ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Michael Vick says it's taken him 10 years to learn when to slide. Robert Griffin III figures he'll have it down pat just a few days from now.
"Monday night," the Washington Redskins quarterback said Wednesday, adding a big smile as he spoke to reporters. "I mean, you guys have been talking to me about it for eight months. I think it's ingrained in my head now. I'll be getting down on Monday night."
After eight months of rehab on his reconstructed right knee, it's finally all-systems-go for Griffin to play in the prime-time Week 1 opener against Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. Griffin said there's a chance he could be even more emotional than when he made his NFL debut a year ago. His stated goal: "Play like you were never gone."
But not necessarily play the same. This is the second time Griffin has returned from major knee surgery. He said the first time around, after he was hurt playing for Baylor in 2009, was "a lot more scary" because he didn't know if would be his old self again. When he did return, he didn't change how he played.
This time, he says he will. After missing all or part of four games in his rookie NFL season because of injuries, he almost has to.
"It's a different mentality in college," Griffin said. "You're trying to get to the pros, and there are lot more different things you can do at that level that are frowned upon at this level. I just know I've got to be safe and slide and still play fearless. I'm not going out there and play scared."
Changing the mindset isn't easy. Vick, 33, is a decade older than Griffin and has had more than his share of injuries while making his name as a run-pass quarterback. Coaches and teammates have implored him to learn to slide for years, and only now does it sound as if the message is finally getting through.
"What I've learned is you have to be cautious," Vick said, "because these guys in this league, they hit so hard, and we only weigh about 210 pounds, 215 pounds. And these guys are taking all types of angles on us, and we don't even see them sometimes, so it's important for us to protect ourselves and be conscious of where we are on the field and most importantly understand what we mean to our football team.
"It happens over time, and I can honestly tell you I didn't learn it until this year. This preseason was the most I got down and slid, and ran with a sense of getting down and not trying to score all the time. I think once you tell yourself that's what you're going to do, then you kind of ingrain it in your mind."
But instincts are hard to unlearn. Vick went also headfirst — instead of feet-first — more than once during this preseason.
Griffin sat out the preseason and was cleared for Week 1 last week by Dr. James Andrews, although coach Mike Shanahan said at the time that Andrews also had unspecified "concerns." Andrews later contradicted the coach, saying there were "no concerns." Shanahan then said the "concerns" were discussed among doctor, coach and player on Sunday but didn't reveal what they are.
Griffin declined to be drawn in the fray Wednesday, other than to say that he also had no concerns about his knee.
"Bottom line," Griffin said, "is I'm ready to go."
Notes: NT Barry Cofield has an enormous cast to protect the broken bone in his right hand and will probably have to wear it in the game. He says it won't affect his performance, but one problem is that he can't buckle his own chinstrap. He says he seeks help from a different teammate before every play so as not to burden any one person. "It's like a family effort," he said. ... S Brandon Meriweather has a groin injury to go along with his sore knee, making him the top injury worry headed into Monday's game.
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