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RG III: I have to use my ability

ASHBURN, Va. -- The time off during the bye week provided Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a little time to rest. It wasn't his knee that had to change, however. It was his mentality.

After a couple of weeks of no runs and then a couple more of awkward slides to avoid hits, Griffin abandoned the idea of being a different player. He went back to being himself.

"It's just saying, 'I have to be the guy I know I am,'" Griffin said. "I know people think that after the bye week I felt better and that's why I did it. It was more, I just feel that's what I have to do. And that's what I've always had to do. You have to use the ability you have."

That means running with more decisiveness, looking for big plays and not just to get down. Griffin showed all of that, albeit in a 31-16 loss to Dallas on Sunday night. His arm failed him more than his legs; Griffin completed just 19 of 39 passes.

But the stat that eventually could help Washington turn its fortunes around was this one: Griffin ran nine times on a variety of zone read options and scrambles for 77 yards. That represents a third of his total carries for the season.

"You could see some of that burst he had a year ago," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.

Teammates noticed as well.

"I was happy when I saw it last week, how quick he looked," nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "He seemed confident. He ran when he wanted to run. He made a lot of plays."

Coming off knee surgery, Griffin listened to many who told him he needed to run smarter and safer. He won't completely abandon that philosophy -- Griffin did a better job even last season of running out of bounds, save for what he considered key situations.

"Everyone wants me to slide and get out of bounds," he said. "I can't listen to that. It's not that you ignore it. I understand that people are concerned, but at the end of the day, you have to go out and play with your instincts. I let my instincts take over as opposed to running out of bounds so everyone doesn't get mad at Coach or mad at me. Just more instinctive running the ball and playing football."

That's the mindset that helped Griffin win the Heisman Trophy, be drafted second overall and lead the Redskins to the playoffs as a rookie in 2012. But he needed surgery to repair multiple knee ligament tears Jan. 9. When he opened this season, without the benefit of an offseason or any preseason games, Griffin wasn't ready to be his old self.

"You can't lose faith in who you are," Griffin said. "You can't lose confidence in what you've done to get to the level you're at. You never forget what got you to where you are. That's all I'm saying."

Teams did not fear Griffin's legs in the first four games. He showed more mobility in Washington's win against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 29, escaping the pocket to make several key pass plays. And it helped that Dallas used more man coverage and was intent on stopping running back Alfred Morris.

When Griffin would keep on the zone read option, the corner often would be driven off by a receiver running downfield. Eventually the Cowboys used middle linebacker Sean Lee to spy on Griffin.

The hope for Washington is that if teams must now pay more attention to Griffin's legs, it could change the way they defend against the Redskins. When Griffin ran the read option in the first four games, defenses focused hard on stopping Morris.

If Griffin is willing to run -- and can hurt them -- it might widen the lanes for Morris, leading to missed arm tackle attempts instead of stops.

"It can open things up on the outside, so teams will have to pick their poison," Griffin said.

Griffin was a dynamic player in 2012, rushing for 815 yards. He's on pace for 477 yards this season.

"It's not that there's pressure to be a certain guy or have a certain amount of numbers," Griffin said. "I [couldn't] care less about the numbers as long as we win. ... I just ran with more instincts in the past game, and it showed up with the numbers and the plays we were able to make with myself running and Alfred getting big runs, too. It's good for everyone on the team to see that and feel like I'm back."