Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After First Nine Weeks, Robert Griffin III: ‘The Adjustment’s Been Good’
ASHBURN – Robert Griffin III has approached each day as a learning experience, and there have been no shortage of lessons the Washington Redskins’ rookie quarterback has learned during his first nine games.
The Redskins recently completed their bye week, with Griffin, his teammates and his coaches returning to Redskins Park this morning to begin preparation for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. As 3-6, much of the luster of Griffin’s early-season success has worn off, though there’s no doubt that the quarterback has unique talents that may set the Redskins up for success later in his career.
He has thrown for 1,993 yards and eight touchdowns, completed 65.6 percent of his passes, been intercepted just three times and has a 93.9 quarterback rating. He’s also gained 529 yards and scored six touchdowns on 81 carries – the most out of any quarterback.
Griffin spoke to The Free Lance-Star early in the bye week to discuss some of the adjustments to playing in the NFL and what he has to look forward to in the coming weeks.
It’s been nine weeks since you began your rookie season with the Redskins. How do you think it’s gone so far?
“Just playing in the NFL is an honor. It’s a lot of fun. People don’t realize that. It’s a lot more fun winning than it is losing, but whenever you can play at the top level of any profession, you feel truly honored to be able to do that, and to be able to play with some of the best has been enjoyable for me. Like I said, we just want to get more wins so that we feel like we have played well. We’ve just got to go out and make sure it counts on the scoreboard.”
You’ve already had so many moments that linger in the minds of Redskins fans – the 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon against New Orleans, the 76-yard touchdown run against Minnesota. What’s your fondest moment thus far?
“I think I try to appreciate just every moment as its own. Your first win. Your first touchdown pass. Your first rushing touchdown. Your first comeback. All those things – you try to appreciate them as their own. You try to appreciate everything and try not to weigh too much on your personal success so that you don’t have to be humbled. I try to make sure I stay grounded. A lot of people around me make sure I stay grounded. You never just want to feel like you’re bigger than life, so when it comes to that, I don’t want to ever need to be humbled because I always appreciate things and make sure I continue to push forward and try to do better.”
You’ve had over three months to get used to being here, living in Leesburg, being a celebrity. What’s life been like off the field?
“The adjustment’s been good. You know, Loudoun County’s one of the richest counties around this area, so living in a gated community is a new experience. Having the neighbors we have is a new experience, but for the most part, it hasn’t been too difficult. Most of my time is spent up here at Redskins Park playing football, and then when I go home, it’s just about relaxing and going to sleep. But there’s more things to do around this area than there ever were in Copperas Cove, Texas or Waco, Texas, but I try to minimize those distractions by mostly staying at home.”
You’ve mentioned not going into the city because it’s going to be difficult for you given your status with the team, but what other things do you try to do when you get that bit of time away?
“You know, going to the movies – I’ll do that with my fiancee [Rebecca Liddicoat]. I’ll get a RedBox movie from the local gas station and bring it home and watch it. Most of the time it just involves chill time – getting away from football without having to go out and about in the city. For the most part, I’ll stay at home, whether it’s watch a movie, play a video game which I rarely get to do during the season. You just get into a routine, so Wednesdays you go to church and you go to bed. Thursdays you watch a movie and you go to bed. It sounds boring, but at the same time, it helps you get that rest that you desperately need during the football season.”
With you being here all the time and moving up from Texas, how has your fiancee adjusted?
“She didn’t know much of anything, actually. She had never actually been to D.C. or seen any of the monuments, so that was a good experience when we took her out to go do that. But what she’s done is she’s made friends through the team, whether it’s coaches’ wives, girlfriends, players’ wives, and that’s helped her adjust. She has people to talk to, she has people that she can hang out with, and if not, she can take a look at the house or go work out at the local gym or do that kind of thing. She’s done a good job of managing that, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to end up going to grad school or med school around here in the near future.”
And how about your parents, Robert Jr. and Jacqueline? They’ve moved up here too, right?
“Yep. It’s been good. It’s something that I’m used to – having my parents around. You know, I told them at a young age, when I was a young, up-and-coming wannabe superstar that when I made it, I was gonna bring them with me, and I stayed true to that. They live in Maryland now, and my dad’s got a job, so it was good to have them experience all of this with me because they deserve it. They’ve made a lot of sacrifices for me in my life and my two older sisters, so they deserve to be up here.”
How much have they helped you with the transition? I assume you want to do things your own way, but you’ve mentioned often the role your father, in particular, has had in your football development.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit of both. My fiancee and myself have done all we can to make our transition very smooth. Having my parents there, knowing that they’re there in case anything happens, has been good as well. Just to have them around, the morale that they carry around – having me as their son and having them as my parents has been great. It is good to have them here, but it’s not like they’re watching me or they’re there when we moved into our house or anything like that. It’s a combination of them both being there and then not being there when they don’t have to do.”
When you look at some of the things you’ve been able to accomplish on the field, one thing that sets you apart from most quarterbacks is that you’ve run the option heavily in nine games. Why do you think teams don’t do that more often?
“I don’t know. Coaches have been in the NFL for so long. They get used to what they’re doing and they don’t want to buy into anything else. The option won’t work if you don’t wholeheartedly buy into it. It’s not something you have to run 15 times a game, but if you don’t buy into it in practices and get the guys, like you said, to run the option or the zone read, then you won’t be successful at it. It’s not something you can just throw out there and say, ‘Hey, it’s another wrinkle that we haven’t really worked on.’ That’s what I think. A lot of these coaches run the same schemes. They have different names for all the plays, but it’s similar schemes and similar route combinations, so anything you can do to throw a wrinkle in there and do something different makes it a lot easier.”
You sustained a concussion while scrambling against Atlanta that knocked you out of the game. Do you ever think about your safety, especially with what the team has invested in you?
“Yeah, I mean, you’re a prized possession in the NFL for a quarterback. Your coaches don’t want to get you hurt or don’t want to put you in harm’s way. It’s also your job to make sure you stay safe as well.”
At this point back at Baylor, you’d be close wrapping up your regular season, but now you’re just passing the halfway point. How much do you look forward to still having seven games left?
“I’m excited about it. It gives you a chance to really rise up and overcome. At this time in college, if you’re sitting at 3-6, basically, your season is over because you’re not going to a bowl game. You know, a lot of guys are jumping ship. But in the NFL, you have another half of a season, and miracles have happened. I don’t think what we would do would be a miracle if we won seven straight, but I think we are in must-win territory. Guys have to have a sense of urgency, and even though Coach [Mike Shanahan] said he’s using this time to evaluate players, it’s not a time that we’re giving up or throwing in the towel. Guys know, based on the way they play, whether they’ll be here or not, and that’s a great motivator.”
With a 3-6 record and a loss to Carolina still lingering, do you think there’s more of a pressure on this team to start winning – especially with five of seven games remaining against NFC East opponents?
“I don’t feel a greater pressure, but I do know there is a sense of urgency. People express that in different ways. … Guys just knowing, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go out and get a win.’ Of course, everyone wants to go on a bye week to get away and rest your mind and get ready to go back for the second part of the season, but for us right now [during the week] the biggest thing is making sure … we can relax and then get ready for the last stretch.”