EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Robert Griffin III’s Sunday tweet declaring he’d play this weekend following his concussion in the Washington Redskins’ 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons is proving to be true.
Griffin, the rookie sensation who has captivated the nation’s capital, practiced Wednesday and is expected to start at quarterback when Washington (2-3) hosts the Minnesota Vikings (4-1) on Sunday. The quarterback suffered a mild concussion when he scrambled out of the pocket and was hit by Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon while he slid near the sideline.
“Every day is an evaluation period,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told Minnesota reporters Wednesday during a conference call. “You don’t know after each practice. He’ll go through the tests. Doctors will see how he does, see if there’s any dizziness or passes the test. If he does, then he goes to the next day. If he does that, then he goes to the next day. So, it’s an ongoing process. We won’t know until after Friday’s practice exactly where he’s at.”
Griffin, the No. 2 overall draft pick after winning the Heisman Trophy while at Baylor last year, has been a dual threat in his short time in the NFL. The 22-year-old is the league’s fifth-leading passer with a 101.0 quarterback rating. He leads the league with a 69.1 percent completion rate, .01 above Minnesota’s Christian Ponder. Griffin is second in the league with 8.4 yards per attempt while passing for four touchdowns and one interception.
But it’s been the 6-foot-2, 217-pounder’s legs that have drawn, perhaps, the most attention from opposing defenses and also provided the biggest scare of the season. Griffin is the league’s top rushing quarterback with 42 carries for 241 yards.
Sunday’s carry in the third quarter, with Griffin trying to extend the play on a third-and-goal, offered the kind of hit, and lesson, the rookie will need to learn from if he’s going to be a long-term success.
“Scrambling to extend the play, sometimes you’re going to have to learn to slide a little bit quicker, especially in the National Football League with the way these guys hit,” Shanahan said. “You want a guy to extend a play, but you want to make sure he comes back for the next snap. I think it’s part of the learning process for all quarterbacks to be put in situations that you learn from.”
Griffin was replaced last Sunday by fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who went 5 of 9 for 111 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Rex Grossman is also still with Washington as a backup.
The Vikings are fully expecting the electric Griffin to play this Sunday. Minnesota’s coaches have told the defense to prepare for Griffin. The Vikings haven’t faced an option attack this season, which the Redskins will run, and haven’t had to deal with the versatility of a quarterback like Griffin.
“It’s a different dynamic,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s option. We haven’t had to prepare for option football at all this season, and all of a sudden we’re watching tape on Monday and Tuesday of a quarterback that’s not only a threat throwing the football, but getting on the perimeter of your defense and being able to pitch the ball or keep it for big plays…. He’s a multi-threat quarterback. RG3 creates a lot problems for defenses because they do some things you don’t ordinarily see at our level.”
Washington, which has lost eight straight home games, will need Griffin against the Vikings’ seventh-ranked defense. In just five starts, he’s changed the entire outlook of the Redskins’ offense — ranked seventh in the league — and football in general in Washington.
“If you know Washington like I know Washington, when you have that kind of caliber player come to your team, you’re going to create a buzz regardless,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said. “We’ve been looking for a quarterback for years to really come here and lead us. That alone is going to get him what he has, but when you watch him play this game, you look at him as one of those guys that’s going to be electrifying every time he has a chance.”
Fortunately for the Redskins, it sounds like Griffin will get another chance in front of the home crowd Sunday.