RG3 is armed with confidence

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Robert Griffin III will put his headphones on inside the visitor’s locker room at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday morning, listen to some of Michael Jackson’s hits and achieve a sense of calm about making his NFL debut.

The Washington Redskins‘ new franchise quarterback has spent more than four months preparing for the occasion, and he believes he is positioned to succeed against the Saints, as well as the other 15 on the schedule.

That would be quite an accomplishment, given the magnitude of a quarterback’s transition from college to the pros and how quarterbacks throughout history have struggled in their rookie seasons.

But Griffin is one of five rookie quarterbacks in the NFL that is expected to start his team’s season opener this weekend.

It’s an astounding number, the most since at least 1950, according to the league.

The dynamics of each rookie’s situation are different, though, and the setup in Washington is favorable, some people inside and outside of Redskin Park say.

Coach Mike Shanahan immediately named Griffin the starter after adding him to a defense that ranked in the top half of the league last season.

“The ideal circumstance would be to have a great system, which I think we do; a great defense, which I think we do; and be able to run the ball,” backup quarterback Rex Grossman said. “Then beyond that, be able to make plays, play-action and all the other things and not have to carry the load.

“It is the ideal situation for a rookie quarterback to be, the way Robert has been dealt with.”

Shanahan drafted Griffin in April after determining the Heisman Trophy winner would be the best quarterback on Washington’s roster. After back-to-back last place seasons, Griffin gives the Redskins the best chance to win now and in the future, Shanahan believes.

That’s an endorsement from which many rookies have not benefited, including the Redskins‘ opponent Sunday, quarterback Drew Brees. As a second-round pick in 2001, Brees sat his rookie season behind Doug Flutie with the San Diego Chargers.

Six Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl championship later, Brees appreciates how he was allowed to develop gradually.

“It was very beneficial because you learn a lot being on the sidelines,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine at the time being the starter going into that first game when I was a rookie. It seemed like a whirlwind, everything you have to get adjusted to stepping into the NFL — the system, the speed of the game, all those things. It seems like guys are so much further along now.”

Grossman, too, eased into the Chicago Bears’ starting role after he was selected in the first round in 2003.

He began that season behind Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler before starting the final three games and winning two.

Most of Grossman’s rookie season consisted of running the Bears’ scout team. Practice reps with the first unit were scarce until the following offseason.

That’s why he believes Griffin is positioned well. Shanahan’s decision to immediately name Griffin the starter enabled him to practice as such all offseason.

“In my opinion, it is better to get every starting rep from Day 1, and you’re the starter and you’re getting all the reps in OTAs, minicamp and training camp,” Grossman said.

“The position is so much based on timing and reps and confidence. Timing and reps and having success in practice builds your confidence that you are ready to go and you’re a player in this league.”

Griffin on Wednesday explained three main components to his readiness: the players around him, his belief in his physical abilities and his off-the-field preparation.

The latter will be most useful against coaches who attempt to exploit his inexperience.

“The general thing D-coordinators try to do to young quarterbacks is confuse them, whether it’s moving guys around, disguising coverages, blitzing, doing all types of different things,” Griffin said. “It’s just knowing what you’re looking at.”

The playing experience should help Griffin learn. At least that’s the Redskins‘ plan.

For now, some believe Griffin’s success is inevitable. The rate of development is their only question.

“You figure it’s only a matter of time before he takes this league by storm,” Brees said. “I just hope it doesn’t happen on Sunday.”

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