If Robert Griffin III could have changed one thing about an otherwise perfect day, he would’ve chosen to quell the rain falling at M&T Bank Stadium, soaking the turf and the ball and the Ravens quarterback.
But that would’ve been it. To be in that position — starting an NFL game once more — against the Steelers during Week 17 last year was a special moment for Griffin. After bursting onto the scene as a rookie with Washington in 2012, injuries sidetracked Griffin’s progress.
So to be back under center starting for the first time since 2016 was a chance Griffin cherished — rain and all.
“I want to savor this moment,” Griffin said postgame, “because I don’t know when I’ll get an opportunity to start again.”
That opportunity has arrived once more, perhaps earlier than Griffin could’ve hoped and for circumstances he couldn’t have imagined. The 30-year-old is expected to take the reins Wednesday against Pittsburgh in a game thrice-postponed from its original Thanksgiving night slot.
With quarterback Lamar Jackson and more than a dozen other players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Griffin is the backup thrust into the spotlight once more.
Last season, as Baltimore rested many of its starters during the last week of the regular season, the Baylor product led his team to a 28-10 victory, throwing for 96 yards and an interception while completing 11-of-21 passes. Griffin added another 50 yards with his legs, part of the Ravens’ 223 rushing yards.
“We just wanted to win it for RG,” wide receiver Willie Snead said after last season’s game. “He’s been through so much. He’s a great dude in the locker room, a hard worker, and he deserves it. Getting this victory for him and for everybody, it means a lot.”
That win came against a muted Steelers offense, with Ben Roethlisberger out injured. But to return as a starter was a big step for Griffin, who won the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
At the end of his breakout rookie season, Griffin suffered a gruesome knee injury at FedEx Field during a wild card game against the Seahawks. He tore his LCL, ACL and meniscus in that loss. Griffin returned for the 2013 season, but coach Mike Shanahan benched the quarterback for the final three games, wanting to preserve Griffin’s health.
Griffin’s time in Washington wound to an end with an ankle injury in 2014 limiting him to seven starts. After a suffering a concussion in Washington’s second preseason game of 2015, Kirk Cousins supplanted Griffin.
That led to a stint in Cleveland — which included a stretch on the injured reserve with a fractured shoulder — before signing with Baltimore in 2018. In limited opportunities, Griffin has completed 26 of his 46 attempts with one touchdown and three interceptions — and he has one win as a starter.
“Here’s a player that’s been at the pinnacle,” coach John Harbaugh said last year. “And to come in here and contribute to the team the way he does, it just speaks to his character.”
Griffin is a far cry from where he was eight seasons ago, when he led Washington to a wild card game and earned a Pro Bowl nod. He hasn’t started a game as meaningful as Wednesday’s — facing an undefeated Steelers squad with the Ravens holding onto playoff aspirations — since his career-changing injury against Seattle on Jan. 6, 2013.
But for Griffin, opportunities only come so often, and this is one he’ll want to take.