LANDOVER — Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff dropped to one knee, with Alfred Morris and Darrel Young among those standing nearby. DeSean Jackson and Trent Williams, out of uniform with the night off, walked up to express their concerns. Three members of the athletic training staff began their evaluations.
Robert Griffin III was hurt again, and it’s only the preseason.
The quarterback left the Washington Redskins’ 21-17 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thursday with 9:31 remaining in the second quarter, helped to his feet only after he lay on the field for roughly three minutes.
Coach Jay Gruden said Griffin was diagnosed with a concussion and will follow the league’s protocol for his recovery. It’s the second known concussion Griffin has had during his time with the Redskins; he also left a game against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 7, 2012 — his rookie season — after sustaining one.
“I would imagine, depending on how long he’s out, he’s still going to be our starter,” Gruden said. “We’ll have to wait and go through the whole process and see how he recovers — see how fast he recovers. But I have no idea [when he’ll return], as far as third preseason game or fourth one right now.”
It had, to that point, been a brutal night for Griffin, who completed just two of five passes for eight yards and played just 16 snaps. He was sacked three times and hit on three others, following up a satisfactory preseason debut with a poor one.
The play that forced Griffin from the game was, on the whole, unspectacular. Facing third-and-16 from the Redskins’ 14-yard line, the quarterback completed his five-step drop and the ball slipped from his right hand.
In desperation, Griffin dove to recover it, but Lions defensive end Corey Wootton did so as well, landing on the quarterback’s upper half. Scherff, the Redskins’ rookie right guard, also landed on Griffin while trying to snag the loose ball, which was recovered by Lions defensive tackle Gabe Wright.
Gruden defended his decision to send Griffin and the first-team offense back out onto the field by saying that the unit needed the work. The first-team defense left the game after two drives, but it, like Griffin, played a total of 16 snaps.
“Well, we weren’t doing that good on offense, and I wanted to try to get something going on offense,” Gruden said. “You know, there’s a lot of quarterbacks who play into the second quarter in the second preseason game. Football’s a tough sport. We wanted to get something going offensively, and unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
Griffin missed six games last season after dislocating his left ankle and was hampered for much of 2013 after undergoing surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his right knee. After struggling after he returned to the field last November, Griffin was benched for his performance, and it was only because of an injury to quarterback Colt McCoy that he regained the job.
The preseason, then, was seen as instrumental in Griffin’s development. He completed just four of eight passes for 36 yards in the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns a week ago, when he oversaw only two offensive drives and did not play past the first quarter.
His second game didn’t start as well as he had hoped. After three consecutive runs by Morris, Griffin was sacked, with Scherff pushed back by Lions defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker and Griffin rolling to his left and into the awaiting arms of defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.
Griffin would be sacked again one play before he left the game with his injury. Left tackle Willie Smith, in the starting lineup for Williams, was backed up by defensive end Phillip Hunt, and the pocket collapsed from inside with defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo dropping Griffin for a four-yard loss.
After being helped off the field, Griffin walked to the locker room, stopping to give a thumbs-up to the crowd shortly before entering the tunnel. McCoy replaced Griffin for the next drive and led the Redskins on a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive with rookie running back Matt Jones scoring from one yard out.
McCoy played into the third quarter and completed five of six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Kirk Cousins entered on the Redskins’ final drive of the third quarter and went 8-for-12 for 91 yards and a touchdown.
The Redskins will play their third preseason game on the road against the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 29. If Griffin completes the protocol without a recurrence of symptoms, he could be able to return by then.
The question then becomes whether he, or the team, would want to.
“It definitely makes you cringe,” Williams said. “You don’t want to see your quarterback get hit at all in the preseason or regular season, so it’s definitely not a pleasant feeling.”