If Robert Griffin III’s phone ever rings with Donovan McNabb’s number on the screen, he could answer it and receive some perfectly fine advice about how to conduct himself as a face of an NFL franchise and a rising commercial star.
Or Griffin could hit the ignore button, look to his left along the row of lockers at Redskins Park and find another sage, one who didn’t torch the bridges in Ashburn.
Rex Grossman might be dealing that day’s impromptu game of blackjack, but he’s willing and able to advise Griffin at any appropriate time.
The 10-year veteran quarterback is perfectly qualified to do so.
His resume, like McNabb’s, includes a former first-round draft selection, a Super Bowl defeat, a fall out of favor with the team that drafted him and the endurance of heavy fan scrutiny.
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Oh, and one other noteworthy accomplishment: Grossman took McNabb’s starting job here three seasons ago by outworking him.
Grossman is around Griffin every day in meetings and on the field. He also has been through an ACL rehabilitation and entered the league with an involved father.
When it comes to evaluating Griffin on what matters most, he has more data than just about anyone.
“His approach is focused on football,” Grossman said Thursday. “I don’t see any distraction taking him away from what his job is, and that’s the bottom line. All the other stuff is stuff. Do your job right, which he did — Rookie of the Year — who else cares? Win the Super Bowl, have goals, accomplish your goals. All the other stuff is just for talk.”
Grossman learned to tune out the noise and the negativity during his injury-marred six-year tenure in Chicago. Even at the apex of his career, when he quarterbacked the Bears in Super Bowl XLI against the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning, attention centered on his shortcomings instead of his ability.
That hardened him. It reinforced what every professional athlete eventually learns: Life in this realm is all about winning. Everything else is secondary.
So Grossman would be willing to tell Griffin if his offseason Adidas commercials or appearances at White House Correspondents Dinner parties and the Kentucky Derby detracted from winning football games or his right knee rehabilitation.
But Grossman has no evidence compelling enough to offer such guidance.
“He’s open to it,” Grossman said. “He’s extremely smart and understands everything he’s doing. Sometimes the celebrity, the stardom, is just a living thing on its own.
“Leading up to the Heisman, everything has just been going like this,” Grossman continued, slanting his forearm and hand upward. “And he has maintained, from what I can tell, every single step along the way, mentally.”
Griffin recently has fought to sustain that focus. He steered the subject of his news conference last week away from his relationship with coach Mike Shanahan and toward the team concept. And Thursday, he brushed off what McNabb said to The Washington Post last week.
McNabb explained his belief that Griffin’s offseason exposure during his rehabilitation “is just too much.” He expressed his desire to join his father in meeting with Griffin and Griffin’s father to discuss conduct and media exposure in light of Griffin Jr.’s recent comment to The Post that he wants his son to throw the ball more instead of run it.
“Everybody’s going to have their own opinion, and he’s free to have that opinion, so I’ll just leave it at that,” Griffin said Thursday when asked to react to McNabb’s comments.
OK, then. Griffin, in this case, at least, can recognize a distraction.
Now, McNabb has more credibility than Grossman when it comes to advice about endorsements. Remember those Chunky Soup commercials with McNabb and an actress playing his mother?
Grossman, though, would guide Griffin more directly to the ultimate goal.
After the Redskins concluded their 10th and final voluntary spring practice Thursday, Grossman walked off the field shoulder-to-shoulder with Pat White, the second-year quarterback who’s trying to resuscitate his career after three years out of the NFL.
For White to achieve his goal this summer, he has to beat out Grossman. Grossman, though, spoke to White about the proper progressions on a certain play.
Here was a veteran helping a youngster’s quest to take his job.
That’s a big reason why Grossman still is a Washington Redskin, and Griffin shouldn’t ever lose sight of that resource.
• Rich Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.
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