Our Incredible Hour and a Half With Robert Griffin III

Behind the scenes of the September Behind the Scenes shoot.
Editor at large Carol Joynt and assistant photo editor Kelci House with Robert Griffin III. Photographs by Sam Kittner.
Editor at large Carol Joynt and assistant photo editor Kelci House with Robert Griffin III. Photographs by Sam Kittner.

It’s been interesting to follow the speculation about whether Washington Redskins
quarterback
Robert Griffin III will play in the season-opening game against Philadelphia on Monday, September 9.
Is he ready? Isn’t he ready? Will orthopedist Dr.
James Andrews give him the green light? Will head coach
Mike Shanahan abide by the opinion of Andrews, the will of Griffin, or the message of his own gut—or
all three? And still, does that mean he will or won’t play?

Though there were new reports on Wednesday and
Thursday
indicating that teammates think he is ready, we may not know
until game time on that
electric Monday night.

For now, we have our own, amusing story to tell. Our September Behind the Scenes features
a stunning inside look at the year-old practice bubble at Redskins Park in Ashburn,
Virginia. Here’s how we got that photo.

It was June 18, almost a month after Griffin made an initial public appearance on
the team’s outdoor field as part of organized team activities (OTAs). Though he’d
been kept well removed from scrutiny by sideline sports reporters, from what little
they’d seen they thought he looked, in the words of the
Washington Post’s Mark Maske, “relatively crisp.”

When we initially negotiated to photograph the bubble, we asked whether the shot could
include some players practicing. Of course we wanted Griffin, but our request was
denied. Instead, defensive end
Jarvis Jenkins and center
Josh LeRibeus volunteered to be our “models,” and met us at the bubble when we arrived. Our group
included photographer
Sam Kittner and assistant photo editor
Kelci House.

We set up and started shooting, with Jenkins and LeRibeus in the foreground working
with equipment. But within a few minutes another group of players and coaches arrived
on the field. The PR rep politely but firmly said we had to move away from our camera
setup and that we could not use our cell phones to tweet or take any photos. Why?
Robert Griffin III had come on the field. We could stay, but what we were about to
see had to remain inside that bubble.

From where we stood, on one side of the goal, it was fairly easy to spot Griffin on
the other side. He removed baggy training shorts and a loose-fitting T-shirt to reveal
black compression shorts, a black tank top, and his knee brace. For the next hour
or so, he was nothing but motion—sometimes lightning-fast motion. He went through
drills with the other players, including some explosive foot and knee moves; then
he took off sprinting, from one end of the 100-yard field to the other, as the music
of Jay-Z and Kanye West blared through the bubble’s powerful sound system. It was
mesmerizing.

When the drills were done, the group of players went to the middle of the field. A
coach squatted down a few yards from Griffin and began to toss him balls, which he
aimed at other players. This went on for a half hour. To our untrained eyes, no one,
especially not Griffin, looked anything less than in top form. When the throwing ended,
Griffin resumed his sprints across the field. The coaches stood on the sideline, while
Davis and Thompson sat on the field.

We were now more than an hour behind schedule on our photo shoot. Jenkins and LeRebius
had returned to the headquarters building, and we had no players to photograph. We
were in a bind. So we asked again: “Any chance RG3 would do our shoot? Maybe with
Davis and Thompson also?” This time the answer was “yes”—but only when Griffin was
done with his workout.

When Griffin’s workout ended, he climbed back into the baggy shorts and loose T-shirt
and ambled over to us, smiling. At one point, as he fussed with his socks, I saw the
scar on his knee. It looked familiar, having endured a couple of ACL surgeries myself.
He agreed to pose for some personal photos, and he, Davis, and Thompson compliantly
followed Kittner’s stage direction for the photo. A few snaps and it was over, and
they were out the door, followed by an entourage of coaches.

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