Robert Griffin III had plenty of success in college, so the Washington Redskins’ rookie quarterback expects the trend to continue when he makes his NFL debut in Thursday’s preseason opener at Buffalo.
”I’m not gonna make it too big to where I can’t seize it, so go out, have fun and do what Coach asks me to do,” Griffin said Monday. ”I think I’ll be more anxious than nervous. When you’re anxious you can’t wait to go succeed. You just gotta go out and play the game. It’ll be an eye-opening experience and I look forward to it.”
The expectations are high for Griffin, for whom the Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to St. Louis to move up four spots and draft second overall in April.
Coach Mike Shanahan quickly anointed the 22-year-old Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor the starter and the face of the franchise, one that started 21 quarterbacks the past 19 seasons while only reaching the playoffs three times.
”I don’t ever shy away from expectations or people trying to put pressure on me to be great,” Griffin said.
Shanahan likes that confidence in his rookie quarterback.
”You want people to believe in themselves,” said Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver with Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway and another as San Francisco’s offensive coordinator with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young.
”You want them to have that air of arrogance that they are the best at what they do. Usually the great ones do have that confidence level.”
Similar to Griffin, Washington backup quarterback Rex Grossman was a first-round pick, but he was under a lot less pressure in his rookie summer of 2003 as Chicago’s third-stringer.
”It’s a different mindset for Robert,” Grossman said. ”He’s been through a lot more to this point than I had been when I was a rookie. He has a ton of reps. I wasn’t getting many reps. I was in awe of where I was and I was very excited about it. He’s very confident.
”I think he’s going to have some nerves, but I think he feels pretty good about what’s going to happen. It’s not just another game. You’re always going to remember your first preseason game just like you’ll remember your first start, every single play, so enjoy it.”
Grossman and the Bears enjoyed a 20-18 victory over Indianapolis in his preseason debut.
However, Heath Shuler, the third overall choice in 1994 and the only quarterback besides Griffin whom the Redskins have chosen in the top 10 in decades, signed just four days before his preseason opener at Buffalo and completed just four of 10 passes with an interception in a 13-11 defeat.
”We had more of a West Coast offense in college and now I was running the seven-step drop,” said Shuler, now a Democratic Congressman from North Carolina.
”It would be like putting Rex in the wishbone in terms of how big a change it was for me, but I never got that nervous before games so I wasn’t that nervous for that game either. Robert will physically be able to do the things that he’s always done, but it needs to become a reaction instead of him thinking, `If I don’t get my foot in the exact right place, when they watch film, they’re gonna be all over me.’ Just throw the ball from point A to point B.”
NOTES: Griffin’s task in Buffalo might have become more complicated when right guard Chris Chester suffered what was called a mild left ankle sprain during Monday’s practice. Washington is already minus left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who had his left knee scoped a week ago, and right tackle Jammal Brown, who’s on the physically unable to perform list with a chronically ailing left hip. Fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) and receiver Lance Lewis (groin) remain sidelined. . . . Mark Rypien, who earned MVP honors in quarterbacking the Redskins to their most recent Super Bowl victory, attended Monday’s walk-through.