One of the matters of discussion regarding Robert Griffin IIIâ€™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 wonâ€™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, heâ€™ll take off running. Griffinâ€™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 â€śan ambassadorâ€ť and â€śthe originatorâ€ť 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 Vickâ€™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 shouldnâ€™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 â€“ something Vick is still learning himself.
â€śWell, itâ€™s one of Robertâ€™s strengths. Itâ€™s something that he does well and itâ€™s made him the type of quarterback that he is today â€“ and a successful one and a good one,â€ť Vick said of Griffinâ€™s mobility. â€śBut what Iâ€™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 donâ€™t even see them sometimes. So itâ€™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.â€ť
Finding that balance isnâ€™t exactly easy, Vick admits, but itâ€™s a mental adjustment that only the quarterback can make for himself.
â€śIt happens in time,â€ť Vick said while taking part in a conference call with D.C.-based reporters on Wednesday. â€śIt happens over time, and I can honestly tell you right now I didnâ€™t learn it until this year. This preseason was the most Iâ€™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 thatâ€™s what youâ€™re going to do, then you kind of ingrain it in your mind.â€ť
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, â€śItâ€™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, Iâ€™m at that point.â€ť
Vick â€“ particularly in the second half of his career, from 2009 until now â€“ has tried to improve his passing game so he isnâ€™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 â€“ one that relies on his arm, and uses his legs primarily to extend plays â€“ rather than pattern his game after that of Vickâ€™s early years.
Vick understands the desire to buck the stereotype placed upon most mobile quarterbacks.
â€śI think as kids when weâ€™re in the backyard, we idolize certain guys and we want to be like those guys who we look up to,â€ť Vick said. â€śYou donâ€™t want to just be viewed as a running quarterback, like all you can do is run or ‘Heâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t be here. Sometimes you donâ€™t get credit for what you do, but I think at the end of the day, youâ€™ve got to be the best football player that you can be.â€ť
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.
â€śUsually a couple of pretty good hits and they will slide a little bit quicker,â€ť he said. â€śThe 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 thatâ€™s what they did have. They had a great feel when to scramble. Most of them donâ€™t have a great feeling of when to get down, but they learn that in time.â€ť
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, â€śMonday night,â€ť and then laughed. He added â€śI mean, you guys have been talking to me about it for eight months. I think itâ€™s ingrained in my head now. Iâ€™ll be getting down on Monday night.â€ť
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â—Ź Redskins practice at 1 p.m. today, and Ravens at Broncos kicks off at 8:30 p.m. on
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