Redskins worry RG3 is taking too many hits

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Photo - Evan Vucci/AP
In three games this season, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has run the ball 32 times and been sacked nine times.
Evan Vucci/AP In three games this season, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has run the ball 32 times and been sacked nine times.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

ASHBURN -- Robert Griffin III walked around the locker room without a limp Monday. That in itself is surprising given the number of times he was hit Sunday.

In the Redskins' 38-31 loss to Cincinnati, Griffin ran the ball 12 times, was sacked six times and was hit countless other times after handing off or pitching the ball. For instance, on a second-and-5 in the fourth quarter, Griffin pitched to Brandon Banks running around right end. But as soon as he pitched the ball, Bengals linebacker Manny Lawson drilled him into the ground. Griffin's head bounced off the turf.

It's a problem for the Redskins (1-2). They move the ball better when Griffin's a triple threat to run, throw or hand off. They don't move as well when they fail to use any sort of play-action throws. However, it's clear that this team relies more on Griffin now than it had intended courtesy of the defensive failures.

"You're trying to keep defenses off-balance, and we'll do what we think gives us the best chance to win," Redskins coach Mike Shan?ahan said. "No, you don't want a quarterback taking as many shots as he did yesterday, that's for sure."

That's an understatement. Griffin has run the ball 32 times and has been sacked nine times. And again, that number doesn't include hits in the pocket or after handoffs or pitches.

"You don't want him taking the hits he's exposed to," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. "He's a tough guy. He's young, but in the same sense you don't want to expose him to as many hits, especially unnecessary hits if he's in the pocket.

"He's talented, so right now the coaching staff will take advantage of his talent and the pressure it puts on a defense to be able to prepare for him, to stop him, trying to figure out the read when he has the ball and then gives it to the running back."

The Bengals clearly felt a way not to fall for Griffin's fakes was to run right at him, at least in certain situations. It may have cost them some yards, but perhaps it would wear out Griffin.

"You can't get so caught up in saying I hit the quarterback, because if he gives the ball to the running back and they're gashing you for 15, 20 yards a run, then your strategy isn't good," Fletcher said. "The main thing is you have to figure out to stop the person on the ball. It puts a lot of pressure on you. He's so fast that even though many want to hit him, they may not be able to catch him most of the time."

Guard Kory Lichtensteiger said all the hits on Griffin are a concern.

"Every Monday I look at him out of the corner of my eye, making sure he's OK," Lichtensteiger said. "He's a tough guy, and he won't complain about it, but you don't like seeing your quarterback, especially a guy carrying the load, taking those kinds of hits."

But, Lichtensteiger said, "If he's hurting, he's fooled me."

Griffin's toughness and ability to bounce back up (thus far) have impressed his teammates.

"It's encouraging," Lichtensteiger said. "A couple times he's laying as crooked as a question mark on the ground, and he's not moving, and he slowly peels himself back up. It's good for us. We're not taking those hits, so if he can get up after that, then anybody should be able to."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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