By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Ndamukong Suh laughed a little at the suggestion that Robert Griffin III’s knee injury might change the Lions’ perception of Griffin or the way they prepare for him.
“Not at all,” Suh said. “You’ve got to respect him no matter what. He’s athletic. This is probably, including college, probably my third or fourth time playing against him. Every time he’s done something spectacular with his feet, let alone something with his arm. You’ve got to respect him no matter what, and we’re going to definitely be ready for that, be keyed into that.”
As the Detroit Lions prepare for Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Redskins, the team will pay lots of attention to Griffin, a Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most renowned dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL.
In addition to amassing 3,200 passing yards in 2012, Griffin – known nationally as “RG3″ – racked up 815 rushing yards on 120 carries. He had five games with double-digit carries, and he broke away for huge runs on multiple occasions, most notably a 76-yard touchdown rush that gave the Redskins a win over Minnesota.
In January, though, Griffin underwent surgery on the ACL and LCL in his right knee, the second time he has done so. Griffin also had surgery to repair that knee after a season-ending injury he sustained at Baylor.
Through two games this season, Griffin has carried the ball just nine times. He came away with 24 yards on five carries in the season opener and scraped up just one yard on four carries in the Redskins’ second game.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said the recent performances will not distract Detroit from Griffin’s capabilities.
“They’re still running the same schemes, so you’d better be ready for it,” Schwartz said. “We’ll be prepared for him carrying the ball, him handing it off, him throwing it, all those things, and that’s no different than any week. We’re certainly going to prepare as if he’s going to carry the ball. We know he’s a talented guy.”
Schwartz also suggested that the limited number of carries might be a function of the way games have gone early – Washington facing deficits much of the time – rather than an indictment of Griffin’s ability to run.
“He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities in the first couple games, but I think some of that may also be to the fact that they were down so much in those games.” Schwartz said. “It’s hard to consistently run option plays and quarterback-type plays when you’re trying to catch up from the scores that they’ve been down., so I wouldn’t ready too much into his carries and everything else. We know he’s an outstanding player. We have a lot of respect for him. We’ll be prepared for all their schemes, including him carrying the football.”
Detroit linebacker Ashlee Palmer has another theory for why Griffin has not been rushing as much. He said it is simply a matter of the team not wanting their quarterback to expose himself to the kind of contact Griffin did in 2012.
“Last year he took a lot of big hits,” Palmer said. “I’m guessing he doesn’t understand the game of being a quarterback. I’m not sure what’s going on over there. In this game, being the quarterback, you can’t take those kind of hits he keeps taking. I think it wore on him last year. It got to [Redskins coach Mike] Shanahan, if this is going to be our quarterback, this is our franchise, we’re going to have to limit some of the stuff he’s doing.”
Granted, all the reasons in the world for why Griffin has not run as much this season do not change the fact that the Lions will game plan for everything Griffin has done in the past.
“Knee injury or not, you have to account for him,” Palmer said. “All speed, man … They like to get him on the edges of defenses. He brings that element to the game where he can run by people.”
Defensive end Jason Jones remembers Griffin’s touchdown run against the Vikings more than anything. That is his lasting impression of the quarterback, and he and the rest of the defense do not plan on Griffin repeating that kind of performance. He has heard people say Griffin looks different, that maybe he is not the player he was. Hie does not quite buy it.
“I can’t see it, to tell you the truth,” Jones said. “I’ve heard, but I can’t really see it. I’m not going to read into that at all. When we go out there, we’re expecting him to be full go, 100 percent.”