Robert Griffin III is going to start the regular season opener at quarterback without having played in a preseason game. That’s unusual for a quarterback coming off of a torn ACL; in fact, it may be unprecedented in recent times.
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com looked at the returns of five other NFL starting quarterbacks from torn ACLs—Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, and Phillip Rivers. All of them saw two or three games of preseason action in their comeback seasons.
Griffin’s injury did come later in the season than those of Brady, Culpeper, and McNabb. But both Rivers and Palmer were injured later in January than was Griffin and they both played the following preseason. So recovery time is not necessarily an impediment to Griffin playing in August
Raanan also has the stats on each quarterback’s first game back and their stats that season. It’s a mixed bag; some had solid seasons while Culpepper was benched by the Dolphins.
Griffin went back and forth on the importance of preseason games over the course of training camp.
“I don’t think preseason actually matters that much when it comes to that,” he said the day before camp started. “I think if you talk to a lot of the vets, they don’t even like the preseason. I think that’s a well-known fact. Even I know that and I’ve only been in the league one year. I think you can get that timing, those reps in practice and that’s what I’m going to get later in the preseason.”
A few weeks later he was singing a different tune. He was asked if he was going to ask Mike Shanahan if he could play in a preseason game. “You know me too well. I’m going to, definitely,” he said. “I want to play, let’s get that straight. I want to play in the preseason.”
So who was right, Griffin in late July or Griffin in mid-August? I suspect that he might have benefited from a few exhibition snaps but in the long run it won’t make much difference. The risk him playing may not have been worth the marginal gains.