The New York Giants thought the Washington Redskins were crazy to give Cornelius Griffin a seven-year, $30.75million contract before last season.
The defensive tackle had played five years for New York, including four as a starter, but finished 2003 with just one sack. And even after Griffin had a career year with the Redskins in 2004, he hasn’t let go of the perceived disrespect.
“People we’re saying I was washed up in New York, but who are they to say who I am?” said Griffin, 28, who had a career-high 12 tackles in his return to Giants Stadium last Sept.19. “No one writes the script about me. I write it. Last year no one respected me. People assumed that I was a mediocre player. Now they turn the film on, and they can’t deny he can play.
“But I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, and that’s not going to change even if I go to the Pro Bowl.”
Griffin didn’t get picked for Hawaii last season even though he led the line of the NFL’s No.3 defense with 96 tackles and six sacks, both career highs. Griffin also paced the NFL with 14 stuffs — a tackle for a loss on a rushing attempt — three more than anyone else. He had at least a half-stuff in all but two of his 15 games and at least six tackles in 10 games.
“Cornelius had talent, and you could see that he was a tough guy, and we knew he was willing to work hard,” defensive line coach Greg Blache said. “The biggest difference in his game is his attention to detail. His technique in doing the simple things got better.”
Guard Derrick Dockery, who practiced against Pro Bowl tackles Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton and first-round pick Marcus Tubbs at Texas, said there no’s better workout than battling the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Griffin every day.
“Griff is a tremendous player,” Dockery said. “He’s a strong, physical guy with a lot of athleticism. Griff got robbed by not going to the Pro Bowl.”
Middle linebacker Lemar Marshall said Griffin would have been chosen if the Redskins had been 10-6 instead of 6-10. Coach Joe Gibbs agreed, saying Griffin has been better than he expected.
“Cornelius gets great push up the middle, and he gives great effort on every play,” Gibbs said. “He’s the consummate pro. He doesn’t need not being picked for the Pro Bowl to motivate him. We think the world of Cornelius. I would call him some in the offseason and talk to him about different things.”
Griffin generally isn’t much for talk, preferring to set the tone on the field. He stuffed Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis for a loss on the second play of the Aug.26 preseason game and dumped Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis for a 2-yard loss on third-and-1 on the opening series in Thursday’s preseason finale.
“I don’t give myself an ‘A’ for last year,” Griffin said. “I look back at little things I could have done differently to help us win more games. Your mind-set has to be that you’re going to be better than you were, but you’ve got to work harder to be better. I’ve got to keep pushing. I want to get better until I retire. You’re never good enough that you can’t get any better no matter who you are.”
Notes — The Redskins signed seven players to the practice squad. Five — offensive tackle Jon Alston, running back Jonathan Combs, defensive tackle Aki Jones, linebacker Robert McCune and receiver Rich Parson — were rookies who had been in training camp with Washington, as had former Atlanta and Chicago tight end Robert Johnson. Cornerback Christian Morton got into games with the Falcons as a rookie in 2004.
Washington expects to add an eighth practice squad member today. … Vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said the Redskins weren’t planning to make any waiver claims.