“That was a big moment,” Griffin said. “I understood why they put my locker next to his. He’s the leader. I’ll never try to overtake London Fletcher. For me to be next to him is an honor. He knows I have to be a leader, because that [responsibility] is thrown upon a quarterback. But he’s definitely a guy who can help me do it. I know if I ever need anything, I can count on him.”
Now, as the veterans began arriving for the first organized team activities, Griffin, had already reached out to many of them by phone or text message and managed to find the delicate midpoint between a rookie’s humility and a quarterback’s charge to lead.
“He’s willing to work. He’s in here early. And he’s in his playbook,” Fletcher said. “He has an aura about himself that [makes] people want to gravitate to him and just get to know him.”
Back in Texas, Robert Griffin would wait for his son’s inevitable post-practice phone call. One time, his son told him: “Today, it was a grueling one, but I learned so much. I truly felt [like] I’m elevating my game.”
Another time, the elder Griffin was watching clips from practice on the Redskins’ Web site and saw something in his son’s footwork that he didn’t like. “I called him, and he said, ‘Dad, I’m already on top of that.’ And I watched some more [clips] a couple of days later, and it was fixed.”
During his first visit home after getting the playbook, Griffin pulled it out of his bag to show his mother. “This is my homework for the next year,” he told her. Griffin’s father may have been the only person outside the Redskins organization whom he afforded a good, long look at it. They went through it, talked about it. Griffin’s father took on the role of quizmaster.
“That playbook is Coach Shanahan’s vision,” he said. “And that’s what Robert is going to capture — Coach Shanahan’s vision.”
As he flew between Washington and Texas, perhaps a half-dozen times in all, Griffin usually checked a suitcase, but the playbook — along with an iPad the Redskins gave him, with all the plays in video form — boarded the plane with him, safely tucked in a carry-on bag.
“It’s with me all the time,” he said. “It’s not my bible, but it’s what we live by.”
One other item was a constant presence in Griffin’s carry-on: an official Wilson NFL football. Even when there was no one to throw with, he liked to toss the ball in the air to himself, or just hold it in his right hand, gripping it, spinning it, feeling the laces.