Early in Redskins training camp, the AP’s Joseph White asked Robert Griffin III if he was able to stick with his promised rehab schedule even during the final hectic weeks of his offseason, which included a bachelor party in Vegas, a wedding in Denver and a honeymoon in the south of France.
“I stayed true to that,” Griffin answered. (Video here.) “I said I would, and those are the little small victories that you have along the way. You say you’re gonna do something so you end up doing it.”
But how do you keep your football rehab program going in France? Well, if you’re Griffin, you reach out to the local American Football squad to ask about using its practice fields.
“Over in France I worked out at their Football Americano facility in Nice,” Griffin explained. “It’s spelled ‘Nice,’ but it’s said ‘Niece.’ So it was cool to go out there and throw with those guys. They were real receptive. They came out a few days for me and worked out with me, gave me a lot of bodies to throw to and kept me in rhythm. And I come out here and I feel like I’m right in tune with the guys out here, so I’m real appreciative to them.”
As it turns out, I also reached out to this team – Dauphins de Nice – almost immediately after Griffin’s appearance, after a French sports site posted an item about the workout.
The team, though, had promised Griffin not to publicize his practice session, so I never heard back. Until, that is, Griffin himself mentioned the team and the workout, which sort of rendered the media blackout moot.
“We just received an e-mail about this guy coming in France and needing a field to practice,” reported Aurelien Giordanengo, a former Dauphins player who now coaches the organization’s junior team, when I reached him by phone. “Many teams in France are on holiday, so it’s a time when [maintenance staffers] work on the fields. So a few fields were available — as our field was available, we just hosted him for his practice.”
The Dauphins, who don’t pay their players, reached the semifinals in both French national and European competitions this past season. They occasionally host some foreigners, but the squad is made up primarily of French natives. Needless to say, most of the players don’t typically run routes for NFL stars. But after Griffin worked out by himself – doing stretches and running drills – he then asked for assistance.
“He came to practice, he proposed for us to catch some balls during the practice, and we finally did,” Giordanengo told me. “I think you can imagine, for French football players to catch an NFL quarterback’s balls, it was very impressive. I was with him, asking him if the routes were okay, if the players were practicing okay. We tried to make it in a way he could actually practice. We knew we didn’t have NFL receivers, but I think it was an okay practice, he said he was happy that we were running good routes.”
Griffin also seems to have converted the Dauphins into Redskins fans, staying after practice to pose for pictures, shaking hands and autographing footballs and jerseys.
Those who were at his practice session have been eagerly following training camp – “in some ways the players are paying much more attention to everything this player does,” Giordanengo said.
An intern saw Griffin’s press conference in which he mentioned the team; the group soon updated its Facebook page with photos of the quarterback.
“The Great Experience!” read the caption.
That two-hour session was more about Griffin than the Dauphins, and Giordanengo said there wasn’t time for coaching or tips. Not that anyone with the French team was complaining.
“He was encouraging us, congratulating players for good catches, but he didn’t have much time to stay with us and coach us,” he said. “He was really, really great with everyone after. He thanked us. It was really, really a great moment for everyone.”
And it’s not like the Dauphins didn’t learn anything from the experience.
“An NFL quarteback’s balls,” Giordanengo noted, “are really, really fast.”