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RG III takes first 11-on-11 snaps

RICHMOND, Va. -- Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III clapped his hands hard three times, then stepped into the place he has longed to be for months -- the huddle.

It may only have been 16 plays. It may have occurred against the scout-team defense. But it represented a step for Griffin on his return from his Jan. 9 surgery on multiple ligaments in his right knee.

To date, Griffin was limited to 7-on-7 drills. He also would do drill work on the side during the special-teams portion of practice, often running through plays the starters were doing during full-team work.

On Monday, Griffin started working with the starters during walk-through, but against no defense. There was a different feel for Griffin and his offensive teammates Wednesday.

"I hate to use the word but his swagger in the huddle is a lot different than any other quarterbacks that we have," Redskins tight end Niles Paul said.

But it's not as if Griffin had been elsewhere for the first two-plus weeks of camp. He was around the huddle; he worked with the backs and tight ends. That's why tight end Logan Paulsen called Tuesday "business as usual."

"It's like his natural spot," Paulsen said. "Guys expect him to be there. It's just good to have him back. He didn't miss a beat. He came in and it was like last season again. It's like we were playing Dallas. He was in there calling plays. He did a great job."

And his return to 11-on-11 work, even though it was only against the scout team, allowed the story to shift from the Griffin-Mike Shanahan relationship to the quarterback's on-field performance. There certainly was more of a buzz before Wednesday's practice -- and for RG III's 16 plays during it -- than a typical workout this summer.

The crowd of 10,111 was bigger than it had been for recent workouts, about three times more than Tuesday. Some of that could be weather related (temperatures in the 70s) or that it was the only practice session of the day. Chances are, a few fans showed up just to see Griffin take the next step in his recovery.

It's not as if Griffin was going against defenders rushing at full speed each play. The scout team is there to provide a look, but they will pull up sooner than if it were a live-action drill. So the defense never really got too close to Griffin, at least not to the point where he was in danger of being hit.

"It's nice to get him into a team atmosphere," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "He did a good job. It was a good first day. This gives him a chance to do more work with the team. He's been doing it all on the side, but he knows he gets a chance to go against a look that he'll see on Sundays or Mondays. I think he feels comfortable getting back into a team role."

Of his 16 plays, Griffin completed 7-of-10 passes, including a deep ball to tight end Jordan Reed down the left side -- Reed, drifting toward the sidelines, made the catch over his right shoulder. But Griffin also looked like a guy working against a full defense for the first time all summer.

He was low and behind on a slant to Leonard Hankerson. He was intercepted by linebacker Ricky Elmore over the middle; the first-year linebacker didn't have to move.

But Griffin looked the same as he did performing his drills on the side. There was no planting gingerly; there was no inability to execute any of the plays. He rolled out, he ran three-step drops, he lined up in pistol formation, he ran deep play action and stretch-zone play action.

"He looked like himself," Redskins receiver Santana Moss said. "I'm pretty sure there were a couple reads here and there he probably would want to do better at, but that's going to happen just being out there. He might probably not feel like himself right now, but the more and more he's out there with us, he'll be ready to go."

And the speculation for whether or not he'll play in the opener will continue. Shanahan stressed again that his plan is the same as Griffin's, to get him ready for that game against Philadelphia. He would not divulge when Griffin would take 11-on-11 work during more intense sessions against their regular defense.

Griffin, whose scheduled day to talk is Mondays and was unavailable after practice, has grown antsy to return -- and let his feelings be known during news conferences.

"We don't necessarily like it," receiver Pierre Garcon said, when asked about Griffin challenging the coaches, "but that's the kind of player he is. He wants to be out there. He wants to help the team. But he's still got some time. We don't need him for just Week 1, we need him for the whole season."