Robert Griffin III says he’ll play it safer this season.
Mama Irene is afraid he won’t.
While the second-year Washington Redskins quarterback is promising to do his best to avoid the kind of contact that led to a concussion and later a torn ACL in his team’s playoff loss to Seattle, his grandmother, Irene Griffin of New Orleans, knows how difficult it will be for him to back off a bit.
“He’s just like the rest of the Griffins,” she said. “They all like to challenge things.
“He’s there to win. He won’t hold back.”
Not that Mama Irene hasn’t expressed her concerns to RG3.
“I’ve always told him to be careful,” she said “But he just smiles and goes his own way.”
RG3’s desire to push the envelope on his return to play has been one of the major topics of discussion in the league since the day of his injury.
Griffin didn’t take a snap in any preseason games, although he has said he “leads the league in mental reps,” and his teammates rave about RG3’s attention to detail in practice and in film room.
Still, even after Griffin was cleared to play by Dr. James Andrews several days ago, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan didn’t name him the starter for thes season-opener against Philadelphia until Monday, citing some “concerns,” the exact nature of which neither he nor RG3 will detail.
Also, because of concerns about backup Kirk Cousins’ sprained right foot, the Redskins kept four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster.
“The bottom line is that I’m ready to go,” RG3 said Wednesday. “Play like you were never gone. That’s what every guy who comes off an injury has to do.”
That’s exactly the kind of macho attitude Mama Irene was talking about.
“I never doubted that he was coming back like this,’ she said. “He’s just that kind of go-getter.”
RG3’s parents, Robert II and Jackie Griffin, are native New Orleanians, although they didn’t really know each other until a chance encounter in Fort Carson, Colo., when both were in the Army.
RG2 and Jackie became a career military couple, once leaving RG3 and his sisters in Mama Irene’s care for a year when they were stationed in Korea.
The Griffins eventually settled in Copperas Cove, Texas, near Fort Hood, when they retired from active duty.
That’s where RG3 blossomed as an athlete — going on to Baylor, where he was the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, and playing his way to becoming the second overall pick in last year’s draft.
But as he’s pointed out, New Orleans is special because “Home’s the place where you spend Christmas.”
And last year, when Griffin led the Redskins to a 40-32 victory against the Saints in his pro debut, a large contingent of family members (Mama Irene has eight children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren) was on hand in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, although she didn’t make it because of a myriad of health problems that includes high blood pressure, heart and breathing problems, plus diabetes.
Mama Irene was already forced to use a walker since suffering a stroke in 2004. A granddaughter, Tia Griffin, now lives with Mama Irene in her home in the Upper 9th Ward, a concession to her condition.
But that didn’t stop Mama Irene from attending RG3’s wedding to Rebecca Liddicoat in July in Denver.
“It was a little different from what I was used to,” she said of the elaborate ceremony.
That so much attention was paid to the wedding was just another demonstration of the mega-stardom RG3 has attained in such a short time.
That includes his ubiquitous Subway commercials, although Mama Irene was somewhat miffed when she went to the Franklin Avenue outlet and asked for “Robert Griffin III” (roasted chicken with all the fixings), the workers there didn’t know what she was talking about, even though a large poster of her grandson was on the window.
She hears about him everywhere else though.
An old high school friend from McDonogh 35 related how her little grandson, who lives in D.C., has RG3 cut into his hair. Ditto for the grandson of a nurse at the clinic where Mama Irene goes to deal with her blood pressure.
“I’m always amazed to hear things like that,” she said. “There are just so many people who love him.”
But none more than his Mama Irene.
“I pray for him every night, just like I do for the rest of my family,” she said. “That’s why I know he’s going to be OK.
“Trust in God and everything will fall into place.”