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Cleveland Browns

Harkins: Robert Griffin III still hasn’t learned importance of protecting himself

Cleveland Browns QB Robert Griffin III (10) participates in drills at the Cleveland Browns training camp in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
(Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
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Back in June, Robert Griffin III received praise for throwing the ball away during workouts. Yes, he was doing it passive-aggressively, throwing balls well over fences instead of just out of bounds, but at least he was trying to, in his own oddball way, to make coach Hue Jackson happy.

The plan was not just to prod Griffin to avoid forcing the ball into spaces he shouldn’t try to force it, but also to limit the amount of contact his takes – a smart move given his injury history.

Unfortunately, Griffin didn’t exactly stick to that plan in his preseason debut with the Browns on Friday at Green Bay, taking a number of hits in the game. In a make-good season for the once promising quarterback, staying healthy will be crucial for him to resurrect his career. RGIII said he has learned from his early playing years in the NFL how to protect his body, how to get down, how to be available for the next play.

But if he has learned all of that, why did he allow himself to take so much contact in a game that didn’t even mean anything? Griffin said that not only was he not worried about it, but that he actually enjoyed it.

“You never celebrate getting hit, but it was awesome,” Griffin told the media. “Like I’ve said before, it’s just a pleasure to be out there with great people and have an opportunity to play a game that you love. Getting hit is a part of that. As bad as it sounds, yeah I enjoyed the process of being in a football game and having an opportunity to play.”

It’s great that Griffin wants to play, but as much as he claimed to love the contact, history shows that he won’t be playing much if he continues to take a beating. He played 15 games as a rookie and showed great promise, passing for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns (with only five interceptions). In 2013 he played only 13 games, followed by a host of injuries and ineffective play in 2014 that resulted in nine games, including seven starts.

It’s admirable that Griffin isn’t skittish about taking contact, declaring that you can’t play scared (and he’s right).

“You know there is a risk that you can get hurt, but you don’t play scared of that,” he said. “You go out and you play ball and trust the guys in front of you and the guys around you to make plays for you.”

That’s true, but you also have to play smart as well as play tough and brave. Griffin needs to not only learn how to avoid taking unnecessary hits, but actually employ his knowledge on the field. Every hit a quarterback takes can land him on the injured list, and Griffin has a history of struggling to stay healthy.

If he really wants to make a go of his quest to once again be considered a promising quarterback, the first thing he’ll have to do is stay healthy. If that means hitting a couple of fans in the stands with throw-aways, then that’s what he should learn to do.

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