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For RGIII, football seems to be fun again

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This is what fun looks like if you're Robert Griffin III.

Home preseason debut in a still-crowded stadium facing the offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan who built you up as a rookie, then left to watch your career implode. A 14-yard run on your second drive and a veteran slide followed by a pair of power runs and a hard count that draws the defense offsides.

Then, the throw with 7:52 to go in the first quarter. The one like last week when everyone was still quick to dismiss it as a fluke. The ball is released just as Terrelle Pryor is breaking free of top-10 cornerback Desmond Trufant -- the least thrown-at cornerback in football a year ago -- at the apex of the "go" route and drops in stride right before Pryor walks into the end zone. You walk off the field with a modified Usain Bolt arrow celebration and jog 25 yards to meet Pryor on his way back from the end zone.

"The long ball is back in Cleveland," former NFL safety and Browns commentator Solomon Wilcots says on television. "That was incredible."

"All OTAs and minicamp and stuff like that, training camp, it's really been turned on," Pryor says after the game. "We've been able to hit it. He's throwing the ball great deep down the field ... he's throwing the ball great no matter who he throws it to."

We're not used to hearing these things about RGIII; nor the woe-begotten Browns for that matter. For one night, the touch on his passes came back and the mechanics looked sharp. He danced and taunted a little. Joe Thomas, the entrenched captain of the team, came over and put his arm around him. Coach Hue Jackson came off the field smiling. After struggling for so long in Washington, Griffin looked like a rookie again, if only for 23 snaps -- and there was no player more synonymous with fun than the 22-year-old version of the QB. The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Two drives later, Griffin is at it again. After a fourth-down conversion, he lines up in a four-wide set and watches his offensive line pick up the blitz. Tight end Gary Barnidge bodies Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal like a power forward and RGIII drops an air-tight spiral into his outstretched arms and Barnidge tumbles into the end zone for a 29-yard score.

"I see potential for us to be what I think we can be," Jackson says after the game.

This is not the Robert Griffin III hype piece -- not yet.

This is still Week 2 of the preseason -- vanilla coverages, defensive backs taking plays off, half-speed pass rushes and safeties lost in space. RGIII will have to do this again and again and again before people believe. He'll have to weather a brutal five-game stretch to start the season that starts with a vastly-improved Eagles defense, the Ravens, the Dolphins and those old Redskins. It finishes at home in time for Tom Brady's 2016 debut. Griffin will have to keep running -- but sliding, too -- or else this experiment won't work. He will have to look off the safety like he did Thursday night against the Falcons on that Pryor touchdown and he will have to continue making heads up plays when shotgun snaps are launched a quarter mile over his head.

But in the meantime, Griffin is having fun again -- at least for one night in August. That was all Jackson wanted out of this preseason; to help build him up again, to see if this was even possible. That is why he named Griffin the starter before the first preseason game even if his minicamp wasn't perfect. During Griffin's last NFL start, a 44-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 of the 2014 regular season, he threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson and walked off the field with all the enthusiasm of a commuter getting sandwiched in rush hour traffic on I-95. At one point in that game, RGIII was 1 of 8 with two interceptions in the red zone.

Robert Griffin III still might be that quarterback. The preseason has fooled us plenty of times before. After last night, however, a few more are willing to believe.

"It's been a while," Griffin said Thursday night when the sideline reporter asked him how long it's been since he enjoyed himself out there. "And that's the beauty of it. You can never let anyone steal your joy. No matter what you go through in life, keep fighting through it and find your happiness. And I found my happiness with this team, this coach and this city and I'm thankful for the opportunity."

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