Robert Griffin III officially reentered the NFL on Wednesday, signing the one-year contract he and the Baltimore Ravens agreed upon last week and saying that his season away from the game helped him grow as a player.
This entrance for RGIII was different from those of the past, more restrained and low-key, befitting his new role as a backup quarterback. He took the podium at the franchise’s headquarters outside Baltimore and spoke of fitting in with his new team, learning from the starting quarterback, being healthy and doing whatever is asked of him.
The No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins, Griffin spent an injury-shortened season with the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and sat out the entire 2017 season. Although teams, including the Ravens, had shown interest in him during that sabbatical, none made a commitment. Now, Griffin said, he returns to the game different — and improved.
“I feel like I’ve been able to get a better grasp of how to play the game in the NFL,” he told reporters Wednesday.
Griffin, who suffered a devastating knee injury in Washington and hurt his shoulder in the Browns’ 2016 season opener, is also healthier than he has been in the past.
“Being 100 percent honest, I haven’t felt this good since I came out of college,” Griffin said. “A year off of football can do that when trucks aren’t landing on you every play.”
Griffin expressed his gratitude over the signing and explained why he chose the Ravens, saying he “wanted to be part of an organization that has an identity.”
“What I tweeted out [when he and the team reached an agreement last week], #playlikeaRaven, is that identity,” he said. “I’m excited to get to play with these guys and learn what it really means to ‘play like a Raven.’”
As for the larger picture, rebooting a career that reached stellar heights for just one season and then careened off track, Griffin said he was concentrating on other things.
“My focus really isn’t on that,” he said. “It’s really just being able to come in and doing whatever they ask me to do, be able to prove it to my teammates every single day. I’m a Baltimore Raven. My job is to do whatever I have to do to help the team win games.”
In Joe Flacco, the Ravens have a reliable starting quarterback who led them to a Super Bowl victory and has missed only six games over 10 seasons. However, he also happens to be 33 and is being paid around $22 million a year. Add to that the fact that he was bothered over the first half of the 2017 season by a back injury that kept him out of training camp and it’s no wonder the Ravens are considering their options at the position.
That explains the arrival of RGIII and, possibly, another quarterback in the NFL draft, even though owner Steve Bisciotti said last month that “we have bigger fish to fry” when asked whether the team was looking to replace Flacco. Clearly, going with Ryan Mallett as his backup won’t work this season. (Mallett, who spent 2017 with the Ravens, remains a free agent.)
“Most of my interaction with Joe has been at midfield [after games],” Griffin said with a laugh. “I really do look forward to getting in the quarterback room with him. It’s a great opportunity for me. I still feel like I’m a young player. I’m 28, but I feel like I’m 25,” he said. “He’s been through a lot of things in his career. He’s been to the pinnacle, won a Super Bowl, been a Super Bowl MVP, and I think that’s a great opportunity for me to learn from him — the way he attacks the game of football, the way he attacks the meeting room, practice, interacting with teammates, all those types of things, the way he leads. So I’m really excited about that opportunity and look forward to meeting him, it looks like, on Monday.”
That’s when the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program begins. Although work with coaches is limited during those sessions, Griffin will be able to get a feel for his new home and new teammates.
Although his preference certainly was not to be out of the league for a year, he said he had used the time constructively while staying ready.
“It helped me become a smarter player,” Griffin said Wednesday. “I tried to use that experience to grow. I feel like I have grown from that and I look forward to being able to show it.”
His new coach, for one, is excited about his arrival. John Harbaugh said last week that he was “very excited” about the acquisition, calling Griffin a “confident guy” and saying the team felt like it needed a No. 2 quarterback.
“I feel like we got a steal,” Harbaugh said then. “I felt like he really wanted to be here, be a Raven.”
The partnership has been months in the making. Griffin told ESPN last December that he had turned down offers from the Ravens and Arizona Cardinals because the timing and situations weren’t right.
The Ravens, he said then, “offered me a contract right before the first preseason game to start against the Redskins. Selfishly, I could have said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take that. I want to go play against them,’ but I knew I wouldn’t have been ready with that offense, with those guys, to go put my best foot forward. When I step on the field the next time, I want to make sure I put my best foot forward and make sure that, obviously, I stay healthy but I get a nice [rapport] with the team and with the athletes and the coaches.”
Griffin told ESPN last December that he was “100 percent” committed to returning to the league and competing for a starting job.
“I think every quarterback in my situation, being this young, having the success that I’ve had in the league, you want to be a starter,” Griffin said. “That’s what you want. But what am I willing to do? I’m willing to go in and compete to be QB1, because when you’re out of football for a year, you have to have that expectation. Whether I go in as a one or a two, I’m still going in there to compete, but I wouldn’t mind going in and sitting behind an aging vet, learning some things from them, grow with an offensive staff, grow with the team, see the pieces that they can put together and grow as a football player in that way. I’m not opposed to that, but as a quarterback, as a competitor, I want to go in and compete.”
Griffin hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since the 2016 season, when he went 1-4 as a starter and threw two touchdowns and three interceptions. Since leaving Washington, he has gone through a divorce from his college sweetheart (in 2016), become a father for a second time and last month married his girlfriend, Grete Sadeiko.
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