Griffin practiced during the week after receiving medical clearance to do so, and the team’s coaches said that, barring a recurrence of his concussion symptoms, they expected him to play against the Vikings.
The team also spent the week readying rookie backup Kirk Cousins and third-stringer Rex Grossman in case Griffin suffered a setback. But if Griffin indeed starts Sunday, the game will be the first test of how differently Griffin might play and how differently the Redskins might use him.
“He’s a smart guy,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “He understands. He knows his value to this football team and how important it is to have him out there playing.”
Former NFL coach Dan Reeves said the burden of safeguarding Griffin falls in large part to the young quarterback himself.
“I think he’ll learn as he goes along,” Reeves said in a telephone interview. “He’ll learn how to protect himself. There’s a time to be a competitor. And there’s a time not to take people on. Sometimes you have to watch yourself.”
‘It’s a learning process’
Reeves, who was Michael Vick’s first NFL coach with the Falcons, said a team also must do its part and learn as it goes along when it has a quarterback, like Vick or Griffin, who is a dynamic runner along with being a threat as a passer.
“He’s so talented,” Reeves said. “As a coach, you want to use all those things. But you also have to protect him. It’s a learning process. He’s going to get enough chances to run with the ball just off the passing plays that you call, when things break down, even without having a lot of designed runs for him. It’s difficult as a coach when you have a player with so many talents. You want to use them all. But you have to have an attitude where you step back and say, ‘We have to ease up here to keep him healthy.’ It’s a learning process for both.”
Reeves said the Redskins have done a good job of crafting an offensive system to get the most out of Griffin’s talents. The Redskins blended elements of tactics associated with the college version of the sport, such as the spread offense and the triple-option running game, with more conventional NFL strategies to assemble an offensive system for Griffin that has befuddled opposing defenses at times.
The Redskins are ranked seventh in the league in total offense, based on yards gained, and eighth in scoring. Griffin has thrown the ball efficiently and has run the ball well when needed, with four rushing touchdowns to go with his four touchdown passes in five games.
Griffin’s running was being curtailed even before he got hurt. He had a total of 33 rushing attempts in the Redskins’ first three games, including 13 in a loss at home Sept. 23 to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Redskins seemed to dial back the college-like offensive looks during a Sept. 30 triumph in Tampa, when Griffin had eight rushing attempts.