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Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins wait in the wings for Redskins

- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2012

This is the training camp and Washington Redskins season of Robert Griffin III. The hype, the "RG3" chants and automatic starting nod are there for him.

"It's a lot easier knowing that you're the guy," backup quarterback Rex Grossman said. "That's what I would want."

That's what Griffin has, but Grossman and rookie Kirk Cousins don't. Instead, they're stuck in the middle of an almost impossible situation. They're the other quarterbacks without the catchy nickname, $21 million contract and high expectations.

Barring injury, neither one will be the starter Week 1, but that doesn't stop the desire to want that.

"I mean, if you're a competitor, you want to be the guy. You want to be the starter and you want to play. That's not in the cards for us, but your mindset doesn't change at all," Grossman said. "Whether it's awkward or not, you're trying to get better. That's your profession. You come out here to be the best, and you come out here to take advantage of any opportunity you have."

Given Griffin's role as the face of the franchise before playing a game in a Redskins uniform, the opportunity is partially mental. Grossman and Cousins split practice snaps behind the anointed starter.

They can't think about the glass ceiling Griffin's presence provides.

"I'm working really hard right now to be the best quarterback I can be," Cousins said. "That's going to take time. I'm not trying to look too far down the road, just trying to win each and every day."

Every day is a challenge for the 23-year-old fourth-round pick out of Michigan State. He has endured an up-and-down training camp, including a 9-for-22 performance in the preseason opener at the Buffalo Bills, absent the fanfare of Griffin or other touted rookie quarterbacks.

It's not an easy spot being drafted behind the quarterback of the present and future.

"Whether it's hard or not, it's the situation I'm in, and I'm going to do the best I can in that situation and make the most of it and look at the positives," Cousins said. "I think there are a lot of positives."

Like the fact that several NFL starting quarterbacks started out as the clear backup. The Houston Texans' Matt Schaub, the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers, the Kansas City Chiefs' Matt Cassel and the Arizona Cardinals' Kevin Kolb are among those who blossomed with time, either with their current team or somewhere else.

If Cousins isn't thinking that far away, he's not worried now about cashing in down the line. Patience has been forced upon him.

"You get a chance to learn and develop," he said. "I'm in a good offense here, a good system, coaches who really know the game and can really get me developed to be a great NFL quarterback."

Without the pressure of knowing he has to start. Grossman likely will get the call if Griffin can't hold onto the starting gig for whatever reason.

For the 31-year-old veteran who is six seasons removed from playing in the Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears, there isn't even the opportunity to start that was present in 2011. This isn't about competing, like it was against John Beck. Grossman is a steady hand with a clipboard and clearly the second fiddle in the Redskins' plan.

"I know my role, and I'm going to play it. Whatever my role is, I'm going to do it best in the NFL, whatever that is," he said. "If I have to come in and play, I want to be the best quarterback that week. If I have to be there and mentor, I'm going to be the best mentor in the league."

Grossman hasn't solicited advice from any other starting quarterbacks-turned-mentors. He called this a normal situation and signed a one-year contract to return to the Redskins understanding what was going on.

"The writing was on the wall a long time ago that this was going to happen, before I even signed," he said, "so I knew what I was getting into, and I'm happy to be here and ready to play if they need me."

One of the side benefits of Grossman and Cousins not being "the guy" is that neither has the pressure, either. But don't tell them that.

Grossman has "goals" and things he wants to accomplish this season.

"My job is to get better and play at a high level if needed to. So I'm constantly working on my game, constantly trying to get better," he said. "I have tape to relate to. There's things I need to work on; I'm working on those things. I'm working on my mindset, I'm working on all aspects of my game so that if I have to play, I'm better than I've been."

For Cousins, it's about each day on the practice field and in meetings, not the expectation of him maybe earning the backup job behind Griffin.

"I'm going to put more pressure on myself than anybody else is going to put on me, so I feel like whether there's outside pressure or not, the highest level of pressure is going to come from within," Cousins said. "I don't really see that as a positive or a negative. I think that it's more about just developing myself and working hard every day."

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