Washington Redskins  

 

Robert Griffin III happy Redskins camp lets him focus on football

  • By Jeff Darlington
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Security guards lined the hotel property on a quiet Sunday night in Aurora, Ohio. Some were stationed at the entrance, others patrolling on foot -- each one ordered to make sure no strangers entered and no rookies left.

But one player at June's NFL Rookie Symposium couldn't take it. He was pacing like a caged animal, tense as a shaken can of soda. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III needed to get out.

So at 11 p.m. ET, alone in the pitch-black night, while other rookies hung out together on couches or retired to their rooms, Griffin walked toward a long stretch of parking lot near the Bertram Inn with a football in hand. A security guard stood nearby watching curiously -- no, suspiciously -- as Griffin started sprinting.

After 100 yards or so, Griffin stopped, turned around, walked back to his starting point and repeated the exercise. Sprint ... after sprint ... after sprint ... The patter of his fast-moving sneakers breaking the midnight silence.

Is this the RG3 you thought you knew? The one who seemingly spent more time shooting commercials than throwing footballs? As it turns out, Griffin's wick isn't even close to burning out. It actually seems as if it has barely been lit.

"I'm not overwhelmed," Griffin insisted Wednesday, the day he and his Redskins teammates reported to training camp. "I'm just extremely happy that everything is going smoothly. I just try to stay even-keeled. Now that it's football time, all of that stuff can be put behind me.

"It's fun to do the commercials and all that type of stuff. It's definitely fun to sign a contract, but now it's about playing football."

So yes, this is another endorsement of Griffin. It's another account of Griffin doing and saying all the right things leading to the start of training camp Thursday, before he's even taken a snap as an NFL quarterback.

It's understandable if that narrative is starting to wear on people. New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora seemed to speak for the skeptics when he questioned whether RG3 has truly earned his "cool nickname." But don't hold it against Griffin the way so many critics have held it against players like New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow.

In the wake of advertising campaigns with Gatorade, Subway and Adidas -- and every news conference that features Griffin saying all of the right things -- the quarterback is as ready as anyone to begin the next chapter of his career. You know, the one that actually matters most.

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Griffin, believe it or not, is ready to get back to the game.

"The team doesn't look at me as a celebrity," Griffin said when asked about balancing life on the gridiron with life in the spotlight. "Yeah, I'm their quarterback, the guy who is going to lead them to victory. But there's no celebrity, no autographs, in the locker room. I'm not RG3 to them. I'm just Robert.

"It's going to be really good to just bear down and focus on football."

Griffin said he doesn't plan to tweet as much now that the season is getting closer. And the Redskins' media relations department has made it very clear to both local and national reporters that Griffin won't be overexposed for the sake of ticket sales or publicity. In fact, the rookie will be made available just once per week. Although minor, these are examples of the moves being made to assure Griffin the space and time he needs to accomplish the major task ahead.

In 1993, Mark Rypien finished his fifth consecutive season as the top passer for the Redskins. Since then, no quarterback has managed to lead the team in passing yards for more than three. That unfathomable statistic paints the clearest picture of the instability the Redskins have suffered through at the position for nearly two decades. So, yes, Griffin is already a marketable person. And his value will be off the charts if he brings Washington the success many expect.

He'll have every off-the-field opportunity he could possibly want, potentially eclipsing everyone from the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning to the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton to Tebow in terms of commercial and universal appeal. And up to this point, he is proving plenty capable of handling it.

Griffin isn't a conceited, attention-seeking diva who would risk his ability for the sake of a few extra million dollars in endorsements. In fact, his attitude is quite the opposite.

"I haven't really done too much (in public)," Griffin said. "I try to stay out of the city, make sure I stay focused and stay grounded, rather than always being out, always being the focal point of everything.

"Sometimes, you just need to sit back, sit on the couch and drink some Kool-Aid or something."

And sometimes, as we learned on that dark night in Ohio, you need to get off the couch. You need to find a nearby parking lot. And you need to do the only thing that really matters when it comes to your future as a football player:

Focus on getting better when the world is focused on something else.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.

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