Rob Woodfork, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - For the second time this season, star Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was slow to get off the FedEx Field turf after a punishing hit at the end of a play in which he was running.
Unlike the previous injury (a concussion against the Falcons), the one we saw Sunday against the Ravens was a seemingly gruesome hit to RGIII's knee (or as we've called it on-air, "RG Knee") and could actually keep him out of the next game.
Luckily, we found out Monday from coach Mike Shanahan that the injury is a sprained LCL, not nearly as bad as it looked.
While that's great news for Redskins Nation, it is, however, touching off another wave of debates over whether Griffin should ever be put in position to take a hit like that in the first place.
One side says, "Stop running him! We finally have a franchise QB and we need to keep him upright!"
Meanwhile, the other side says, "Let him run. He's great at it, and it's the exciting brand of football we've never seen in Washington before now."
Put me in the latter category.
To me, this is a no-brainer. If you have a QB that just happens to (literally) be a world-class runner, you use that. It's a dimension nobody seems capable of stopping right now, and it's what makes RGIII such a rare talent. It's why you shipped three first-round picks and a second-rounder to St. Louis. It's part of why we've come to love this kid. He's electric, he's unique and he's ours.
Sure, you'd love to have Peyton Manning. But why settle for that when you can have Peyton Manning with Randall Cunningham athleticism?
Furthermore, what good is having a guy with speed and agility that makes you forget about Cunningham and Michael Vick if you're not going to use it?
This is football. In the pocket, out of the pocket ... hell, even on the sideline you can get hurt in an NFL game. (Remember Saints coach Sean Payton's leg injury last year?)
Yes, Vick struggles to stay healthy as a "running quarterback." But he doesn't protect himself out there. He dives head-first, runs to the middle of the field and rarely has a sense of when the play is over. Griffin is a pass-first QB that has the ability to run, and he's rapidly learning when to get out of bounds and when to slide when he's got nowhere left to run (though admittedly, his sliding needs a lot of work).
Remember how it ended the last time the Redskins had a franchise-caliber QB? Joe Theismann had the Hogs and still got his leg snapped in half standing behind one of the greatest offensive lines ever assembled.
Also, let's not ignore the fact that the NFL's two most high-profile QB injuries of the last five years happened in the pocket. Tom Brady wasn't in the midst of weaving through defenders to run for a first down in 2008. He was standing tall behind a wall of blockers when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Peyton Manning didn't miss last season because he was decked on a run to the sideline last year. Last time I checked, he rarely leaves the pocket - the place where RGIII is supposedly "safe."
Plus, the Redskins offense has enjoyed plenty of success this year off the threat of the run. Having a QB with elite speed helps open up holes for running back Alfred Morris, freezes the defense when the 'Skins go to the run option plays and helps mask some of the deficiencies in the offensive line.
Right now, Griffin runs because he has to run. His play has camouflaged a lot of what ails the Redskins offense, and I'd say RGIII's running has won no less than four games for the Redskins this year. Perhaps when the 'Skins can build up their offensive line and get a couple more receiving targets, they can run a more conventional offense. For now, this works ... especially while the rest of the team has to compensate for a defense that has badly regressed.
Look, I hold my breath just like everyone else when RGIII takes a wicked hit. But I also know this is part of the game. I'd love to find a surefire way to preserve the long-awaited franchise quarterback, but we can't just encase him in bubble wrap.