ABOVE PHOTO: Robert Griffin III (right) shown with Eagles QB Michael Vick last year, will start against the Eagles in the 2013 season-opener at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Md.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun
After not playing a down of football for the last nine months because of a knee injury in the NFC Wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said he’s not worried about any rust or hurting his newly healed right knee.
Despite not playing in the preseason, Griffin said he’s going to play Monday Night’s season-opener against the Eagles as if he hadn’t missed any time at all.
“It’s not something that I have to worry about. I’ve prepared myself. I trust my preparation. I trust my coaches. I trust my teammates out there to make plays for me and that’s what we’re going to do,” Griffin said during a conference call with the Philadelphia media.
Griffin is coming off a stellar rookie season in which he threw 20 touchdown passes against five interceptions and completing 65 percent of his passes. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner also passed for 3,200 yards and had a passer rating of 102.4. Griffin also rushed for 815 yards while leading Washington to seven straight wins to secure a berth in the playoffs.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said he liked the way Griffin ran the Redskins read option offense on a consistent basis last season.
“I do respect the way is the way he did it last year and putting his team in a position to excel and be successful week in and week out,” Vick said. “It’s a dimension that’s been added and he’s taken it to another level.”
After having reconstructive surgery in his right knee, Griffin said he doesn’t expect to feel any ill effects from the injury nor will he even think about it.
“You always have to play like you were never gone,” Griffin said. “It’s not anything that I’m going to focus on. I will make sure that we get our game plan down and get ready to play this tough Eagles team.”
Meanwhile, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said that he would not put him out there as the starter if he didn’t feel like he was going to be 100 percent.
“He’s been going full speed in game-time situations (in practice), so I feel very good about where he’s at right now,” Shanahan said. “There’s no way you would start a quarterback unless he’s ready to go, especially coming off an injury. If you didn’t feel like he was full speed ready to go, you would put him in that situation.”
With defenses this season putting an emphasis on hitting quarterbacks that run the read option, Griffin said he’s going to be more judicious about protecting himself when he does get out of the pocket and run.
“It’s not something that you want to harp on, but it has been something I’ve heard for the past eight months about sliding and getting out of bounds, but that’s something that I’m going to do,” Griffin said. “It’s a part of playing football. You live and you learn. The thing for me now is to make sure that I play every down and play every game because my teammates need me.”
Against the Eagles last season at Fed Ex Field in a 31-6 blowout, Griffin had a record day, completing 14-of-15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 158. 3. He also gained 84 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said Griffin’s mobility and arm strength makes it difficult for cornerbacks covering receivers downfield because there’s a short window of time that defensive backs have to cover wide receivers.
“To a degree, you have to cover longer, depending if you can get the guy down in a quick amount of time,” Williams said “(Griffin) is very elusive, he has very good speed and quickness. He makes it difficult for defenders to cover guys for a long period of time.
“I think any guy in this league can cover a guy for eight or nine. You expect guys upfront to do their job, they’re getting paid, and you expect those things to happen. I trust our guys upfront.”
Williams, who started at cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl last season, definitely knows how hard it is to cover receivers that have a mobile quarterback going up against San Francisco signal caller Colin Kaepernick.
Going up against the Eagles, Griffin will be going up against one of his child heroes in Vick. He said Vick’s success as a duel-threat quarterback paved the way for players like him, Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.
“Vick was definitely that guy, it was hard not to watch him,” Griffin said. “He was a lot of fun to watch out there playing doing a lot of good things. Not just running the ball, but also throwing the ball and he’s paved away for a lot of quarterbacks like myself.