RICHMOND – Redskins coach Jay Gruden expressed encouragement over the physical and mental state of quarterback Robert Griffin III as he prepares to kick off his third NFL season, but only the second full-on training camp of his career.
Griffin last season spent the offseason rehabbing from the reconstruction of his right knee, and he didn’t receive clearance to take part in 11-on-11 drills until the third week of training camp. Griffin didn’t play at all during the preseason, but then opened the season as the starter and endured a trying second season.
Griffin practiced without limitation this offseason and enters training camp as the unquestioned starter. The quarterback has previously said that the ability to carry a full workload this offseason has helped his development and introduction to an overhauled offensive system. Asked about Griffin’s progress leading up to camp, Gruden agreed.
“From a health standpoint, we feel good about where he is there. Obviously, he’s in great shape. … Physical condition is not an issue,” Gruden said on the eve of his first practice. “Mental condition, we feel is excellent. [Offensive coordinator] Sean [McVay] has done an excellent job with him. Above-the-neck plays, he’s doing a great job – command of the game, in the huddle, his audibles and the running game have been excellent. He’s in his third year, and he’s still going to make mistakes here and there. But the key for him is to learn from his mistakes and not make the same ones over and over, and just continue to get better every day.”
Gruden continued, “He knows the tempo, he knows what has to go into making him a great quarterback. He has a long way to go, and he understands that. It’s physical and mental preparation. He’s got a great understanding and great feel for that as a young guy.”
Gruden said his goal for Griffin this training camp is simple.
“Repetition. Reps, reps, reps,” the coach explained. “You can never have too many reps. You can run the same play 10 different times and might get 10 different defenses. The more you see that play against different defenses, the more you see the blitzes and what you need to handle as the quarterback, stepping up in the pocket, his fundamentals, his footwork. It’s very difficult to miss an entire training camp and preseason then come in Week 1 and say, ‘Here’s the ball. Go play.’ It’s very difficult. So all quarterbacks need the reps. All quarterbacks want the reps.”
Gruden didn’t go into detail when asked to breakdown what aspects Griffin needs to improve upon the most. But accuracy and decision-making ranked among the quarterback’s problem areas in Year 2. A season after ranking among the league leaders with a completion percentage of 65.6 while throwing 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions, Griffin saw his completion percentage dip, and he threw 12 interceptions to go with 16 touchdown passes.
Gruden would like Griffin to improve on all fronts, however.
“I could sit here and talk for 35, 40 minutes talking about what he needs to work on. I could do the same for Tom Brady,” he said. “That’s just the position. Every position on the field requires training both mentally and physically and that’s not going to change. As long as you’re an active football player, someone’s out for your job, you’re getting older and you have to maintain your level of competitiveness.”
Helping Griffin recapture the magic of his rookie year ranks among Gruden’s highest priorities as the new coach of the Redskins.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with Griffin also carries high importance after the marriage between Griffin and former coach Mike Shanahan ended in a nasty divorce.
Asked about the player-coach relationship, Gruden said, “Happiness comes with wins. Nobody’s going to be happy if we’re 2-14. Our whole goal is to make sure we make him as comfortable as possible with this system, and when he’s out there on Sundays, that he’s comfortable with the direction that we’re going. If we can make him feel comfortable and put him in that comfort zone and place where he can succeed, I feel like we’ll have a much better chance for this franchise to be successful. Our relationship is what it is. My relationship with all the players hopefully, is a good one, is a strong one, where I’m the coach, they’re the player, and they know I’ve got their back and we’re going to do everything we can to help them.”
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Washington’s first training camp practice of the 2014 season is at 8:35 a.m. in Richmond. Here’s our camp guide. Mike and Liz will be blogging from camp all day.
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