Dave Fisher took off his burgundy Redskins cap and slammed it
down on the bar Sunday at Society Lounge in Silver Spring. He blew a puff of air as he pressed his palms to his face and wiped downward.
Moments later, Fisher leaped off his barstool and put one fist in the air while hopping around in celebration as he joined several other Redskins fans in a chant of “RGIII!”
Fisher was reacting to Washington’s opening drive of the second half, when quarterback Robert Griffin III ran the ball on three successive plays and capped the drive off with a seven-yard touchdown run. In a matter of mere moments, Griffin, who was knocked out of last week’s game with a concussion, made Redskins fans express both worry and uncontained joy over the way their rookie quarterback ran the football Sunday. His talents simultaneously expose him to crunching hits that could at any time cut short an already dazzling career, but also fill Skins fans with a bright hope for a team they haven’t felt this good about in years.
“You’re always nervous for your quarterback running,” Fisher, 35, said. “But he’s got to show no fear. The good thing is he is aware there are dangers out there, and he knows now to avoid them.”
“If he’s scared, go home.”
Griffin looked mostly fearless while leading the Redskins to a 38-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings before a sold-out FedEx Field. Behind the Heisman Trophy winner, Washington ended its home losing streak at eight games. It was the longest active streak in the NFL.
Griffin was efficient in completing 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also carried the ball 13 times for a career-high 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the No. 2 overall pick’s success, Cynthia Bookhart questioned the wisdom of the Redskins (3-3) putting Griffin back into the fray one week after his concussion. Griffin still wore a huge white bandage on his chin on Sunday.
“I’m concerned,” said Bookhart, a Redskins season ticket holder. “I don’t know how he feels or what the owner’s pressure is. It’s a business. The owners look at [the players] as pieces on a board.”
Years ago, violent hits that sometimes knocked football players out of games were widely celebrated, including on an ESPN Monday Night Countdown segment called “Jacked Up!”
But now is a time of heightened concern over head injuries in many sports. Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, suffered a concussion Oct. 7 that is forcing him to miss two races.
Last week, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was knocked out of a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter. He was held out of Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.
But Griffin, who couldn’t remember the score of the game or what quarter it was after being concussed last week, was cleared to play on Friday by a Redskins team physician and an independent neurological consultant, as league rules require. He had arguably his most effective outing of the season. His seven-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, which gave the Skins a 24-9 lead, was his fifth rushing touchdown of the season, a franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season.
The NFL’s offensive rookie of the month for September had an electrifying 76-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter that made fans at Society pump their fists and scream. The longest scoring run by an NFL quarterback since 1996 effectively sealed the win for Washington fans, who rarely feel like a victory is in the bag until the final seconds tick off the clock.
Things got off to a very slow start despite the team’s highest scoring outburst of the season. Minnesota jumped out to a 9-0 lead late in the first quarter and, to Julio Rodriguez’s eyes, Griffin didn’t look particularly confident while leading an offense that punted and was intercepted on its first two drives.
“He’s paranoid right now,” Rodriguez said. “He’s not trying to get whacked.”
After falling behind 9-0 early and being outgained 148-7, Washington responded with 24 straight points during a stretch in which it outgained Minnesota 225-14 behind Griffin.
“He’s got his Superman socks on,” said Asya Heatley of Fort Washington. “Athletes like that, they don’t go quietly into the night. But he wasn’t overly risky. You’re the quarterback. And we need you to be the quarterback long-term.”
Clearly, the organization is better off with Griffin than without him. The Redskins, who were in the bottom half of the league last year in points per game, rushing yards per game and overall yards per game, rank in the top 10 in each of those categories this season. Griffin, who is able to move the ball with both his arm and feet, is at the heart of those improvements.
“I ain’t saying I’m scared for him, but I do want him to slide sometimes or throw the ball away,” said Rodriguez, burgundy and gold Mardi Gras beads dangling from his neck. “But he’s being a leader. He’s doing what he’s got to do for the team. He’s going to be around for a long time and he’s going to be an animal.”
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