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Determined To Be A Total Quarterback, Robert Griffin III Honored For Running

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – One of the first perceptions Robert Griffin III set out to change after being drafted by the Washington Redskins is that he was a running quarterback.

Griffin III

He was an athletic quarterback, sure – one who succeeded at Baylor in making electric plays with his quickness and his escapability. He also routinely demonstrated his arm was just as potent as his legs, throwing for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns last season as he won the Heisman Trophy.

“I want to be the best quarterback to play the game – not the best running quarterback, not the best African-American quarterback,” Griffin said Wednesday. “That’s just the approach I took towards it. It’s not something I can fight, so you never really hear me push it that much. I just got to go out and show it on the field.”

Griffin has, ranking second in the NFL with 6.8 yards per pass attempt and third amongst all quarterbacks with a 104.4 rating. He’s also thrown just four interceptions against his 17 touchdowns, which puts him tied with New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger amongst all quarterbacks who have started at least nine games.

Where Griffin has been truly memorable this season, though, has been on the ground. With a seven-yard run in the third quarter of the 17-16 victory over the New York Giants on Monday, Griffin surpassed the record Carolina’s Cam Newton set last year for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback.

Griffin, now with 714 yards, ran 46 yards in the third quarter. His highlight, though, will remain the 76-yard option run he had late against Minnesota on Oct. 14, which helped the Redskins win the game.

“I think it’s getting a lot easier for him to understand when to slide, when to pitch, when to run out of bounds, when to stay inbounds – all those type of things,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “I see a tremendous improvement there.”

The Redskins began the season running a heavy dose of the option play, which worked as opposing defenses struggled even to face it. As the season has progressed, the team – and Griffin – has been smarter in having Griffin keep the ball.

Part of that is the fallout from Griffin’s concussion, which he sustained Oct. 7 against Atlanta. The quarterback has been more apt to make a safer decision, either sliding or getting out of bounds, but has still been able to gain yards.

He had 72 on five carries against the Giants and 84 against Philadelphia on Nov. 18. In fact, his most productive game came against the Vikings, the week after the concussion, when he ran 13 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

“One of the things that I think gives him the ability to stay healthy is the threat of the run,” Shanahan said. “He won’t get hit as many times. When you drop back there 25 or 30 times a game and you’re going against a great defensive front and you don’t have the threat of the play action or the running game, some of these defensive lines are pretty good. I think in the long run, the threat of him having the speed that he has and the option attack will keep him more healthy.”

A representative of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was in attendance at Redskins Park on Wednesday to meet with Griffin to congratulate him on his milestone. He then collected Griffin’s jersey, complete with dirt caked onto the numbers and grass stains all up the left side, and the cleats he wore that night to use for display.

Griffin was aware of the milestone, which they announced and displayed on the video boards at FedEx Field on Monday. He was more proud that earlier in the game, running back Alfred Morris surpassed 1,000 rushing yards and then set the franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie.

For a quarterback who didn’t want to be viewed solely as a runner, he was taken aback by the Hall of Fame’s gesture.

“It’s awesome,” Griffin said. “Everyone wants to be in the Hall of Fame, so we’re in there. I’ve got a long career, preferably. This is only the first step, so it’s an honor to have my jersey and cleats, although they’re very dirty, in the Hall of Fame.”

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