Robert Griffin III gears up for big debut vs. Saints
ASHBURN, Va . — For all the adulation Robert Griffin III has received in Washington since he was drafted second overall in April, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback might have received his biggest compliment to date on Wednesday.
Drew Brees, who set the NFL single-season record for yards passing last season, thinks it’s only a matter of time before Griffin “takes the league by storm. I just hope he doesn’t do it on Sunday,” when the Saints host to the Redskins in the season opener in the raucous Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees said he can’t imagine being a rookie starter like Griffin, but added that first-year quarterbacks are much more prepared today than they were when he reached the NFL in 2001.
“I’m excited about it,” said Griffin, citing his natural ability, diligent preparation and his trust in his teammates as reasons why he’s ready.
“Everyone’s working knowing that this game’s gonna count. You try not to get too antsy.”
Griffin said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan gave him simple advice: “Just go out and play and have fun. That’s the approach I’m taking, rather than, ‘OK. Now it’s time to show what I got.’ ”
Playing in New Orleans also is significant for Griffin, whose parents were born and raised there. He’ll have 30 to 50 family members on hand for his debut.
“Even though there’ll be a lot of boos, I’ll have some cheers,” the Copperas Cove, Texas, native said with a wide smile.
Griffin is one of five NFL rookie quarterbacks who are expected to start Sunday. His 31 preseason passes were easily the smallest total of a group that also includes Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden (49), Seattle’s Russell Wilson (63), Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (66) and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill (78). But Griffin completed 20 of those passes, did not throw an interception and posted an excellent 103.3 passer rating.
“When you do play a quarterback that’s young, you feel like he’s your best option to win in the short term, but also in the long term,” said Shanahan, who never started a rookie quarterback in his previous 18 openers with the Raiders, Broncos and Redskins.
“You want him to get the experience, you know what (his) top level of play is, and you are hoping that (he gets) there very quickly.”
Griffin’s teammates believe his speed will make his adjustment to the NFL easier.
“Robert’s mobility probably takes a little pressure off us up front,” right guard Chris Chester said. “Robert just has to play the way he’s capable of and he’ll be fine.”
That’s certainly the plan. The 22-year-old Griffin said he used to get too hyped before games when he was a sophomore at Baylor, so he tried listening to more mellow music — with a little Michael Jackson mixed in for spice.
“Everybody gets nervous ... but I have to stay calm, make sure you walk in the huddle with confidence so the guys are confident with what you’re running,” Griffin said. “I know what I got. I know what we have. What I tell the guys is, ‘Trust your preparation so that when you step on the field you know you can go out and do it.’ You can stare at something all night and still go take the test the next morning and get it wrong. You just gotta know it or you don’t.”