He's not a Redskin yet, but RG3 is feeling the love from D.C. area
Though it's not official yet, Robert Griffin III has been embraced by Redskins fans
RG3 understands the excitement surrounding him in D.C., and isn't shying from it
Meeting with 'Skins OC Kyle Shanahan gave RG3 basic familiarity with the system
We're still a week away from officially knowing Robert Griffin III's fate in the NFL draft, but it sure doesn't feel that way, does it? In many ways, it seems like Griffin became a Redskin the minute Washington and St. Louis executed their blockbuster first-round trade on March 1, and the ensuing seven weeks has been an exercise in introducing fait to accompli.
After all, the Heisman-winning Baylor quarterback has already had a three-hour crash course going over the Redskins playbook on a visit to Waco, Texas, from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, spent time signing autographs on Redskins memorabilia at a D.C.-area card show, and gotten the full-blown rock star/savior treatment when he visited the nation's capital.
If RG3 somehow doesn't go No. 2 to Washington next Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York -- and all indications are the No. 1 Colts won't stun everyone by passing on Stanford's Andrew Luck to select Griffin -- will it strangely register as a disappointment? I put that rather crazy-sounding question to Griffin Wednesday night by phone, as he began preparing for Thursday's testing session at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla.
"I don't know how I'd feel about that, because I've continually said no matter where I go I'll be happy and excited,'' Griffin said. "But when you talk about the fanfare and the fan hype right now, I think it would be very disappointing for Washington D.C. if I didn't get drafted there. Honestly, it was surreal being up there. Because you go to a city you've never lived in, and immediately when you get there you're instantly a star, and you haven't even been drafted there yet.
"I'm not a superstitious guy, but some people say, 'You don't want to jinx this. You don't want to rub [Colts owner Jim] Irsay the wrong way and have him draft you just in spite of Washington.' Have something like that happen. But I think it's good for D.C. to have that kind of excitement. And it's not just about me. It might seem like it's about one guy, but I don't think it is. I think it's about one puzzle piece, because that's all a quarterback is, a puzzle piece. So I wouldn't say stop [to Redskins fans], and I wouldn't say keep going. But I'm not going to shy away from it at this point, just because I have no idea where I'm going, and they don't know where I'm going. But I sure know where they want me to go.''
Did you catch that? Just as he did when I spoke with him during Super Bowl week in Indianapolis, where he was again testing with Gatorade, Griffin has the ability to sound confident, but not cocky. He's self-aware, but not self-absorbed. He realizes the impact he's already had in Washington, within the Redskins organization and on the team's long-suffering fan base. And he's right. Griffin might get over the shock of going to the Colts and roll with it, but I'm not sure the Redskins or their fans will be able to glide right over the disappointment of not getting the chance to watch his career unfold. Washington has go fever when it comes to Griffin.
Not only has Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall already christened Griffin "the Prince of D.C.," but also I've even seen those now-iconic Obama "Hope'' posters re-done with Griffin's image emblazoned over that favorite four-letter word of Redskins fans everywhere.
Griffin laughs when I bring up the "Hope'' poster, but if it feels like it's all too much, too soon, I don't detect it in the least.
"As far as signing the Redskins gear at the signing, it was just something we weren't going to turn down,'' Griffin said. "We didn't want to tell them, 'Hey, don't bring any Redskins stuff.' The fans were excited. I saw at least seven variations of my name on a shirt that day. I'm not going to tell them to stop making shirts, or stop being excited, because that's what every organization needs.''
What the Redskins have needed for the past 20 years or so -- since Mark Rypien at least -- is a quarterback with talent, star potential and staying power. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan whiffed on Donovan McNabb in 2010, and came up empty with the mediocre tandem of Rex Grossman and John Beck in 2011. At 11-21 in his first two seasons in D.C., Shanahan can't afford another miss. And that's why Kyle Shanahan was headed to Waco earlier this month, Redskins playbook in hand, even though the draft wasn't for another three weeks.
That kind of pre-draft session with the presumed No. 2 pick is highly unusual, but Griffin said it was just another test, mental this time, in a spring that has been full of such experiences.
"They were just testing my ability to comprehend and then apply that knowledge,'' said Griffin, who has met just once in Waco with Kyle Shanahan, and didn't think any further playbook sessions were planned before the draft. "It's not like they came down and said, 'Hey, here's the playbook. Learn it and in three days we're going to be back.' They were trying to test my ability to learn. Because they've seen what was on the tape, and they know what I can play, now they've just got to see what my head is like, and how fast I learn. What I'm good at learning and what I need help at learning.''
It's unrealistic to say Griffin is already comfortable in Washington's offense, which prioritizes a quarterback's ability to make plays on the move, but it's not going to be completely foreign to him if he winds up being handed a Redskins playbook on draft weekend.
"It's pretty tough to gauge how much of it I know already,'' he said. "By no means did I know what they wanted to do with me specifically within that offense after our session. But I know the offense has a lot of formations, a lot of motion, and they're going to try to disguise things. You can get a base feeling on an offense, but you can't say within three hours I'm familiar with their offense.
"It's an offense that asks the quarterback to specifically stay within the system. I think a lot of good systems do that. If you're going to one-hitch throw here, you do a one-hitch throw here. But once everything breaks down, and you go through all three or four of your reads, that's where you can be creative. I think whenever you can work within the system out, rather than outside the system in, it's better for you. That's what I tried to do at Baylor.''
Griffin's fit in the Redskins offense has been in the headlines this spring, largely because of the critical comments made by McNabb, the former Redskins starter who questioned whether RG3 and Shanahan's offense were a good match. McNabb said Shanahan's ego might not allow him to use Griffin in the best possible ways, a rather transparent reference to his own frustrations during his one failed season in D.C., when he lost his starting job to Grossman.
"All respect to Donovan McNabb, he had a great career,'' said Griffin, when I asked him if he understood McNabb's point. "He was one of my dad's [favorite] quarterbacks when he was a Philly fan. He's not a Philly fan any more, because I'm about to get drafted. But what [McNabb] said probably did come from a place of just bad taste. He had a bad taste in his mouth from his experience with Coach Shanahan, and I understand that. He never said anything bad about me, he was just trying to warn me, trying to say, 'Don't let egos get in the way.'
"But that's part of the job at quarterback, to be able to manage different types of egos and different types of people. So I'm looking forward to going up there and managing whatever it is that needs to be managed. All respect to Donovan, but it just didn't work out for him in Washington, and that's why he thought it didn't work out.''
With the league's regular season schedule coming out this week, Griffin now knows where he'll make his NFL debut, with the caveat added, once again, of Washington drafting him. The Redskins open in a city very familiar to Griffin, making his future in burgundy seem all the more meant to be.
"It's kind of ironic that if I do end up in Washington, my first game will be in my hometown of New Orleans,'' he said. "That's where my parents were born, that's where they were raised, that's where all my family is. It'll be pretty exciting if that does happen.''
In some ways, it seems like it has to happen. Griffin to the Redskins feels like a done deal, and has for weeks now. Even though he's got another seven days to wait until the foregone conclusion finally gives way to reality.
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