PHOENIX — Whenever Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III returns from his right knee injury, coach Mike Shanahan expects him to protect himself better than he did as a rookie last season.
"The one thing he is going to have to learn to do is how to slide, how to throw the football away, how to protect himself," Shanahan said Wednesday at the NFL annual meetings. "You do have to know when to slide. Sometimes it's normal slide, sometimes it's a headfirst slide, but you can't take shots consistently in the National Football League."
Griffin was injured twice while scrambling last season. He suffered a concussion Oct. 7 against Atlanta when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon hit him as he lost his footing while trying to get down. Griffin sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee on Dec. 9 when Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata tackled him as he tried to dive.
Shanahan believes there is a misconception about how read-option running plays affect Griffin's health. He also expects Griffin's year of experience to provide the quarterback a better feel for what he can accomplish as a runner.
"When you're in college and you're running the football, especially a guy like him, he's got so much more ability than all of these guys, and a lot of times he didn't have to slide in certain situations because he was confident in himself to make the big play," Shanahan said. "As he will learn, and I think he has learned, you're going to have to slide.
"When you take a look at film, in these situations you've got to slide headfirst or slide a normal slide, you've got to throw the football away. Because when Robert did get hurt this year, it was off of dropback passes."
Shanahan deals with salary cap penalty
The salary cap-strapped Redskins have re-signed 10 of their own free agents and completed only three low-level signings of free agents from outside the organization. That's not exactly how Shanahan preferred to approach free agency, but his two meetings with commissioner Roger Goodell in the last 30 days failed to regain the club any of $18 million in salary cap space it lost this year.
Shanahan is content with how the team has executed its backup plan.
"Going in, we knew exactly the penalty we had," Shanahan said Wednesday at the owners' meetings. "When you know that going in, you know what to expect. So there was no surprises for us. We had a game plan for it. We were hoping we wouldn't have to execute that game plan, but it's here, and we dealt with it."
The Redskins' plan obviously is scaled back from one they devised on the condition they recouped the $36 million in cap space the league penalized them over the last two seasons.
"We know the difference in $36 million," he said. "If you have the opportunity to execute 18 more, 36 more, or where we're at right now. I've been very pleased with our game plan. We've been able to sign a lot of our players. I'm very optimistic with the players we have signed. A lot of these guys are the core of our football team, guys who have played extremely well the last couple years."
The Redskins hope to re-sign tight end Fred Davis, but Davis is considering his options, Shanahan said. ... Shanahan said he expects to re-sign backup quarterback Rex Grossman. ... Free agent right tackle Tony Pashos worked out for the Redskins before he signed last week, and the Redskins were pleased by how he ran, Shanahan said. Pashos missed all of 2012 recovering from a left foot injury. ... Shanahan has not discussed a contract extension with owner Daniel Snyder, he said. Two years remain on the coach's deal.
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