At least one Dallas Cowboys player plans to bring the pain to Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in Sunday’s NFC East showdown.
“I think the one thing you have to do with him, especially when you have an option quarterback who’s exposed, is you have to inflict him with pain,” Cowboys linebacker Brady Poppinga told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday.
Poppinga wasn’t merely trying to intimidate Griffin, the rookie sensation and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. He was talking strategy in addition to doling out punishment.
“Not that you’re trying to knock they guy out or anything,” Poppinga continued, “but you have to tackle him, and you have to hit him and you have to make it where the coach says, ‘Look, we need to protect our guy a little more’ and then they implement certain other kinds of running plays and things of that nature.”
Of course, as dual-threat quarterback Griffin, known by his initials RG3, has heard all this before. In his first season in a league where running quarterbacks usually don’t last long, Griffin has rushed 114 times for 752 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.
So far, has missed one game with a sprained knee. He also suffered a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons but did not miss the next game.
When Griffin played the Cowboys on Thanksgiving he ran just seven times for 29 yards in a 38-31 win for the Redskins.
But if Griffin does use his running ability more on Sunday, Poppinga told The News he should expect to be treated like a running back.
“That’s a lot of the reason that option football isn’t really utilized in the NFL, because the quarterback is exposed,” Poppinga said. “At the end of the day, when he’s running and you don’t know if he’s going to pitch the ball or not, you’ve got to take a clean, legal shot on him and let him know that, hey, this is football.”
Last week, in his first game since suffering the knee sprain, Griffin ran just two times for four yards in a 27-20 win over the Eagles. Before then, he had been averaging 8.7 carries a game.
While the injury may have caused Griffin to limit his carries last week, he also suffered a serious knee injury in college and that didn’t slow him down.
Popping said that doesn’t mean the Cowboys shouldn’t try to make him think twice about running on Sunday.
“He’s a tough kid now. This isn’t a guy who is going to shy away from contact,” Poppinga said. “I mean, he’s a handful. But from a defensive perspective, if he’s going to be exposed in the option, you want to get some good shots on him and you want to test his toughness. He is tough, but you want to test it.” Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire