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.