Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins walked the length of the red carpet virtually unnoticed at the NFL Honors show in New Orleans on Saturday night. Reporters and cameramen locked in on Robert Griffin III, and Cousins, in his typical unassuming manner, just strolled by behind him.
Only after Griffin finished his interviews was Cousins spotted and asked to come to the media area. Unlike Griffin, who has attended the Heisman Trophy presentation and the ESPY awards, it was Cousins’ first time on a red carpet.
“I’m a little bit out of place right now,” he said. “It’s neat. It’s just an exciting thing. It’s just a testament to what hard work can do for you. Hopefully there’s more of this to come, not just for myself, but for the Redskins in general.”
Cousins attended the event because he was nominated for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year award for his role in the Redskins’ comeback win against Baltimore on Dec. 9. Cousins had to quarterback several plays on the game-tying touchdown drive that day because Griffin sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.
(Baltimore Ravens receiver Torrey Smith ended up winning the award for his two touchdowns and 127 receiving yards against New England in Week 3, less than 24 hours after his brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.)
Now, Griffin’s extensive rehabilitation of that surgically repaired knee leaves Cousins as the Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback at least through the offseason. He has begun preparing for that opportunity.
“I’ve already moved in to Chicago, actually living with my 80-year old grandmother,” Cousins said with a laugh. “Training in Chicago with a guy I have a great deal of respect for there, and obviously here in New Orleans this weekend, then headed back to Chicago for the most part. I’m going back and forth between home town in Michigan (Holland, Mich.) and then training in Chicago. I’m staying busy, probably busier than I’d like to be right now.”
Cousins believes his greatest challenge this offseason involves asserting himself as a leader without usurping Griffin’s role, given that Griffin is determined to return for the start of the regular season but isn’t guaranteed to meet that deadline.
“Now, in terms of my presence in the locker room and that kind of a thing, I’ll probably try to be a little more vocal so that I don’t come across to my teammates as somebody who’s afraid of that role or not comfortable in that role,” Cousins said. “It’ll be an interesting balance to have to walk because obviously I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, but I also need to be ready if called upon.”
Cousins is a bit more comfortable knowing that his months-long offseason role will remain steady, as opposed to last December, when Griffin’s status – and, by extension, his – was determined weekly. He won’t get too comfortable, though, because his ability to adapt is essential to life as a backup.
“Any time you can have a good idea of what’s coming, it’s going to help,” he said. “But the reality of my situation – and really the reality of the NFL, in general – is you don’t know what’s coming next. You don’t know what’s around the corner. To think that it’s always going to be planned out for you is naive and foolish. I’ve got to be ready to roll with the punches and react to whatever happens. To the degree that I’m able to do that, I’ll be successful.”
Time constraints on Cousins’ interview kept hidden the details of Cousins’ life living with his grandmother. But I’m guessing he’ll have plenty of time to sharpen his impersonations of teammates and coaches.