During a seven-on-seven drill in shorts Monday at Redskins training camp in Richmond, Va., Robert Griffin III rolled left and couldn’t find an open receiver. He started to scramble, saw a lane and ran for 15 yards.
Then he hit the turf, with typical RG3 flair. He performed a half-speed slide and rolled over to protect the ball.
The crowd went wild. It was perhaps the biggest cheer he’s heard for any play yet during camp.
‘‘I just thought everybody would love it if I just slid in practice for once,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘And I went ahead and did that. I find it easier to slide in football pants than shorts. It was a little harder, but I slid and everybody liked it.’’
Even coach Mike Shanahan laughed.
‘‘I thought it was good . . . It’s got to become automatic,’’ Shanahan said. ‘‘No matter what you do, there has got to be an emphasis there. The player’s got to believe in it. They have got to think it. If you do it in practice, it happens in games.’’
It’s an odd sight when people drive hundreds of miles to holler for their favorite player to take it easy, but many in the crowd are content to sit back and watch Griffin sit back and watch, yelling things like: ‘‘RG3, take care of that knee’’ and ‘‘We don’t need you to play in preseason.’’
Griffin has been kept out of the main 11-on-11 drills in the homestretch of his recovery from reconstructive right knee surgery. Protecting the knee is more important than perfecting the fade route, even if the quarterback is chomping at the bit to accelerate the process.
“It’s not easy to sit around and watch,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘I call it ‘Operation Patience.’ ”
Griffin said he has ‘‘no pain’’ and ‘‘no swelling’’ in his right knee. He says he can plant on the leg the way he did before he first injured it last season. He said he’s always forgetting to put on his brace, which he is supposed to wear during practices and games all season.
‘‘I don’t really worry about my leg anymore,’’ he said. ‘‘I just play football.’’
Shanahan said the unpredictability of 11-on-11 play makes it dicey for a player coming back from two bad ligaments.
‘‘If you put a guy in there too early and he doesn’t have that full strength, you could lose that ACL, LCL just like that,’’ said Shanahan, snapping his fingers. ‘‘We’re not going to do that.’’
Leach rejoins Ravens
The Ravens never gave up hope of getting back fullback Vonta Leach, and Monday they got their wish. Leach signed a two-year contract with the defending Super Bowl champions after failing to find a proper suitor in free agency.
‘‘I'm excited about it. It’s great news,’’ coach John Harbaugh said. ‘‘We've been in contact, we’ve been talking all along. It worked out great for the Ravens.’’
Leach paved the way for running back Ray Rice to gain 1,143 yards last season. Leach ran nine times for 32 yards during the regular season and scored a touchdown against Indianapolis during Baltimore’s run to the Super Bowl. But Leach declined to renegotiate his contract during the offseason and was released in June.
While he was gone, the Ravens drafted Harvard product Kyle Juszczyk for fullback. Juszczyk will become a second-stringer, but Harbaugh believes both fullbacks will be utilized.
‘‘It’s good to have fullbacks,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘We normally have two during training camp and through the course of the season it will be valuable for us. There will be plenty of reps for those guys.’’
Earlier, Harbaugh said tight end Dennis Pitta’s dislocated hip is not career-threatening. ‘‘It’s a very rare football injury,’’ the coach said. ‘‘The good news is that there’s a fracture, but it’s in the back part of the bone. There’s no ligament damage, no cartilage damage. He should be rehabbing in six to eight weeks.’’
Bills’ Williams ailing
Bills star defensive end Mario Williams missed his second straight practice to have his sore foot evaluated by team doctors. Coach Doug Marrone continued to be short on specifics regarding the injury. He would only say the tests were being conducted away from the Bills training camp facility in suburban Rochester.
Meanwhile, Bills wide receiver Brad Smith restructured the final two years of his contract in a move that provides the versatile playmaker a better shot at making the roster. Smith did not reveal the reason behind it.
‘‘Yeah, I'm not really discussing that,’’ Smith said. ‘‘It’s kind of personal between myself and the team. I'm just glad to be here in camp working.’’
Smith is a seven-year veteran, who also doubles as a kickoff returner and wildcat quarterback specialist. He signed a four-year, $15 million contract with the Bills in free agency in July 2011. Not including bonuses, he was set to make a $2.75 million base salary this season, and $3 million next year.
Eagles lose another
Linebacker Jason Phillips tore his right ACL in practice, becoming the second Eagles player to sustain a season-ending injury in three days. Starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin tore his right ACL on Saturday. Phillips played in 16 games for Carolina last year, mostly on special teams . . . Starting guard Daryn Colledge and injury-plagued running back Ryan Williams (knee) were among four Arizona players missing the Cardinals’ practice with injuries. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley was sidelined with a sore knee and wide receiver LaRon Byrd sustained a concussion in the team’s first practice in pads on Sunday. Coach Bruce Arians says Colledge had nerve irritation in his right leg, which he called ‘‘good news’’ because the MRI showed no fracture.
Top pick hobbles off
Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, the Broncos’ first-round pick, hobbled off the field and into the facility after hurting his left knee midway through practice. Coach John Fox said after the training camp workout that Williams’s injury ‘‘doesn’t appear to be super serious.’’ Defensive end Robert Ayers (hamstring) and tight end Jacob Tamme (quadriceps) also left practice early . . . Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert sprained his right ankle during practice and left the field on a cart. He was seen walking around the facility without a limp about two hours later . . . The Titans agreed to terms with guard Chance Warmack, who had been the last remaining unsigned first-round draft pick. The Tennessean reported the former Alabama All-American and 10th overall pick, agreed to a four-year contract that features a fifth-year team option and has a total value of $12.17 million, with a $7.2 million signing bonus.