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Rick Snider: Despite being a rookie, Griffin not intimidated

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

Robert Griffin III dares to take risks.

The Washington Redskins quarterback opened minicamp on Tuesday by making plays with his legs and arm. A deep touchdown to receiver Pierre Garcon in the corner of the Ashburn practice bubble wowed teammates. A sharp bootleg frozen-rope throw ended in tight end Fred Davis' hands 10 yards away.

The first-team defense gained a rare chance against the heralded first-rounder when rain forced the workout inside over one field. They wanted to make Griffin look like a rookie. While there was no hitting, defenders came at him quickly when he left the pocket.

No matter -- Griffin wasn't intimidated.

"The one thing I won't do is play with fear," he said. "College guys try to take you out. It's no different in the pros."

There's no bounty on Griffin for the season opener at the New Orleans Saints. Defenders aren't supposed to cheap shot rivals any more for fear of suspensions and heavy fines.

But they're definitely looking for Griffin to race outside. It's what he does. Few in the NFL have some elusiveness, but Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said Griffin was even better than Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick.

If defenses can contain Griffin, they can beat him. Nothing like some big hits to make a passer stay in the pocket.

But Griffin talks of playing smart, of sliding when it's not a first-down conversion. That is, if you call his short fall a slide, he joked.

Griffin ran 528 times for 2,254 yards at Baylor with 33 touchdowns. His senior year was a career-best 179 carries for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"He has a natural feel for that," coach Mike Shanahan said.

It doesn't hurt that the Redskins will probably have a backfield by committee so rushing yards by Griffin will be appreciated. A lot of double tight end combinations are also probable as Washington protects its franchise player.

Griffin has a feel for his huddle -- that it's already his. That's 10 people geared toward enabling his success. Some quarterbacks never gain the loyalty from linemen. Griffin knows his bodyguards' loyalty is vital.

"You need guys on your side and not stab you in the back," Griffin said.

Any late hit on Griffin, any perceived cheap shot will be met with a payback. Nobody will mess with him.

Indeed, the bonding extends to coming weeks while the team is off until returning to Redskins Park on July 16. That's one month of free time, though Griffin said there's "no vacation" for him.

Several receivers will meet Griffin in Texas during the break after minicamp ends Thursday. Griffin needs to find their sweet spots, but they also need to notice how he bolts out of the backfield so they can block downfield. That's what turns six-yard gains into long touchdowns.

Griffin's recent month with the Redskins has taught him one invaluable lesson -- don't be afraid. There's help all around him.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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