optimistic unless we start considering the kind of returns we've had," Carroll said. "It's more than just Adrian Peterson and Wes Welker -- those are the extreme positives -- but six-to-eight seems a bit short to me.

"Possible? Yes. Optimistic? Probably."

Peterson set the bar for players returning from major knee injuries. After blowing out his ACL and MCL in late December 2011, Peterson was back on the field to start the 2012 season, then went on to nearly break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.

The Chiefs' Jamaal Charles, who tore his ACL very early in the 2011 season, came back to post 1,500-plus yards rushing of his own in 2012, though he experienced some extra soreness early in the year.

"The difference between MCL and LCL is the healing," Carroll said of the inevitable comparisons between Griffin and Peterson. "Both tend to heal on their own to some extent, failing a complete rupture. With the MCL, there are secondary stabilizers and most doctors tend not to repair it anyway; the LCL is less exposed in football given the function and mechanism, but it is seen more in soccer, skiing and some other sports.

"It's enough to say that their recoveries should be different, but there are likely to be more similarities in process than differences. The biggest complication in rehab tends to be the athlete trying to do too much too soon, which was an issue with Peterson."

Carroll added that Griffin should be able to return, eventually, to full speed, noting how well the potential Offensive Rookie of the Year recovered from his first ACL tear.

However, even if Griffin rehabs rapidly, the later date of a six-to-eight-month rehab pushes his return into the 2013 regular season. If he needs longer -- nine-to-12 months is usually more traditional prognosis on an ACL tear -- he may have to sit out for all of next season.

Whenever he does return to the field, the Redskins will have to decide if they'll adjust their offense to better protect him.

Washington's attack this year was predicated on a lot of read-option looks, with Griffin's ability to run and escape the pocket critical. While he has a very good shot at getting back to 100 percent, the Redskins can ill afford to lose him to another knee injury down the road. So, the franchise may have no choice but to utilize a more traditional, pocket-passing look.

But we are a ways from that discussion at the moment -- at least six months, and quite possibly longer. Until then, the Redskins will sit and hope that Griffin can become the NFL's next great comeback story.
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