ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Looking forward to making his preseason debut, Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III revealed he has one apprehension.
Griffin joked he would prefer not getting hit on Thursday, when the Redskins travel to open their preseason schedule against the Buffalo Bills.
"To be honest, if I don't get hit in the preseason, I would be very OK with that," he said. "I am not going to go in the game, saying, 'I hope Marcell Dareus hits me as hard as he possibly can.' That's not going to come out of my mouth."
Good luck with that. Because Dareus and the rest of the Bills' high-priced, retooled, Mario Williams-led defensive line have a much different intention after displaying glimpses of their pass-rushing and havoc-creating potential in training camp.
"I wouldn't mind getting a sack," Dareus said with a giggle.
As for Williams, the defensive end already issued Griffin a warning when the two spoke recently.
"I told him I was coming for him, so he knows I'll be looking for him," said Williams, who shares the same agent as Griffin. "But it's all fun. It's preseason. And it's actually better for him to get hit earlier than later, so it's not a shock."
Though the starters for each team are expected to get no more than a couple of series in the first quarter, their cameo appearances come with much anticipation.
Griffin is the new fresh face of the Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32). The Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor star was selected with the No. 2 pick in the draft, and has raised hopes in D.C. that the Redskins might finally have their first bonafide franchise quarterback since Joe Theismann's career ended with a broken leg in 1985.
There's a growing buzz in Buffalo (No. 19), too, that fortunes might finally be looking up for a team that's not made the playoffs in 13 years — the NFL's longest active drought. The reason for the raised expectations centers around a new-look defensive line that will get its first chance to display its potential.
It's a unit that has plenty of depth and is designed to pressure opposing passers, something the Bills have had difficulty doing over the past five seasons.
"This is kind of like going out and driving a car and breaking it in," said Williams, the Bills prized free-agent addition who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in March.
Williams is also looking forward to getting his first taste of playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium. And he's excited about getting on the field for the first time since October, when his season ended with Houston because of a chest injury.
"It's almost like me being a rookie all over again and I kind of have to make sure I don't get too excited," said Williams, who has 53 career sacks in six seasons. "All out, just not for myself but for everybody on our D-line. It's just all out."
The Bills defenders should have an additional edge because the Redskins enter the game with a patchwork offensive line that's already depleted by injuries.
Right guard Chris Chester (sprained ankle) and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (knee) are unlikely to play. And starting right tackle Jammal Brown (hip) is unavailable after opening camp on the physically unable to perform list.
And Griffin is aware of, and coach Mike Shanahan needs no reminding of what happened the last time these two teams met. The Bills had 10 sacks in a 23-0 win at a game played in Toronto in October.
"There is a reason for that defense giving us a lot of trouble last year, but they're a much improved football team," Shanahan said.
He regards this as a good first test for Griffin, because the Bills have a defensive makeup that's similar to ones the Redskins will face in the NFC East.
"Any time you're dealing with the NFC East, you're talking about year-in, year-out the best defensive fronts in the division, in all of football," Shanahan said. "We're used to those good defensive lines, so it'll help us get ready."Comment on this story
Griffin has more than modest objectives entering the game.
"A couple of drives, all touchdowns, 70-yard touchdown throws to Pierre (Garcon) and Josh (Morgan), all that," Griffin said with a wink. "And, of course, win the game."
AP freelancer David Elfin in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this report.