Robert Griffin III Showing Nothing Will Be Earned The Easy Way
ASHBURN – On one of the last plays of the Washington Redskins’ practice Monday, one that went nearly two and a half hours and stretched into the late afternoon, Chris Cooley dropped the football in the red zone and Bryan Kehl picked it up.
With head coach Mike Shanahan forgoing tackling during training camp, those who have the ball often make a point of blowing through reaches and grabs even after the play is dead. Kehl did just that, taking off down the right sideline, and Robert Griffin III noticed.
Kehl, a linebacker in his first year with the Redskins, didn’t see Griffin on the other side of the field. He ran casually down the sideline, spotting the quarterback near the opposite 30-yard line. Griffin, with elite speed, tracked him down, eventually playing the angle correctly to knock Kehl out of bounds within the 5-yard line.
“I was hoping he wasn’t going to pull a hamstring, that’s what I was thinking – ‘Let’s not get carried away,’” Shanahan said. “But it just shows you the pride that he has. He’s a normal guy. He’s in charge of doing his job, and if his job is making a tackle after a turnover, he’ll do it.”
Training camp is only five days old – four with an off-day thrown in Sunday – and already Griffin has demonstrated he’s not unwilling to do the dirty work. He’s trying his best to master his positions, his responsibilities, even as he tries to acclimate himself to playing football at a professional level.
Much of the Redskins’ current offensive scheme – the rollouts, the bootlegs, the keepers – were staples in Griffin’s game at Baylor. Knowing Griffin’s talent, though, the coaching staff is also trying to tailor the playbook around his speed and versatility.
“You know, when it comes to that, [Shanahan] promised me that he’s not going to get me killed, and we’re going to do whatever we have to do to help this team win and move the ball,” Griffin said. “The guys in this league are definitely a lot bigger and a lot faster, and I experienced that out here with my teammates, so we’ll be smart. Whatever we have to do, we’ll do it, but he said he’s not going to get me killed.”
Griffin, for his part, has been enjoying himself. He struggled with his accuracy Thursday, the first day of training camp, but was better on Friday.
By Saturday, when players were allowed to wear pads for the first time, he hit his groove. Receivers and defensive backs went head-to-head for five minutes early in practice, and he threw three passes to Pierre Garçon – a deep fly, a short hitch, and a medium post on the sidelines, all complete, all on target.
“I’ve been very impressed with the way he handled himself, both on and off the football field,” Shanahan said. “He’s an overachiever with a lot of talent. When you have a guy like that, you have a chance to get better, and your team has a chance to get better.”
Griffin said at the completion of the team’s spring workouts in mid-June that he felt the defense had the advantage on the offense. That was partly because the core of the defense was returning, while the offense was simplified as Griffin tried to learn it.
Monday, though, the quarterback said he believed things were changing. The defensive coaches have given Griffin some of their more complicated looks to test his ability, and at no point, he said, has he felt overwhelmed or exhausted.
Even as he chased Kehl down Monday, already in his fourth hour of practice on the day and his ninth of football instruction, Griffin remained sharp.
“To see that guy running and them blocking for him – why give him a free touchdown?” Griffin asked. “I ran him down because I could, and I pushed him out of bounds.”