When Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns in March, it signaled a new beginning for the former Rookie of the Year following a lackluster few seasons with the Washington Redskins.
After missing all of last year and a combined 26 games over the course of the past three seasons due to a combination of injuries and getting benched, Griffin will miss at least the next eight games of 2016 as well.
On Sunday, in his first regular season game with the Browns, the former Heisman Trophy winner fractured a bone in his non-throwing shoulder, the team announced on Monday.
The 26-year-old was placed on injured reserve.
Griffin’s shoulder injury came towards the end of the game after he was hit while heading to the sideline at the end of a scramble.
Following the game, Griffin admitted he suffered an injury during the play, but most in the organization thought it was nothing more than a sprain, including Griffin himself.
“It’s just an unfortunate play,” he told The Washington Post. “It hurt pretty bad but I felt like I could get back out there…I’m in pain. But I’ll be okay.”
Griffin also tweeted after the contest:
Unfortunately for Griffin, the injury was much more severe than everyone thought.
Though he is certainly optimistic in trusting “God’s timing”, the timing couldn’t seem to be worse for a worn-down player trying desperately to resurrect his career.
Once thought to be among the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the college game, Griffin was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Luck has enjoyed a successful career with the Indianapolis Colts utilizing his brain and arm.
Griffin used to utilize his arm and legs but had the latter essentially taken away from him when he tore his ACL and LCL during a playoff game in his rookie season. While trying to recover a fumble against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2012 NFC Wild Card, his right leg gave out, bending the knee awkwardly.
Since then, his rushing statistics have rapidly declined.
In 2012, he rushed 120 times for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s only scored one touchdown on the ground and had a combined 702 rushing yards since.
On the flip side, the loss of his ability to run like he used to forced him to rely on his arm, which has always been powerful but sometimes inaccurate.
After throwing for 3,200 yards his rookie season, Griffin threw for 3,203 yards and attempted 63 more passes despite playing in two fewer games the following year.
The con of throwing the ball more meant he threw more interceptions — 12 in 2013 after only throwing five the year prior.
Those two years were the closest things to a “complete” season Griffin has had, but the former Pro Bowler demonstrated a newfound accuracy in his first preseason with the Browns this year.
Griffin played in 17 quarters this preseason and threw only one interception, completing more than 57 percent of his passes for 313 yards while adding a trio of touchdowns.
His regular season debut wasn’t as impressive — it included an interception and only 190 passing yards — but he showed flashes of brilliance that were reminiscent of his days at Baylor.
His favorite target has quickly emerged as Terrelle Pryor, a former quarterback who is also trying to revive his career in Cleveland. The difference between the two is that Pryor has switched positions to help with the rebirth.
Pryor was targeted a team-high seven times on Sunday, but only made three catches for 68 yards.
The Griffin-Pryor duo looked interesting in the preseason but it will now have to wait until Griffin returns, which would be in mid-November at the earliest.
It’s just unfortunate that Griffin may never be healthy enough to attempt a comeback in which he returns to the player he once was.
His body simply isn’t allowing him to reach the potential peak that once seemed to be sky-high.
At this point, a good season for Griffin would be finishing it uninjured — and that’s a shame for Griffin, the Browns, and the NFL. Perhaps we will never know what Griffin could have become.
One thing’s for sure, this year’s shoulder injury may have derailed what would have been an intriguing comeback. We will now have to wait and see how Griffin (and his body) responds.