Con­tact con­cerns

Big hits on RG3 re­main a prob­lem

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY ZAC BOYER

Given the chance to do it again, Robert Grif­fin III might look at it dif­fer­ently.

With 24 sec­onds left in the sec­ond quar­ter of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ even­tual loss to the Min­nesota Vik­ings a week ago, the quar­ter­back took the snap in the shot­gun and gave a brief glance at his wide re­ceivers down­field. The Red­skins faced sec­ond-and-goal from the Vik­ings’ 13-yard line, and with noth­ing open but the mid­dle of the field, Grif­fin took off run­ning.

He made it 12 yards, just to the edge of the goal line, where he was greeted by four Vik­ings de­fend­ers: lineback­ers Erin Hen­der­son and Chad Green­way, cor­ner­back Mar­cus Sherels and safety Robert Blan­ton. His head, his chest, his shoul­ders — all were hit hard, and as Grif­fin slowly peeled him­self up off the Metrodome turf and saun­tered back to­ward his team­mates for the third-down play, he was saved by a time­out.

Grif­fin has been fol­lowed by ques­tions about his dura­bil­ity since he en­tered the NFL be­fore last sea­son, and those voices were only am­pli­fied af­ter he tore two lig­a­ments in his right knee in a play­off game in Jan­uary.

Now that he ap­pears to have fully re­gained his mo­bil­ity, rush­ing for an av­er­age of 6 yards per at­tempt over the past five games, the con­cern has re­turned. Of­fi­cially, Grif­fin was hit 13 times by Vik­ings de­fend­ers, but the stat sheet was kind. There were eas­ily a dozen more

plays on which Grif­fin took some kind of shot, yet each time he stood up, shook him­self off and re­joined his team­mates in the hud­dle.

“I’ve al­ways been able to take a shot,” Grif­fin said Wednes­day. “You’ve just got to load your­self up in the off­sea­son to get ready for those kind of hits. Big boys play at this level, and they’re gonna hit you as of­ten as they can. It’s our job to make sure we can limit those hits.”

Grif­fin ac­knowl­edged that scram­ble up the mid­dle of the field likely wasn’t the wis­est de­ci­sion, but he main­tained that if he hadn’t slipped on the ar­ti­fi­cial turf while try­ing to cut up­field, he would have made it into the end zone.

Yet that’s ex­actly the type of play Grif­fin, and his coaches, said lead­ing into the sea­son that he would try to avoid. What’s the use of Grif­fin sac­ri­fic­ing him­self to gain an ex­tra yard or two, they rea­soned, with­out the out­come of the game hang­ing in the bal­ance?

With the en­su­ing time­out, the quar­ter­back and of­fense were able to re­group, and Grif­fin com­pleted a 1-yard touch­down pass to tight end Lo­gan Paulsen on the next play.

Grif­fin at­tempted to stem the hits early in the game, es­pe­cially af­ter Vik­ings de­fen­sive end Jared Allen lev­eled him as he car­ried out a zone-read fake on a hand­off to run­ning back Al­fred Mor­ris on the sec­ond play from scrim­mage. The Red­skins showed a zone-read look on 17 other plays; af­ter the first, Grif­fin was re­minded to put his hands up and show de­fend­ers he didn’t have the ball to avoid get­ting hit.

“Af­ter you hand the ball off, if you put your hands up where they see you don’t have it just like we did dur­ing the game, they can’t hit you,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “It’s that sim­ple.”

But he con­tin­ued to take shots, even when not run­ning. In the third quar­ter, with 13:43 re­main­ing, Grif­fin was hit in the left leg by lung­ing de­fen­sive tackle Kyle Wil­liams on a throw that fell in­com­plete to wide re­ceiver Joshua Mor­gan.

And in the sec­ond half, Grif­fin took four hard sacks, with Wil­liams at least help­ing drop the quar­ter­back on three of them.

“You know, I think it’s part of the game, and also, I think it’s part of his game,” said right guard Chris Ch­ester, who played a role in al­low­ing two of those sec­ond-half sacks. “He’s a guy that likes to get back there and try to make some plays, and it’s usu­ally a good thing for us, but as a re­sult, he’s go­ing to get hit. It’s the na­ture of the game.”

Even af­ter the off­sea­son he en­dured, with the surgery, the six-month re­cov­ery and the work­outs while on his hon­ey­moon in France, Grif­fin said he doesn’t think at all about the im­pact the hits will have on his fu­ture.

It wasn’t even a thought last month, when Grif­fin was sacked by de­fen­sive tackle Ter­rance Knighton in the third quar­ter of a road loss to the Denver Bron­cos. He did not re­turn to the game fol­low­ing that hit, which caused his left leg to bend awk­wardly be­neath him but left him only with sore­ness.

“Bot­tom line is, I can’t be tak­ing those amounts of hits — in any of those games or in any games in my ca­reer,” Grif­fin said. “You don’t want to be hit that much, and a lot of the great quar­ter­backs don’t get hit that much. It’s not just [the pro­tec­tion] — it’s me, it’s a lot of things that go into that, and you’ve got to get bet­ter at it.”

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