This time last year, as the Washington Redskins conducted their offseason program, a hobbled Robert Griffin III did his best to knock off rust and acclimate himself to a bulky knee brace while his teammates practiced on a separate field.
But on Thursday – with last year’s recovery from knee surgery, and a trying 3-13 season thoroughly behind him – Griffin had a pep in his step and a zip in his arm as the Redskins concluded their first week of the practices known as organized team activities, or OTAs.
Gone is the restrictive knee brace. Gone is the hitch in Griffin’s step, and the feelings of isolation the quarterback wrestled with.
With a new coach, new offense and retooled roster, Griffin relishes the chance to lay the groundwork for the coming year.
“As everyone knows, last year I was rehabbing and getting ready for the season, and now, I get to go out there and be with the guys,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice – the final day of this week’s workouts, which featured 100 percent attendance. “That’s the most important part: to be with your teammates. That’s what I’ve had a chance to do. I thoroughly enjoy it, and hopefully they have, too.
“It’s obviously a new offense and we’ve got different guys in the building,” he added. “But it’s going really, really well. I feel great.”
Coach Jay Gruden and new offensive coordinator Sean McVay have spent the better part of the past two months teaching the offense to Griffin and his teammates, while defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica have done the same for their units. They led them through a three-day minicamp in late April, and this week represented their first full practices since.
Gruden praised Griffin’s play and leadership thus far, and he also applauded the work ethic that his players have exhibited.
“We’re getting done everything we need to get done,” Gruden said. “We’re installing our system, the defense is installing their system and special teams is installing their system, and we’re going out and competing every day. Guys are doing a great job. They’re flying around to the ball, the tempo has been outstanding, coaching has been outstanding. Everybody understands it’s a new season and that it’s their job to get out and perform.”
Although still early in the installation process, Griffin and his teammates express a growing comfort in their respective systems. They observe improving chemistry as well.
Griffin already has spent time this offseason working with returning pass-catchers like wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. He also has thrown to new additions DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.
Asked about developing timing and chemistry with Jackson – the three-time Pro Bowl free agent addition, who will start opposite Garcon – Griffin expressed encouragement.
“I think it’s there. We’ve been throwing a lot,” Griffin said. “He’s been here the majority of the offseason program. … He’s a guy that’s so talented and has a really good catch radius. He can pretty much gel anywhere he goes, and we’re excited to have him.”
Another seven OTA sessions remain this summer, and then the offseason work will conclude with a mandatory minicamp in the middle of June. The players will retreat to their offseason homes for roughly a month, and then report for training camp in late July.
Between now and then, the to-do list is simple, Griffin says.
“It’s on our shirts. ‘Win everything, win every day,’ ” he said. “That’s the to-do list. Seize every day, every opportunity that we’re in here, watching film, on the field. It’s real vague, but that’s how I approach everything.”
At the last line, Griffin laughed – something he didn’t do much of last season. His hope – as well as those held by his teammates and coaches – is that this good times last beyond the feel-good offseason.
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