You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Washington Redskins fans when Robert Griffin III re-entered the game for four plays after a gruesome hit late in the fourth quarter Sunday against Baltimore. But when it became clear that Griffin's knee injury was more serious (diagnosed as a sprained right knee) and he could no longer play, the already tired saying that Griffin won't last in the NFL as a scrambling quarterback came back into play.
Less than one full season into his brilliant, record-shattering rookie campaign, RG3 has reinvigorated a previously morbid Redskins franchise and fan base. His charisma, charm, intelligence, work ethic -- which teammates rave about -- and sensational play have the team at 7-6 and in position to make its first postseason since 2006. Yet the question around Griffin remains the same: Will he last?
Understandably, the question has merit. Running quarterbacks have a history of folding like a wet napkin in this league. Few of them, such as a Randall Cunningham, prosper over time. Too many hits to the throwing shoulder and too many awkward landings -- just ask Michael Vick -- either shorten careers or damper them completely. But Griffin, for one reason or another, seems different. Despite his slight, 6-foot-2 frame, he is extremely tough and so smart and smooth that you'd almost expect him to just gracefully slide away from defenders like Haloti Ngata. But even he is prone to the occasional jarring collision.
Jerome Bettis, the retired Super Bowl winning running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he believes that Griffin's style in and out of the pocket will actually suit him well over his career.
"He's not taking that many hits; only three or four a game," Bettis told HuffPost. "That will change once he gets a feel for how to run these plays in the pros. It was much different in college, where his speed was that much of an advantage. Now, it's still an advantage, but it's not as significant. He's going to learn how to get himself out of the way."
That may be true for the former Heisman Trophy winner, but just like with Vick, Griffin exposes himself to defenses when he runs. The delicate balance for Redskins Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan moving forward is figuring out how to keep RG3 protected given how remarkably accurate he is when throwing on the move. The pistol offense and read-option with fellow rookie running back Alfred Morris has been a tremendous weapon for the league's top-ranked rushing offense -- but often times, Griffin will read contain from the defensive end or linebacker, and in turn, tuck it to run. The threat of his immense running ability creates enormous play-action, and this season, Griffin has become one of the league's most efficient passers. Just like you wouldn't ask a great shooting guard to stop shooting 3-pointers, it's not merely something you can take away from his arsenal.
One day before the NFL draft last April, we caught up with Griffin to talk about the potential for an injury. For someone who had already torn an ACL in college, he had no concerns of it in the pros.
"If you play the game because you're afraid to get hurt," Griffin told HuffPost, "you're going to hurt."
Playing with no fear? Perhaps that will simply add to the legend of RG3.
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