RICHMOND, Va. — The opposing wills of a headstrong coach and an equally headstrong franchise player faced off again Monday, with Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan rebuffing Robert Griffin III's latest lobbying effort to play in the preseason.
Shanahan also said he has no private deal with Griffin about playing in Week 1 of the regular season, as implied by the quarterback. As far as Griffin's statements about neither liking nor fully understanding Shanahan's practice plan for the QB, the coach reiterated that it's not his job to do everything to Griffin's liking.
"First of all, I love it when somebody wants to play, I love it when somebody wants to be out there," Shanahan said. "That's a good problem to have as a head coach. But my job is to make sure we do the best thing for Robert. ... Not to necessarily do what he likes, but to do what's best for him and this organization.
"My job is to get him ready for the first game, and that's what we're hoping we can do."
Shanahan spoke about six hours after Griffin. The to-and-fro is the ongoing fallout from the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January, when Griffin clearly reinjured his right knee yet remained in the game. He didn't want to take himself out, and Shanahan left him in until the knee finally gave out, leading to reconstructive surgery.
Griffin never hesitates to remind everyone that the coach made a mistake that day, and Shanahan is equally determined not to repeat it, even if it makes Griffin unhappy. The coach said he could have brought Griffin back three weeks ago.
"We could be sitting here right now, him practicing three weeks ago and all of a sudden something happens with that ACL and we're sitting here saying, 'Well, we should've waited an extra week or two.'"
Shanahan has allowed Griffin to run 7-on-7 drills during training camp but not full 11-on-11s, saying that the unpredictability of those plays could lead to sudden movements that could reinjure Griffin's knee. Griffin was psyched about getting to run his first 11-on-11 plays today, saying it would make him feel like "a football player" again. However, Shanahan said Griffin's 11-on-11 work won't start until Wednesday and that it will be only a "couple of reps" to help the team prepare for Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Griffin is so anxious to play that he suited up in full pads for last week's preseason opener even though he knew he wouldn't take the field.
"Let's get that straight: I want to play in the preseason," Griffin said. "Coaches are saying if things go great these next couple of days and next week, then maybe. But it's a hard 'no' right now. It's my job to make that a soft 'no' and possibly a 'yes.'"
It's still a hard "no." The coach said there's "no possibility" Griffin will play in the preseason. He said Dr. James Andrews, who performed Griffin's surgery, recommended that the QB not play in the preseason and not practice at full speed.
Griffin's news conference began with a new catchphrase — "new phase, new hair" — because he was wearing cornrows instead of his usual dreadlocks. He said he's proven he can protect himself, and that he's "dang near close to 100 percent." He said he didn't like that his practice plan was "fixed" ahead of time without any regard as to how his knee was progressing in rehab.
"Like Coach said — he's 100 percent right — I don't have to understand it," Griffin said. "I don't have to like it. But at the end of the day, if he plays me Week 1 and I'm ready to go, then I'll give him a salute and I'll go play my butt off for him."
Griffin said he had a private understanding with Shanahan about going along with the practice plan as long as it led to starting in Week 1.
"There is no arrangement," Shanahan countered. "Our game plan is to play him Week 1. But if there's a setback, we might not be able to play him Week 1. Maybe not 'til Week 5 or 6. ... If there's no setbacks, he'll be ready. He's going to have to trust me there."
The public song-and-dance will continue until Griffin plays, and maybe beyond. Griffin even took to Twitter to clarify what he had said at his news conference minutes earlier.
"There is no friction," he tweeted. "There is an understanding between coach and player. That is all. Don't have to like everything."