One of the reasons the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback is taking such a beating is that he's so good at pretending that he still has the ball after he's handed it off. It gives defensive players freedom to clobber him over and over.
The solution: Stop pretending, if even it means toning down the trickery.
"Some of the option plays, just make it more clear to the refs — whatever refs we have — that I don't have the ball because then they can't hit me," Griffin said Wednesday. "I guess if I don't come out with my hands up, then they think I have the ball and legally they can hit me.
"So just make it clear to them that I don't have the ball and that if I do get one of those shots, we get 15 yards."
Just three games into his career, Griffin's health has become a significant concern. He's taking hard hits every week. He's been sacked nine times. He already has 32 carries, eight more than any other quarterback. He came up dizzy and was checked for a concussion after one carry in Sunday's 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
There have been plays, said left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, that Griffin looked sprawled "like a question mark" on the field after taking a hit.
"Every Monday we come in here, I'm just kind of looking at him out of the corner of my eye making sure he's OK," Lichtensteiger said. "He's a tough guy, and he's not going to complain about it. But you don't like seeing your quarterbacks, especially a guy that's carrying the load like he is, take those kind of hits."
Griffin is listed at just 217 pounds — 28 pounds lighter than Carolina Panthers agile quarterback Cam Newton, for example — so there's only so much punishment the reigning Heisman Trophy winner can take.
"There's not a person in the league that says, 'Hey, sign me up for a car accident every play,'" Griffin said. "But we know what we signed up for."
To help ease the pain, Griffin and coach Mike Shanahan looked at the video this week and decided that it was time to curtail the magic act with the ball. Stop extending the fake after the handoff.
"If you're going to carry out your options at this level, they're going to smack him pretty good," Shanahan said. "There were probably seven or eight hits in that (Bengals) game he didn't have to take at all."
But that would seem to go against years of coaching that says a quarterback should sell deception as long as possible. Griffin was asked if that would be hard to get used to.
"You take some of those shots to the face," Griffin answered, "you'll learn real fast."
Shanahan also wants Griffin to learn when to slide or get out of bounds when keeping the ball. Even so, there's only so much the coach can do to limit the hits as long as the Redskins run a scheme that includes the option — and as long as the offensive line remains so fragile. Left tackle Trent Williams was limping and did not practice Wednesday after getting a bone bruise in his left knee in Sunday's game.
One of Griffin's injury scares came on a 3-yard run when he dived for the pylon and just missed scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the Bengals. When he got up, he said he felt dizzy and that "everything on the left was on the right and everything on the right was on the left."
After the Redskins scored on the next play, the trainers checked him out on the sideline and gave him the all-clear.
"It's not like I was out there wobbling or running to the wrong sidelines," Griffin said. "So, it was all good."
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