RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Instead of engaging in another round of contradictory, back-and-forth podium sessions with Mike Shanahan, Robert Griffin III stood at the microphone and said he has coaches who believe in him. He implied he wasn’t even allowed to do “the bare minimum” as a quarterback a year ago.
Griffin and the Redskins opened training camp Thursday with lots of healing and rebuilding to do. The fall from a playoff season that won him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award to a 3-13 season that got Shanahan fired took its toll. No, Griffin says, he didn’t suddenly forget how to play quarterback last year, and new coach Jay Gruden and newly promoted offensive coordinator Sean McVay will help prove that.
“You don’t go from the ability to read defenses one year and not have that ability the next, so I don’t believe that one bit,” Griffin said. “And it’s really just a good thing to have two coaches who believe in you. Sean and Jay have done a great job. They’ve given me a lot on my shoulders in that quarterback room, and I cherish that. You want to be asked to do more — or just to do the bare minimum as a quarterback.”
Griffin has avoided taking overt potshots at Shanahan, but that was another subtle one. There’s no forgetting the camp of 2013, when Shanahan severely limited Griffin’s participation in practice and kept him out of preseason games while Griffin recovered from knee surgery — even as Griffin publicly lobbied otherwise. The distrust between coach and QB hit its nadir when Griffin was shut down for the final three games of the regular season.
Instead of a knee brace, Griffin on Thursday sported white shoes and socks on his left side and black shoes and socks on his right side. Instead of RG3-mania shrills greeting his every movement, the crowd was muted — largely because of the steady rain that kept attendance down.
And the tension that was so palpable under Shanahan was gone.
“The stress is kind of off him,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Worrying about reps, worrying about a head coach that you don’t really know about if he likes you, if he doesn’t like you, things like that. From the jump, from the moment Jay came in here, Robert kind of knew that Jay wanted him, he wanted to coach him, he felt like he could be special, and we all see that.”
The first Gruden-Griffin training camp practice was hardly one for the archives. Steady rain postponed the start by 15 minutes, and bad passes and dropped balls ruled the morning. There were drills in which Griffin struggled to complete a pass, either because he was under pressure or simply off target.
“Robert was a little erratic,” Gruden said. “The balls were really wet early on. It didn’t come out of his hands right a couple of times. I think he’ll be the first to tell you that he needs to improve, and I’ll be the second to tell you that he needs to improve. That’ll be the case every day, I’m sure of that.”
The afternoon session was moved inside to a convention center because of another approaching storm.
“We weren’t as efficient as we wanted to be all-around, including myself,” Griffin said. “So it’s a good thing to have to work through the rain and have to throw those wet footballs and have to catch those wet footballs.”
But at least Griffin is practicing full-go this camp — and not playing spectator much of the time.
“I think we all know in this room it’s beneficial to be out there for practice,” Griffin said. “It’s beneficial to not have to worry about an injury. … I think everybody feels different in the organization. We just have an opportunity to come in with a lot more energy. There’s a togetherness in that locker room and in the building. For me, personally, obviously, not having to come off of a knee surgery is a big boost for me, having an opportunity to work on my craft during the offseason.”
Hall, who was next at the podium, said Griffin is also becoming a better leader.
“He’s becoming a pro. He’s had highs, he had lows, he’s probably come in here and said the wrong thing a time or two,” Hall said. “And he understands that. He’s learned from those mistakes, and that’s growing him into the person he is now.”