Until Friday night in Green Bay, quarterback Robert Griffin III hadn’t been hit in a football game in nearly a year.
The Packers welcomed him back by hitting him at least 4 times in just 11 plays during the first quarter of the preseason opener at Lambeau Field.
He got up each time, but serious questions about the protection up front, which head coach Hue Jackson said needed to be better, have arisen. On Monday, Griffin took up for his line and brushed aside any concerns about getting knocked down so often.
“I’m not worried about that,” Griffin said. “I trust the guys in front of me — Cam, Grec, Joe, Joel and Austin. Those guys are going to protect me as a quarterback. We’re going to lean on them in the running game and the passing game to make us right. Those are our big dogs up front and I trust them 110 percent.”
Two of the knockdowns were a result of newcomers – center Cameron Erving and right tackle Austin Pasztor – not holding blocks. The other hits came on a blown screen and a fumbled hand-off.
While getting hit is not something a quarterback wants, for Griffin, it felt good just to get it out of the way.
“You never celebrate getting hit, but it was awesome,” Griffin said. “Getting hit is a part of that and as bad as it sounds, yea, I enjoyed the process of being in a football game and having an opportunity to play.”
Griffin stood in the pocket well, including on his first throw – a 49-yard bomb to Terrelle Pryor, despite the traffic in the backfield. Head coach Hue Jackson liked what he saw and isn’t trying to prevent Griffin from using his legs to make plays.
“If there is an opportunity for him to take off and run, I’m sure he will,” Jackson said. “A lot of people want to try and make him be a pocket passer to see if he can, and then those opportunities where he is going to run, they will present themselves as they come.”
Griffin has battled injuries early in his NFL career including a torn right ACL to end his Pro Bowl rookie season in a Jan. 2013 playoff game, dislocated ankle in 2014, and a concussion in the 2015 preseason.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot from my early playing years,” Griffin said. “I’m still really young. I’m only 26, but in four years, I’ve learned a lot about how to take care of yourself on the field.
“It’s continuing to learn how to get down, how to take care of your body and be available for the next play. That’s the thing that I’ve learned the most.”
The Browns have had only 1 quarterback play an entire 16-game regular season since 1999, and keeping Griffin in 1 piece is of paramount importance for him as well as the team.
But don’t expect him to play scared.
“Every time you step on the field, you know that there’s a risk you can get hurt, but you don’t play scared of that,” Griffin said. “You go out and you play ball and you trust the guys in front of you and the guys around you to make plays for you.”
On The Mend – After missing 5 practices and the preseason opener with a hamstring injury, rookie receiver Corey Coleman returned to practice. Whether or not he’ll play Thursday night against the Falcons hasn’t been determined.
“We’ll see,” Jackson said. “Today was another opportunity for him to get out there finally and catch balls, run around. We’ll see how he feels after today, and then we’ll determine that as we move forward.”
Rookie Rashard Higgins and Marlon Moore, who were limited during Sunday’s practice, participated in team drills and Jackson seemed encouraged by the overall health of that group.
“In order for us to become the team we need to become, I think guys need to practice,” Jackson said. “That’s the only way you’re going to get better as a football team. You have to practice, and I think our guys understand that.”
Worth A Look – Jamie Meder got reps with the first team defense at right defensive end during Monday’s practice. Meder, who normally works behind nose tackle Danny Shelton, got bumped up after an impressive performance against the Packers that saw him come away with a safety.
“I think he deserves it,” Jackson said of the Parma Heights native. “Jamie played extremely well last week. He’s very valuable to us. I don’t know if it was just because of that. As you guys see, we put a lot of people in a lot of different positions to give them opportunities, and he’s very deserving. I will say that.”
The season ending injury to Desmond Bryant, Armonty Bryant’s 4-game suspension coupled with John Hughes’ absence due to personal matters has opened up both defensive end spots for competition and Meder has thrust his hat into the ring because of a strong camp and preseason debut.
“I think he’s tough. He’s really tough,” Jackson said. “He’s strong. He knocks people back and he pursues the football the way you have to pursue the football.”
That’s a Wrap – Monday’s practice was the last one open to the public this year. The team drew 17,993 fans according to attendance figures provided by the team over 8 practices in Berea that were open. Three were closed due to weather.
Puppy Pound – A total of 48 puppies were adopted during the 8 open practices at camp this year as the Browns continued their partnership with the Northeast Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). 72 puppies were adopted in 2015 bringing the 2-year total to 120 adoptions or an average of just over 6 puppies adopted per open practice.
Roll Call – LT Joe Thomas (back), QB Austin Davis (concussion), WR Andrew Hawkins (hamstring), RB Glenn Winston (shoulder), CB Trey Caldwell (hamstring), FB Malcolm Johnson (concussion), Nile Lawrence-Stample (shoulder), WR Ricardo Louis (hamstring), John Hughes (personal/excused) and CB K’Waun Williams (personal/excused) did not practice.
Up Next – Practice Tuesday afternoon 3:15-5:45 CLOSED to the public.