- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hope took the practice field for the Washington Redskins on Thursday afternoon wearing a gold No. 10 jersey. A couple of thousand fans filed into Redskins Park for their first chance to watch Robert Griffin III, the new quarterback and long-awaited savior, practice with the team during the first open session of training camp.

When it was over, the most overzealous in the bunch chanted “R-G-3! M-V-P!” Griffin smiled as he signed autographs for a lucky few in the scorching heat, and the possibility that he could revive this woebegone franchise was as real as ever.

Griffin’s presence is why the Redskins don’t feel as though they’re coming off a 5-11 record and four straight last-place seasons. His collegiate success, elite speed and throwing ability are like rain during a drought for this club. The Redskins needed stability at quarterback, and he finally provides it.

Rookie quarterbacks, however, generally struggle in the NFL. Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect Griffin’s Heisman Trophy-winning form to immediately carry over to the NFL. Measuring success, then, in 2012 is tricky for these Redskins.

“I think it’s definitely a different feeling about this team, obviously, when you think about getting Robert at the quarterback position, and some of the other moves management has been able to make over the last couple years, some of the depth we’ve been able to add through the draft and free agency,” co-captain London Fletcher said. “So the excitement is definitely here, but we all know we have to go to work.”

A rookie named Andy Dalton quarterbacked the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs last season one year after they finished 4-12, proving it can be done. Such a turnaround is rare, but that’s the prospect Griffin faces this fall, as Washington’s fan base clamors for a winner.

Considering that tall task, what would Griffin consider a successful first season?

“It’s a difficult question to answer, so success for us is winning football games,” he said. “How many that is, I have no idea. But it’s definitely more than one, more than two, more than three. So we just want to go that way.”

Recent NFL history fuels any optimism. In every season since 1996, there were at least five playoff teams that did not qualify for the postseason the previous year. Half of the teams that made it last year didn’t make it in 2010.

Redskins veteran tight end Chris Cooley set the goal even higher than that.

“I think a successful year is winning the Super Bowl,” he said. “I think anything less, you consider it a disappointment. Obviously you can predict wins and losses and you can say this is a good year or not, but I think for the guys involved in this organization, anything less than winning a championship, really, it’s not good enough.”

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall believes smaller steps toward that ultimate goal are more appropriate.

The Redskins at least have a quarterback now who warrants mention among the other three in the division: the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick and Dallas’ Tony Romo.

“Our division is so tough, so tough, great quarterbacks,” Hall said. “He’s probably, right now, the worst quarterback in our division. He hadn’t took a snap, so he has that title until he takes a snap and goes out there and proves a little something.”

Griffin’s evolution continued through another milestone Thursday. With players wearing shoulder pads for the first time, he showcased his speed carrying the ball on bootlegs, keepers and options.

He threw on the run and threw from the pocket. Several of his passes bounced short of receivers, perhaps a healthy reminder that he can’t change the franchise’s fortunes in a day.

But that won’t stop some from envisioning a best-case scenario.

“No one looked at the [Super Bowl champion] Giants last year and said they’re the most talented team in the NFL,” Cooley said. “As long as Griff works and as long as we work together, I think we have a chance. I think everybody has a chance. That’s kind of what I’ve learned playing this long. There’s always hope. There’s always excitement in August.”

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