The Second Coming of RG3

Everyone was crying. RG3 himself got it started, lying there in his hospital bed, totally immobile. Then his fiancée, Rebecca, and his mom welled up. Jackie never wanted her only son to play football in the first place, not really—what mother wants her son to play football?—but she relented when the 11-year-old pinkie-promised her he wouldn’t get hurt. And now this. Finally, even the quarterback’s military father, Robert Griffin Jr., the retired sergeant, the Iraq vet, “the guy who never cries,” according to his son—not even RG2 could choke back the tears. It was January 9, 2013, three days after Griffin’s historic rookie season ended with a nasty twist of his right knee in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and minutes after Griffin had woken up from surgery in Florida, opening his eyes to a real-life nightmare. His blown-out right knee was bandaged, but so was his healthy left one. That meant Dr. Andrews—James Andrews, one of the most celebrated orthopedic surgeons in America, the same guy who rebuilt Adrian Peterson’s miracle knee a year earlier—had needed to take a tendon graft from the left knee in order to repair the right. Two shredded ligaments, the LCL and ACL. Major reconstructive surgery. Seven to nine months of rehab. Minimum. A jumble of thoughts swirled and drifted into his foggy consciousness—flashbacks to the play that knocked him out, fears about whether he’d be ready for next season—and for once in his short and blessed life, Robert Griffin III just couldn’t deal. He didn’t feel like talking to the nurse, who hadn’t noticed that he’d come to. “So instead of trying to cope with that at the moment,” he recalls now, “I just went back to sleep.” ImageWhen he woke a short while later, he felt ready. Or at least readier. As his parents stood over his bed, Griffin apologized. “After I tore my ACL in college, I told them I would never do that to them again,” he says, referring to the 2009 ACL surgery—same knee—that cost him most of his sophomore season at Baylor. “So when I woke up this time, I said, ‘I’m sorry.’ I knew the kind of pain it was going to put them through, especially my mom. I’m the baby. I’m the only son. She doesn’t want to see her baby boy get hurt.”

Dr. Andrews joined them and reported that the procedure had gone well. When the conversation turned to rehab—specifically, When can I start?—Griffin had an idea: “Hey, when’s our first game?”

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