Note: This is an item about two players who used to play for the Washington Redskins, but no longer do. If that offends you, I’d recommend clicking away immediately. If you’re instead looking for feel-good stories about local athletes, here is something I wrote about three Maryland women’s basketball starters who hope to become doctors. None of you people who have been yelling at me to stop writing about RGIII have found the time to click on that one just yet. Funny how that works.
Since Robert Griffin III was active for only one game last season, he was virtually never available to local reporters during the fall. And when the former franchise quarterback cleaned out his locker in January, he declined to speak with local reporters, politely telling them “Don’t plan on talking, guys. I don’t have anything for you.” Which all meant that Griffin has said almost nothing publicly about the strangest few months of his four-year Washington tenure.
Then last week, he signed with Cleveland. This meant that Griffin was talking again, and finally answering questions about his fourth and final season with the Redskins.
His experience in Washington, Griffin said in a conference call, “would break a lot of people.” But he said he still feels that football “is what I’m supposed to do. This is my calling. I’m excited about that. When it comes to what I need to work on, I’m really excited to have another opportunity to grow with a coach that believes in me. That’s big, and I’ve just got to go out and prove it.”
The quarterback has earned widespread praise for his quiet approach last season, as Kirk Cousins became a star and led the Redskins to a division title. Griffin acknowledged that experience was trying, and said “what I learned most was just the love that’s inside of me for this game of football.”
“If you ask any competitor, if you take them out of their competitive realm and you can’t do what you love to do, it’s going to be tough,” Griffin said in the conference call. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if that wasn’t tough on me last year, but you are able to learn a lot. Grew a lot. Dedicated myself to make sure I took the time after practice every day for an hour to continue to work, because I knew that I would be presented with an opportunity like [this] if I continued to work.”
But Griffin — who went from being the offensive rookie of the year to a third-stringer — also said that Washington’s longest-tenured player helped him remember to still have fun.
“A player that I think very highly of, Kedric Golston, said we play a kid’s game for a king’s ransom,” Griffin said in a separate interview with Cleveland’s ESPN 850. “And you can never take the fun out of the game. Once you do that, it just becomes work. So you’ve got to have fun. That fun is still there. And I’m just real excited, man, just real excited to get an opportunity to play this beautiful game once again.”
It’s not always easy to separate what Griffin says and does with the thousands of words that follow everything he says and does. There was, in Washington, an insatiable demand for stories about Griffin. No matter who was responsible for that, it likely didn’t help his career, especially as things went off the rails.
“You know, that market out there is tough, especially being a franchise quarterback like Griff went through,” former teammate Brian Orakpo said last week on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “He had a phenomenal rookie year, and the expectations were just way too high to fill that void, and it was tough on him. It was tough. And I’m glad he’s able to get a fresh start in Cleveland and he can go out there and start his career all over again.”
Orakpo also was asked about the carousel of quarterbacks in Washington — with Griffin losing and re-gaining and then losing again his starting role — and how that experience affected the locker room.
“It’s not the quarterback or the management or the coach’s fault; it’s just the circus that surrounds all that stuff,” Orakpo said. “Everybody wants to get information from all kinds of sources, and it’s definitely annoying for the other players on the team. But it’s something you have to go through when you go through situations like that.”
Griffin, meanwhile, discussed that past in a roundabout way. It seems likely that Cleveland will have another young quarterback this season, so he was asked on ESPN 850 how he can stay focused and not become a distraction. “You proved it last year,” the host said, “but people still want to kind of drum up that narrative.”
“Those are the things that you can’t control, is what narrative people are going to try to pick up,” Griffin said. ” You know, last year was a tough year for me, but I was there for my teammates and I made sure that everyone knew that I was on board to do whatever it took to help the Washington Redskins win football games. So when it comes to coming to Cleveland, there’s one goal in mind, and that’s to win, to come out and compete. And whatever happens that’s outside of my control, there’s nothing I can do about that.
“If they draft a quarterback, I’ll bring the young guy in under my wing, and we’ll grow together and do whatever it takes to help this team win,” Griffin went on. “So I’m not afraid of those things. I know how hard all those guys in that locker room work, because we’re all professionals and we take this seriously. So I’m just excited about the opportunity, and not worried about anyone else’s storyline.”
Griffin said that he improved as a quarterback last year, even though he wasn’t on the field.
“I think last year really did help, being able to watch,” Griffin said in the radio interview. “It was more than just the mental reps; it was continuing to improve my game every day after practice for an hour for 17 straight weeks, outside of the bye week. To be able to do that, and really just grow as a player, all those things helped.
“I’ve been a part of a play-action game when I was first in Washington, and I’ve also been a part of a spread-it-out and throw-it-around game in my last couple years there. So it really just depends on what they want to do, but I’m excited, really excited, for either one. Linemen love it when you get the ball out quick, so I’ll definitely make sure that’s something that we do if that’s the route that coach wants to go.”
And Griffin suggested that he knows a little bit about bringing hope and success to a fanbase that needs them.
“I love the opportunity to come to a city that has been yearning for a winner for so long and help build something great,” he told ESPN 850. “So that’s the focus, for me. I know [Browns Coach Hue] Jackson has the same focus, and all the players on the team want to win, so all we can tell [fans] is that we’re never going to be afraid to work. Hard work is something that I believe pays off. And you’re going to have a winner in no time, but at the same time, we just know we’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s no guarantees in this business or in life. So every day we’re at that facility, we’re going to be working hard to make them a winner.”