WACO _ Quarterback Robert Griffin was going around Tuesday blaming himself for getting injured and being unable to help his Baylor teammates for the rest of this season. But he shouldn't go down that road.
A proud man, Griffin kept being critical of himself during an interview session at the Baylor practice facility. The ultra-talented sophomore tried to convince the media that he should have known better than to sustain an isolated tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee during last Saturday's game against Northwestern State.
"It's like the whole season is gone and I let so many down _ from my teammates to the people around the community and anybody backing the Bears,'' Griffin said. "I talked to coach (Art Briles) about that and he told me that's not on my shoulders. I've got to realize that and let it go.
"I've never had a real serious injury. This will show me how much I love the game and how much I want to get back.''
Griffin loves the game so much that he kept talking Tuesday about coming back later this season and playing with a knee brace.
"It'll just depend on whether the team feels they need me to be out there to win games,'' Griffin said. If I come back and I feel good, then I'll address the team before I make a decision to put a brace on it and go out there and play.''
So why would Griffin make such a drastic decision to risk his future and try and play later this season? He believes because he got hurt early against Northwestern State, then came back and played the rest of the first half is evidence that he's not an ordinary quarterback.
"I just look at it like I played on it for two quarters and was pretty effective,'' Griffin said. "I can do that again if I can get my knee back somewhat stable. To get it somewhat stable, it just depends on what the team wants.''
Briles said he wants Griffin healthy and ready to play next season. He's already looking forward to making this a medical redshirt season for Griffin, leaving him with three years of eligibility.
Griffin, who has starrred at whatever he's done, just wants to be his old self again. Or something relatively close to it.
"I just know I've got to come back bigger and better and faster than I was before this injury,'' Griffin said. "That's what everybody's going to expect and I've got to live up to those expectations and exceed it.''
A very talented player who made various Freshmen All-American teams last year, Griffin has always set lofty goals for himself. So, him wanting to return bigger, better and faster than he was before comes as no surprise.
"I'm not going to come back less than a quarterback than I was before,'' Griffin said. "That's just not going to happen. I'll make sure that doesn't happen.
"That pressure, it'll be on me, but it's my life and it's my knee. So if I want to have a healthy knee and a prepared knee that functions properly, then I've got to do the (rehab) work and put in the hard work to get it back.''
Griffin was injured on a fourth-and-two option play when he tired to run for the yardage. No contact was made before Griffin collapsed to the ground and short of the first down.
"As soon as I planted my right foot, my foot turned out and my knee buckled inside,'' Griffin said. "I heard the pop and I'm just laying down.
"I kind of just dropped as soon as I heard the pop. And the rest is history.''
Griffin said he'll likely have surgery, but it won't happen for another month or so _ sometimes shortly after the swelling goes down in his knee and his range of motion in his knee improves. As for being ready for spring football?
"I won't be back on the field or running for six months, and at nine months, then you're supposed to be ready to go,'' Griffin said. "I can do a little bit of spring training, but probably not full speed taking every snap.''
Griffin said he's talked to a few people who have had a torn ACL and has listened to their advice concerning the rehabiltation process. But he knows his knee is different from everyone else's.
"You just can't really listen to one person because (the torn ACL) might have hurt like heck for them, but with you it might be a little easier,'' Griffin said. "I've just got to go in there with a clear mind and go to work.''
Grififn's teammates would rather he not put too much pressure on himself and try to come back too fast to help the Bears get a bowl invitation for the first time since 1994.
"One guy is never out there by himself,'' linebacker Joe Pawelek said. "There's always 11 guys trying to play together.''
Cornerback Clifton Odom concurred, saying: "There's 11 people on the field at a time and it takes all 11 to carry out that play and drive the team down the field. All is not lost.''
As for his new role with the Bears, Griffin is more than willing to be a vocal leader and a cheerleader.
"I can't lead by example any more,'' he said. "All I can do is talk. It'll help me look at the game from another perspective.''
But Griffin doesn't know if he'll be fine-tuning the "student of the game'' mental part of his arsenal from the Baylor sidelines or in the press box. He's currently walking around on crutuches and could get injured again if he can't get out of the way of some players who run or get tackled out of bounds near the Baylor bench.
"If (the coaches) don't want to take a chance of me not looking (at the game) and getting hit (on the sidelines). . .we definitely don't need that,'' Griffin said. "It just depends on what Coach Briles wants.
"I'll be on the field or in the (press) box. It doesn't matter.''
As for Griffin's aspirations of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles, he said: "That's still out there. It'll always be out there. Even with this injury I can still go out there and hurdle.
"If I wanted to go for that and go for the gold, then I can do that. But right now the focus is getting back ready to help this team win next year.''
As ACL tears go, Griffin said the Baylor medical team told him "this is the best tear I could have. They're high on me getting the surgery and being back next year ready to go even better than I was before.''
_ Dwain Price