“I didn’t think I would, but I do feel different. . . . It’s real,” Griffin said. “It’s not that guys weren’t out here working hard or anything like that. But I think everyone is working knowing that stuff counts. This game is going to count and hopefully we can go out and get the victory.”
Even Griffin’s rival, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, is anticipating Griffin’s debut.
“You figure it’s only a matter of time before he takes this league by storm,” Brees said in a conference call Wednesday with Washington area reporters. “I just hope it doesn’t happen on Sunday.”
Griffin stayed late on the practice field Wednesday at Redskins Park throwing passes to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who is a newcomer to the team as well and has become something of a go-to receiver for the rookie. Griffin long ago began studying the tendencies of the New Orleans defense and its coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was head coach of the St. Louis Rams last season.
Griffin and other Redskins starters sat out the last of the team’s four preseason games last week. So by the time he plays Sunday, Griffin will have gone a little more than two weeks since playing in any kind of contest.
Griffin provided a few glimpses of what he can do during his three preseason appearances. But the sample size was small. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan gave Griffin the same preseason playing time that he traditionally allots his starting quarterback, choosing not to increase Griffin’s time on the field during exhibition games just because he is a rookie. As a result, Griffin threw only 31 passes during the preseason, completing 20 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception.
His strong arm was on display at times. So, too, were his bursts of dazzling speed and impressive improvisational skills. Teammates said he had command of the huddle and a firm grasp of the offense.
But now the stakes are higher and the game will become faster around him. Coaches are in full game-planning mode after taking care during the preseason not to show too much to future opponents. Griffin has said he knows that Spagnuolo will do everything he can Sunday to try to confuse a rookie quarterback playing his first game.
Griffin said he will have 30 to 50 family members inside the Superdome for the game — although he will be paying for only seven of them, he said. Both his parents are from New Orleans. He has attended Saints games in the past, he said, and is pleased to play his first game in a city that means so much to his family.
“I love it,” Griffin said. “I think it’ll be great. My whole family is from there. . . . Even though it’ll be a lot of boos, I’ll get a few cheers from a few sections.”