- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

In some ways, tomorrow’s game against the New York Giants doesn’t quite pack the same punch for Washington Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin as did his first return to Giants Stadium last season.

After all, the second time around usually is not as exciting. But Griffin is still eager to play and not because the game is against the team for which he played his first four seasons.

Griffin is working to fight through the strained hip flexor that kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday because the Redskins and Giants — along with Philadelphia — are tied for the NFC East lead at 4-2, a half game ahead of Dallas. Griffin did return to practice yesterday and is probable for tomorrow’s game.

“I don’t want to go out there and hurt my team if I can’t go 100 percent,” said Griffin, who was injured during last week’s 52-17 blowout of San Francisco. “But this is an NFC East game, a game we need to win. My hip isn’t 100 percent, but it’s better each day. You’re never 100 percent physically once training camp starts. It’s about being 100 percent mentally. I’m not there yet, but I think I will be on Sunday.”

Griffin is almost always there on game day, having missed just five games in five-plus seasons. If the 49ers’ game hadn’t been so one-sided, the coaches might have had to drag him off the field.

“It was 35-7, but it wasn’t my call to come out,” Griffin said. “If it had been a close game, I would’ve stuck it out. You don’t want to turn your back on your boys in the heat of the battle.”

Griffin isn’t a big talker, but his play spoke volumes last season. He led the NFL with 15 tackles for loss and tied for the team lead with six sacks. One of his most dominant games was his first against New York when he had 12 tackles at Giants Stadium in Week 2.

“I had a good game, but it wasn’t good enough because we lost,” Griffin said in a typical self-evaluation.

While Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce seems to be on a mission to show the Redskins they should have re-signed him, Griffin is at peace with the Giants, who didn’t fight to keep him in the wake of the coaching change that followed their disappointing 2003 season.

“I don’t feel the way Antonio feels,” Griffin said. “I don’t miss being a Giant. I’m a Redskin now. And I’m glad I’m here.”

The Redskins feel the same way. Griffin’s tackles (30) have dropped significantly from his first six games of 2004 (48 tackles, 26 solos), but that’s still third on the defense behind linebackers Marcus Washington and Lemar Marshall. And Griffin leads the team with three sacks and three tackles for losses.

“We like the fact that Cornelius’ vocalness comes from an example he sets on the field and then when he does talk, he means it,” said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams. “There aren’t many defensive tackles in the league I would rather have.”

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said Griffin is as good as any defensive tackle he has been around during his Hall of Fame career.

“As a person and a player, what Cornelius has brought here has been phenomenal,” Gibbs said. “He’s a real man.”

Griffin, 28, might not match his statistics of 2004, but he may have a better shot at the Pro Bowl acclaim he deserved last season but didn’t receive because of the Redskins’ 6-10 record.

“We’re winning, that’s the big thing,” Griffin said. “But we’re 15th in rushing defense [compared to second in 2004]. That’s unacceptable. And we’re No. 4 on defense [third in 2004]. We should be better than that. We’ve given up four or five big plays. That’s not how we play here. And I’ve got to play better. You’ve got to keep getting better. There’s no satisfaction in remaining the same.”

Staff writer Ryan O’Halloran contributed to this article.

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