- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

As effervescent and jovial as ever, Robert Griffin III strolled to the podium for his first press conference since another miserable Washington Redskins season ended almost five months ago — but first, he had something to clarify.

“Hey, yeah, this is not one of my things,” he said, looking down at a gray T-shirt with the words “Stronger Together” screen-printed in capital letters while breaking into laughter. “This is a team shirt. Just wanted to get that out of the way, so, let’s go.”

The quarterback had an extra bounce in his step on Tuesday, perhaps because of his offseason anointing as the Redskins‘ starter or because of the recent birth of his first daughter, Reese Ann.

More than likely, Griffin was merely excited to be able to practice with his entire team once again, as large-scale drills were finally permitted for the first time during the offseason workout program.

It took three years, but this offseason has been the most stable yet for the young quarterback. After being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, he underwent knee surgery shortly after that season and had to deal with the tumult and adjustment to a coaching change a year later.

After being benched twice last season — once because of an injury, once because he was ineffective — coach Jay Gruden announced in February that Griffin would enter the offseason program as the Redskins‘ starting quarterback.


SEE ALSO: Trent Williams, DeSean Jackson among six absent for Redskins’ workouts


Thus, there was Griffin, working in his familiar yellow quarterback jersey, a camouflaged sleeve on his left arm and camouflaged towel dangling from his waistband, throwing passes with the rest of the first-team offense.

“Apparently, Jay felt like I was the best option that he had at quarterback, and I’m happy about that,” Griffin said, referring to the coach’s decision. “We look forward to working together to help this team and lead this team in the right direction and create this culture change that we know we need to have. It involves being in this room, too. We want to make sure we improve everything — from being on the field to our relationship with [reporters].”

Griffin had an underwhelming third year, which was his first with Gruden as his coach. By the end of the preseason, it became apparent that he was not yet comfortable within the confines of Gruden’s offensive scheme — and his growth was stunted minutes into the second regular-season game, when he dislocated his left ankle in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When he returned nearly two months later, it was clear that lack of time on the field hampered him. After just three games, Gruden benched Griffin in favor of Colt McCoy, who would have finished out the season as the starter had a pinched nerve not sapped McCoy of his ability to play.

That left a simple responsibility to Griffin: Continue to learn the offense, move past the successes and mistakes from last year and return to Redskins Park on time ready to work.

“With playing in the same system for the second year, usually, the second year, you have a little bit more confidence, a little bit more air about you that you should show improvement — lots of improvement,” Gruden said Tuesday. “Just hearing the concepts, seeing the plays over and over again and dealing with the pressure and all that good stuff — I think Robert’s going to be fine. You know, it’s just we have high expectations for the quarterback position — and Robert in general — and we expect significant strides to take place from year one to year two.”

To aid Griffin in that quest — and certainly to assist with the development of McCoy and Kirk Cousins as well — the Redskins hired Matt Cavanaugh as their quarterbacks coach position this past winter.

Gruden initially believed that he and offensive coordinator Sean McVay would be able to handle the responsibility of instructing the quarterbacks, then quickly learned last season there wasn’t enough time to adequately do that.

Cousins started five games for the Redskins last season, and McCoy, who returned to the team on a one-year contract in March, started four. The two split time with the second and third team on Tuesday, with Gruden hoping they would battle for the back-up spot — and push Griffin for his role in the process.

“I think being a quarterback in the National Football League, it’s your job not only to get yourself better, but to push the people in front of you,” Gruden said. “These two guys aren’t going to lie down and just hand the job over. They’re going to do everything in their power to prove that they are starting-caliber quarterbacks.”

That’s fine with Griffin, who is hoping that the offseason period can lead to a fresh start. For all of the motivational phrases Griffin has coined over the years, only one stood out on Tuesday — the reference to a “culture change” and the desire to spin an otherwise unsuccessful team into one finally capable of winning.

“At the end of the day, what you do on the field matters,” Griffin said. “We haven’t been up to par the past couple years. I haven’t been up to par the past couple years to my own standards. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. Let’s get back to that. Let’s get back to having fun and playing football and winning football games, and the whole city will enjoy it.”

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