A week after Robert Griffin III sustained a concussion so "mild" he forgot the quarter and score, the Washington Redskins' rookie quarterback resumed his scrambling, swashbuckling ways Sunday.
Little evidence remained of the hit to Griffin's head. No revamped offense. No changes in protection. And little hesitation from Griffin to embark on his trademark scrambles in the Redskins' 38-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Instead of last week's "RG-3! RG-3!" chants as the woozy Griffin headed for the locker room, FedEx Field supporters showered the quarterback with the chant Sunday after he zipped up the middle on a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The chant oozed relief that concussion protocols and independent neurologists and breathless questions about the goings-on inside Griffin's braided head didn't alter the one-of-a-kind quarterback.
"I think he's learned a lot from that," left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. "It's something he had to learn. Too bad he had to learn it the hard way. ... I don't think it made him timid at all."
Teammates never doubted Griffin would play. After he was cleared to practice Wednesday, they saw the same quarterback who needs more than a concussion to keep him off the field.
"I didn't think it was too big of deal," left tackle Trent Williams said. "Nothing against you [media] guys, but you all made it a little more than it was. I think he was OK."
The lone reminder of Griffin's concussion came on his fourth play from scrimmage, easy to miss as the crowd settled into its seats. Out of a single-back formation, Griffin bootlegged to the left, sent a nervous hum through the stadium and, seven uneventful yards later, stepped out of bounds.
The old Griffin, much as that word can be used for a quarterback six games into his NFL career, may have traded contact for an extra yard or two on the play. After all, the Cincinnati Bengals knocked him to the ground 28 times during last month's parade of big hits.
As Griffin entered the white sideline's sanctuary, a mock cheer replaced the nervous hum.
"You stay aggressive, but you just try to be smart," Griffin said. "You've got to live with that and not worry about the 8 or 9 you could have got taking the him. I told the team I wasn't going to leave them hanging."
The early step-out aside, Griffin maintained his aggressive, uninhibited brand of football that doesn't shy from contact. The Vikings knocked him to the ground 10 times. Six hits came after designed runs or improvised scrambles. Two drew penalties.
Excepting moments like Jared Allen's unblocked lick on the Redskins' goalline early in the second quarter, Griffin didn't absorb the same sort of punishment as the previous five wince-inducing weeks. He slid after runs, threw the ball away and stepped out bounds earlier. Avoiding big hits was hammered into him in the same way opposing defenses, well, hammered him. Last week, Griffin apologized to the team for not running out of bounds of on the hit that concussed him.
"I think," coach Mike Shanahan said, "common sense prevailed."
The Redskins didn't overhaul their creative offensive attack, either. At least four times in the first half, they ran the triple-option with Brandon Banks, Alfred Morris and Griffin forming the triple-threat backfield. They even trotted out a wishbone-like formation with two men flanking Griffin in the backfield and a third behind him.
Griffin, whose fifth rushing touchdown of the season set the team's single-season record for quarterbacks before he added a sixth, didn't hesitate to take off running. On the second series of the third quarter, for example, he ran three straight times and finished with 138 yards on 13 carries. These weren't the jaunts of a man worried about another concussion.
All the while, Griffin showed he understands how to lobby referees with the same precision he guided the Redskins' offense.
When Erin Henderson belted Griffin after he threw the ball out of bounds, no flag emerged. So, the quarterback waved his arms in the air in exaggerated exasperation. As if by magic, a yellow square fluttered to the turf.
Griffin sauntered away from Henderson, nodding.
"It wasn't like a basketball flop. I definitely sold it pretty well," Griffin said. "It was a good job of me and the ref being on the same page."
That hinted at what was to come. After the Vikings sliced the Redskins' lead to 31-26 late in the fourth quarter, Griffin faced a third-and-6 deep in his own territory. So, he dropped back to pass and, in an instant, changed directions, sprinted off left guard and down the Redskins' sideline. Seventy-six yards later, he reclined in the stands and caught his breath as fans slapped his back after his second rushing touchdown.
"That was an emotional roller coaster," said Williams, not wanting another dazed quarterback. "I was screaming, 'Get out of bounds! Get out of bounds!'"
Getting knocked silly? The Vikings and their ninth-ranked rush defense? The Redskins' Hall of Fame-choked record book? None seemed a match for the young quarterback.
New vigor infected the "RG-3! RG-3!" chants.
The concussion seemed forgotten.
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