Published November 20, 2014
Robert Griffin III made his debut as an NFL captain with typical RG3 flair, wearing mismatched shoes, saying he's "even hungrier" following a few days off and lamenting that he likely won't get to play against Michael Vick on Sunday.
The Redskins' offensive players voted Wednesday to make their quarterback a team captain for the rest of the season. Coach Mike Shanahan said he believes it's the first time he's had a rookie in such a leadership position.
"You just know that everybody's looking at me to be the guy, to make everything work," Griffin said. "To me, that's not pressure. But I just echo it to everyone else that it's not just me. People will say it's me and I'll get all the blame and all the fame, but it's the guys around me that make me great."
The title merely confirms reality. From the day he arrived, Griffin has eagerly seized the leadership role that comes with being an NFL starting quarterback and is the primary reason the Redskins (3-6) have a modicum of hope that they can turn their season around.
Shanahan typically lets his players vote for an initial set of captains before the season, then takes another vote around the midpoint of the schedule. Griffin joins left tackle Trent Williams as the captains on offense. Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen were added to London Fletcher on defense. Lorenzo Alexander remains the sole special teams captain.
Griffin said he's re-energized after taking a few days "to get away from the familiar" during the bye week. He feels the playoffs remain a realistic goal for the Redskins because the rest of the NFC East also has been struggling.
"I came back even hungrier. ... I thought I was hungry before the bye week," Griffin said. "You come back and you realize just how much more energy you have, just having that week off."
He certainly didn't lose his creativity. For practice, Griffin wore a red shoe on his left foot and a white shoe on the right foot.
"In college I used to wear a white shoe and a black shoe," Griffin said. "And the whole message is everybody's working together. Wednesday, Thursday, the shoes will be different — and Friday we bring it all together and get ready for Sunday."
In his brief NFL career, Griffin has evoked comparisons with many mobile quarterbacks, but Vick's name is the one that comes up most often. The two met when Vick spoke at this year's NFL rookie symposium, with Vick saying he looked forward to their first meeting on the field.
That was supposed to happen Sunday. Instead, rookie Nick Foles will be the likely starter for the Philadelphia Eagles because Vick is still recovering concussion sustained in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"That's unfortunate for a lot of different reasons," Griffin said. "The key factor that people look at when it comes to me and him is just the excitement level that we bring to the game, the things that we can do. Aside from that, I try to stay away from the comparisons."
But Vick's head injury makes the comparisons even more inevitable. Griffin already has had his first NFL concussion, and his bravery as a ball carrier leads to doubts about his durability — the same concerns that have followed Vick's career.
"It's not a cautionary tale; football's a violent game," Griffin said. "And Vick, he's been beat up a little bit throughout his career. There's other quarterbacks that get beat up throughout their careers. There's a number of quarterbacks right now that are out with concussions, shoulder injuries, anything like that."
Shanahan said there's no way to tell whether Griffin can avoid the type of injuries that have hindered Vick's career.
"If anybody could answer that, they'd be pretty smart," Shanahan said. "I don't know if you can answer that question in the National Football League. You're always hoping people can stay healthy. I think Robert has gotten much better knowing when to slide, when to throw the ball away."
Griffin has indeed become more judicious about dodging big hits, but he sent a shiver through the stadium when he was helicoptered during a fourth-and-4 run two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers.
"If it's fourth-and-4," Griffin said, "it's worth anything."
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