Michael Vick understands Robert Griffin III’s mind-set when running

September 5, 2013

Michael Vick says it took him years to learn to dial back the instinct to score and learn to slide. (Michael Perez/Associated Press)

One of the matters of discussion regarding Robert Griffin III’s comeback from knee surgery and development as a quarterback centers around the quarterback’s mobility, and how much he should use it.

Griffin believes that he can develop into more of a pocket passer, who uses his legs primarily when under pressure. However, he knows that his team won’t abandon the zone-read option plays that he ran so effectively as a rookie, and Griffin says when he sees an opening in the defense, he’ll take off running. Griffin’s coach, Mike Shanahan, meanwhile, says that the second-year pro must learn to protect himself and slide to avoid bone-crushing tackles rather than always rely on his speed to elude defenders.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who views himself as “an ambassador” and “the originator” of the option attack in the modern NFL, understands the dilemma Griffin faces.

Vick, who will face off with Griffin for the first time on Monday, has used his legs to cause headaches for defenders since he entered the league in 2001. In 2006, he set the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,039 yards. But Vick’s mobility has also been somewhat of a curse. In the preseason of 2003, he suffered a broken leg on a scrambling play. And Vick, who has endured a variety of injuries primarily on running plays over the course of his career, has played a full 16-game season only once.

But Vick said Griffin shouldn’t abandon his running roots. Instead, he said Griffin just needs to develop a better feel for when to run with aggression, and when to be content to slide – something Vick is still learning himself.

“Well, it’s one of Robert’s strengths. It’s something that he does well and it’s made him the type of quarterback that he is today – and a successful one and a good one,” Vick said of Griffin’s mobility. “But what I’ve learned is that you have to be cautious because these guys in this league they hit so hard and we only weigh about 210 pounds, 215 pounds and these guys taking all types of angles on us and we don’t even see them sometimes. So it’s important for us to protect ourselves and be conscious of where we are on the field and most importantly understand how much we mean to our football team.”

Finding that balance isn’t exactly easy, Vick admits, but it’s a mental adjustment that only the quarterback can make for himself.

“It happens in time,” Vick said while taking part in a conference call with D.C.-based reporters on Wednesday. “It happens over time, and I can honestly tell you right now I didn’t learn it until this year. This preseason was the most I’ve gotten down and slid and ran with a sense of getting down and not trying to score all the time. I think once you tell yourself that’s what you’re going to do, then you kind of ingrain it in your mind.”

Despite noting that it took 11 seasons for him to find that balance and go against his instincts to fight for extra yardage, Vick says, “It’s not tough. You just have got to ingrain it in your mind and once you ingrain it in your mind, it becomes easy. Finally, I’m at that point.”

Vick – particularly in the second half of his career, from 2009 until now – has tried to improve his passing game so he isn’t viewed as a run-first, pass-second quarterback. Griffin has insisted since he came into the league, that his goal is to become more of an Aaron Rodgers-like quarterback – one that relies on his arm, and uses his legs primarily to extend plays – rather than pattern his game after that of Vick’s early years.

Vick understands the desire to buck the stereotype placed upon most mobile quarterbacks.

“I think as kids when we’re in the backyard, we idolize certain guys and we want to be like those guys who we look up to,” Vick said. “You don’t want to just be viewed as a running quarterback, like all you can do is run or ‘He’s just athletic.’ We put a lot of hard work into our craft and what we do, to be able to go out and execute and run an NFL offense, which is hard, because if anybody could do it, we probably wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you don’t get credit for what you do, but I think at the end of the day, you’ve got to be the best football player that you can be.”

Robert Griffin III
Michael Vick says Robert Griffin III will find the line between aggression and caution in time. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Shanahan agrees with Vick that it takes time for a quarterback to develop that sense of balance between aggression and caution. But the coach adds that injuries can cause a quarterback to strike that balance more quickly.

“Usually a couple of pretty good hits and they will slide a little bit quicker,” he said. “The quarterbacks that I have been with, they come out and most of them are great athletes and they find a way to make plays. They are very competitive. If you talk about the Steve Youngs and the John Elways, you can go through a number of these quarterbacks, but that’s what they did have. They had a great feel when to scramble. Most of them don’t have a great feeling of when to get down, but they learn that in time.”

Griffin insists it will not take him 11 years to find that balance. Asked when he thinks that feel will come for him, he quickly answers, “Monday night,” and then laughed. He added “I mean, you guys have been talking to me about it for eight months. I think it’s ingrained in my head now. I’ll be getting down on Monday night.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

What’s ahead:

● Redskins practice at 1 p.m. today, and Ravens at Broncos kicks off at 8:30 p.m. on NFL Network NBC.

More about the Redskins and NFL:

Hall says Redskins must be more consistent this season

Opening Kick: How might Von Miller’s suspension affect the Redskins?

Reid: Davis enters make-or-break season | Still dealing with tight salary cap

D.C. Sports Bog: Eagles’ Ryans thinks RGIII will be rusty | More Bog

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mark Maske · September 5, 2013

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