'Stress is off' Robert Griffin III

ByJohn Keim via ESPN logo
Thursday, July 24, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. -- He shed the knee brace earlier in the offseason and focused hard on his fundamentals. Both were positive developments for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. He also pointed out another after Thursday's opening practice of camp.

"It's a good thing to have two coaches who believe in you," Griffin said.

For Griffin, there's a definite change in his psyche working with first-year coach Jay Gruden and new offensive coordinator Sean McVay. It represents a change, whether fair or not, in Griffin's mind over the previous regime of Mike and Kyle Shanahan. And it's one reason Griffin was excited entering camp. Indeed, he gave Gruden a bear hug at one point early in the first session.

Last year at this time, he was off to the side, rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee and wondering if he could trust his coaches.

"The stress is off him," Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said, "worrying about reps, worrying about a head coach you don't really know if he likes you or doesn't like you. Things like that. From the jump, from the moment Jay came in here, Robert knew that Jay wanted him and wanted to coach him. [Gruden] felt he could be special. We all see that."

Griffin endured a difficult 2013, struggling to gain consistency after receiving no reps in the offseason and playing no games in the preseason. He did not look as explosive, whether from hesitation in the pocket or the knee brace. A subplot all season was his relationship with the Shanahans. Finally, Griffin was removed from the lineup with three games left -- he does not like to say he was benched -- to, Shanahan said, make sure he was healthy for the offseason.

Griffin also heard whispers about his ability to read defenses.

"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.

Now Griffin gets a coach who doubles as a neighbor and has a different demeanor.

"It's a normal head coach-quarterback relationship," Griffin said. "Jay brings a lot of energy. He's funny. He's personable. We're excited to have him here."

Griffin and the entire offense were off in the first practice, whether because of defensive pressure, the steady rain that fell most of the morning or the fact that it was the initial workout. Still, that didn't dampen his spirits. It's not just about who's coaching, either.

Griffin's demeanor all offseason was upbeat for a number of reasons: He played a big role in trying to recruit free agents, he worked with quarterbacks guru Terry Shea in the offseason, and the drama that surrounded him all of 2013 had evaporated.

"Everyone feels different in the organization," Griffin said. "We all come in with a lot more energy. There's a togetherness in that locker room. For me, personally, not having to come off a knee surgery is a big boost for me. I had an opportunity to work on my craft in the offseason. It was great to hang out with the guys and be around them.

"We all know it's beneficial to be out there in practice and to not have to worry about injuries. Other than that, I don't pay that stuff any mind. I'm ready to go."

Part of that excitement stems from DeSean Jackson's arrival. The ex-Eagles receiver provides Washington a dynamic deep threat, which was evident again Thursday. However, the first time he blew past the secondary, Griffin underthrew him and the ball was broken up. The second time Griffin led Jackson, allowing him to run under it, he dropped the ball.

"One practice doesn't tell you anything about chemistry," Griffin said. "It was the first day back. We don't use that as an excuse. He knows if I miss him one time, I'll get him the next. If he misses something. ... He'll normally make that play. That chemistry is there. He's a dynamic player. I'm looking forward to him making plays."

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