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'He needs to protect himself': New Redskins coach Gruden wants RG3 to be careful out there

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LANDOVER, Md. - Robert Griffin III emerged from the Washington Redskins' second exhibition game with a bruised thigh — and a concerned head coach.

That's what can happen when the quarterback whose 2012 season ended with an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award and a torn-up right knee takes off running, as he is wont to do.

"It's something we have to continue to talk to him about — how important he is to this team and this franchise. When he gets out of the pocket, he needs to protect himself," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "He's had a habit in his career of being able to get himself out of those predicaments with his speed and his athleticism. But here it's a 16-game season, with the great talent across the league in the NFL, (and) he's got to pick his shots and learn how to get down a little bit better."

Griffin took a couple of hard hits at the end of some scrambles while appearing in three first-half series of what would become a 24-23 preseason victory for the Redskins against the Cleveland Browns. Washington did not score while Griffin was in the game with the first-string offence.

In all, Griffin ran four times for 24 yards. He also completed 6 of 8 passes for 112 yards and an interception when he waited too long and tried to force a throw to DeSean Jackson.

On one of his carries, Griffin got hit twice near Cleveland's sideline.

After another, he got up slowly and stepped around a little gingerly.

Following the game, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner gave a play-by-play accounting of some of his adventures — and misadventures — while running with the football.

"I got caught in an awkward situation on the first one and I tried to slide. It was a bad attempt at a slide," Griffin said sheepishly. "And then on the sideline, on their sideline, I was just in a situation there where I thought I was going to be able to get out of bounds, and (a defender) was running out of bounds with (tight end) Jordan Reed, and he came back in, so I had to protect myself, so that's why I put my shoulder down. And then my third attempt was very successful. I got down and got out of harm's way."

He said his thigh bruise is "nothing to worry about."

But Griffin did acknowledge he needs to improve the way he slides at the end of plays to avoid big hits.

"It's going to continually be a work in progress. I'm going to keep focusing on getting down in those situations, knowing when to fight for the extra yards and when not to," he said. "So the fans have nothing to worry about there. I'll keep getting better at that, I promise you that."

Gruden also was bothered by the litany of penalties — 11 for 100 yards assessed against the Redskins — and turnovers.

Washington's first drive ended with Griffin pitching the football to running back Alfred Morris, who never got ahold of it and fumbled.

The second ended with that ill-advised throw by Griffin that Browns cornerback picked off.

The third ended with the Redskins turning the ball over on downs, when Morris was stopped on three consecutive runs from the 1.

That was it for Griffin. His backup, Kirk Cousins, kept up the pattern by ending the team's fourth drive with an interception of his own.

And in fourth quarter, third-string QB Colt McCoy got in on the act, too: His first pass of the evening was intercepted by defensive back Jim Leonhard and returned 19 yards for a touchdown.

"Part of my pregame speech was, 'Let's eliminate penalties and protect the football.' Well, we did neither," Gruden said. "It's something we have to monitor and correct moving forward."

Notes: Gruden thinks his injured players will be OK, including LT Trent Williams (shoulder), TE Niles Paul (hand), LB Rob Jackson (shoulder) and CB Tracy Porter (hamstring). ... The Redskins have won seven consecutive exhibition games.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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