Grif­fin is of­fen­sive rookie of the year

Luck, Wil­son fin­ish a dis­tant sec­ond, third in AP vot­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY RICK MAESE

NEW OR­LEANS — Washington Red­skins quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III won the As­so­ci­ated Press of­fen­sive rookie of the year award on Satur­day night, ty­ing a bow on a mem­o­rable sea­son while also cast­ing some op­ti­mism on the next one.

Speak­ing for the first time since un­der­go­ing ex­ten­sive knee surgery nearly four weeks ago, Grif­fin said his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is al­ready ahead of sched­ule and he has “no doubt” he’ll be ready to play next sea­son.

“My goal is Week 1,” he said. “That’s all I’m really wor­ried about.”

Grif­fin, who un­der­went surgery on his right knee on Jan. 9, said he’s been off crutches for nearly two weeks and was walking Satur­day with only the slight­est hint of a limp. Sport­ing a striped bur­gundy and gold neck tie, Grif­fin had no prob­lem tak­ing the stage at Ma­halia Jack­son The­ater and ac­cept­ing his award from New Or­leans quar­ter­back Drew Brees.

“It’s a truly a bless­ing to be up here and be able to stand, first and fore­most,” Grif­fin told the star-stud­ded crowd. “I had a tough in­jury there at the end of the sea­son.”

The quar­ter­back had made no pub­lic ap­pear­ances since in­jur­ing his knee in the Red­skins’ Jan. 6 play­off loss to the Seat­tle Seahawks and likened Satur­day night to a “coming-out party,” as he of­fered up­dates on his progress and his off­sea­son hopes. Grif­fin said when Washington fans see him take the field next, they’ll no­tice changes.

“You will see a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of me,” he said. “I vowed to my team­mates and to my­self af­ter my first knee in­jury that I’ll come back a bet­ter player and that’s what I plan to do af­ter this one as well. You won’t see the same Robert Grif­fin. You’ll see a bet­ter Robert Grif­fin.”

Say­ing “hind­sight is 20/20,” Grif­fin didn’t ex­press any com­plaints about the dis­as­trous end to his rookie sea­son. He said Red­skins Coach Mike Shana­han briefly vis­ited him in Florida last month, but the two didn’t dis­sect the de­ci­sion to con­tinue play­ing against the Seahawks on the in­jured knee.

“There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent things that we wish we would’ve done dif­fer­ently as a team,” he said. “I can’t get into that with you guys. That’s a con­ver­sa­tion I have to

have with Coach, that I will have with Coach.”

“I think the only re­gret and bit­ter­ness is the fact that we lost,” he con­tin­ued. “We felt like we should’ve won the game. There’s things we could’ve done to win the game. It’s a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­body. That’s what it is. When I get back to Red­skins Park, I’ll talk to Coach and we’ll move on from there.”

Grif­fin has been re­hab­bing in Gulf Breeze, Fla., and said he has ses­sions twice a day with spe­cial­ists and then does a third by him­self back at the ho­tel. He said he’ll be vis­it­ing Ash­burn this week and will split the rest of his re­hab be­tween Florida and the Washington area.

“I went through the tough­est part al­ready, so it’s now it’s just about be­ing smart, not push­ing it too much,” he said.

Grif­fin has al­ready gone through knee re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion once be­fore. He missed most of his 2009 sea­son at Bay­lor, re­cov­er­ing from surgery to the same knee. The fa­mil­iar­ity with this process, he said, will be help­ful as he spends the off­sea­son re­cov­er­ing.

“I can know what peaks and val­leys there’s go­ing to be,” he said, “what mile­stones I need to hit and when I’m gonna hit them and just give me the con­fi­dence to know that I can come back bet­ter than I was be­fore.”

Grif­fin’s abil­ity to re­cover from knee surgery will be one of the NFL’s big­gest story lines un­til train­ing camps open in five months. Such an ex­ten­sive in­jury could take a year or more for re­cov­ery. But last sea­son, Min­nesota run­ning back Adrian Peter­son tore his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment and had surgery on Dec. 30, 2012. He was ready by Week 1, posted 2,097 rush­ing yards this sea­son and Satur­day night was named the AP most valu­able player.

Grif­fin and the Vik­ings star have al­ready spo­ken.

“I’ll do my best to give him some great in­for­ma­tion,” Peter­son said. “Of course, ev­ery­one heals dif­fer­ently. We all have dif­fer­ent mind-sets. Hopefully they come in with the same mind-set that I came in with.”

Even if Grif­fin’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is smooth and he’s ready by Week 1, his rookie sea­son has set a high bar. In lead­ing the Red­skins to their first di­vi­sion ti­tle in 13 years, Grif­fin com­pleted 258 of 393 passes for 3,200 yards, 20 touch­downs and also rushed for 815 yards (a league record for rook­ies) and seven touch­downs.

He beat out his team­mate, run­ning back Al­fred Mor­ris, and two other quar­ter­backs, Indianapolis’s An­drew Luck and Seat­tle’s Rus­sell Wil­son, to win top of­fen­sive rookie hon­ors. Grif­fin earned 29 votes from a na­tion­wide panel of 50 me­dia mem­bers, well ahead of Luck’s 11 and Wil­son’s 10.

The Red­skins hadn’t boasted an of­fen­sive rookie of the year since run­ning back Mike Thomas in 1975.

“Times have changed,” Grif­fin said. “It’s time for us to take that first place like we did this past year in the NFC East, and we’ve just got to keep build­ing from there.”

TONI L. SANDYS/THE WASHINGTON POST

Robert Grif­fin III says he plans to be back to start next sea­son.

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