A running dilemma for RG3

ASSOCIATED PRESS Robert Griffin III runs on his surgically reconstructed knee before a preseason game. He did not play in the preseason.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Robert Griffin III runs on his surgically reconstructed knee before a preseason game. He did not play in the preseason.
Posted: September 06, 2013

ROBERT GRIFFIN III swears he will be the same guy right from the start Monday night, that 8 or 9 months of rehabbing his torn-up knee included enough game simulation to overcome missing the Redskins' entire offseason, including preseason games.

Actually, RG3 said yesterday during a conference call that he will even be better, and here's one reason:

''It's not something you want to harp on but it is something I've heard for the last 8 months about sliding and getting out of bounds,'' he said. "That's something I'm going to do. That's a part of football - you live and you learn. The thing for me now is to make sure I play every down and every game. Because my teammates need me. They don't need me to get that extra 2 yards on third-and-7.''

Sounds so simple. And yet season after season, talented, multithreat quarterbacks like Griffin end their seasons on crutches or in a cast, the inherent risk teams take in a league of super-sized players when they attempt to attack a defense 11-on-11 by making the quarterback a threat to run.

Griffin can do both, of course, as he showed in torching the Eagles twice last season. His two late-season masteries were like the closing argument for gutting the Eagles of their high-priced secondary. He set a slew of rookie passing records and came within a hair of a few more and engineered a seven-game winning streak late in the season that suggested a long playoff run, maybe even a Super Bowl berth.

Ah, but the inherent risk of playing 11-on-11 is that the quarterback gets hit a few more times too. Griffin got banged up in an early December scrap with the Ravens, then tore his ACL in Washington's playoff loss to Seattle. As more and more teams use the legs of their quarterbacks as well as their arms - Griffin rattled off about eight names, white, black and mixed, when discussing where the game was headed - the opportunity and temptation to hit them obviously increases.

Someone mentioned this becoming part of a game plan against him and Griffin said, "You better be careful when you talk about targeting quarterbacks. Because that sounds a lot like a bounty to me.''

Bounty might be a little extreme, but Eagles fans don't have to look far back for referencing. Even before he missed six games last season with a concussion, Michael Vick complained openly that he was subjected to unpenalized late shots even when he never wandered from the pocket. And sometimes he was right. Encouraged under Andy Reid to stay in the pocket and make his reads, Vick still took a beating. Worse than if he had just taken off, something he will no doubt do more under Chip Kelly this season.

He also will be part of running plays as Griffin was last year, when he rushed 120 times for 815 yards, sixth most for a quarterback in NFL history. Griffin's rushing totals were just slightly more than Cam Newton's and nearly double that of San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson - two players with whom he is sometimes compared.

As he relies on his arm more and runs less, those differences are bound to decrease, but not disappear. Chip Kelly's arrival into the NFL signifies that as much as RG3's does. Indeed, before he got off the phone yesterday, Griffin channeled his inner Chipper with this:

"The game has always been 10-on-11 when it comes to offense because you really didn't have to account for the quarterback. Nowadays, in this modern age, you have to account for the quarterback. It makes it 11-on-11. It gives the offense a little bit more of an advantage. And I think that's what teams are starting to see.

"In high school repeatedly coaches put their best athletes at quarterback. And I think you will see more and more guys who can move around a little bit. It's not just me, Russell Wilson, Kaepernick and Michael Vick. Drew Brees moves around a little bit. Aaron Rodgers moves around a little bit. Alex Smith moves around a little bit. Andrew Luck moves around a little bit. It's not just us out there doing it. It's the natural progression of the quarterback position.''

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Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon

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