Robert Griffin III having fun serving as mentor in Ravens’ packed QB room
OWINGS MILLS, Md. Running back Javorius Allen sauntered by to ask a question as the backup quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens was holding court.
“Hey, question, sir,” Allen said playfully. “Explain the thing going on with your socks. I saw the other day you had a different-colored pair of socks and I thought it was a routine thing, but now I see you kind of keep up with it.”
Robert Griffin III smiled at his teammate, but launched into a straightforward explanation as if a reporter had asked him. Coach John Harbaugh allows players to wear whatever socks they want during camp, and Griffin has alternated pairs with anime and superhero characters from “Dragon Ball Z,” “Batman,” “Black Panther” and the like.
“But I just make sure that it’s team colors or neutral so that no one really notices,” Griffin said.
The new teammates joshed around about getting the entire team matching “Black Panther” socks before Griffin finished his 13-minute press conference, longer than Harbaugh or rookie Lamar Jackson talked before him.
The former Washington Redskins star is now part of the most fascinating quarterback room in the NFL, with three first-round draft picks, two of them Heisman Trophy winners and the other a Super Bowl champion, all in different stages in their careers.
After spending a year out of football in 2017, Griffin is taking some third-team reps and competing just to earn a spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster. But he also looks like the player having the most fun at training camp at Under Armour Performance Center.
“Being out of football ... gives you an appreciation that you thought you might have already had. It’s like someone taking something away from you someone taking your girl,” Griffin said. “You thought you missed her before, but now you miss her a little bit more. I think that’s what happened with me and football.”
If Griffin gets into the Hall of Fame Game, it will be his first NFL game action of any kind since Jan. 1, 2017, for the Cleveland Browns. But he doesn’t look at that as an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, he said, because what his team and family think of him is more important than what outsiders say.
That is a far cry from the character who promised via Adidas commercial that he would play Week 1 of 2013 after ACL and LCL tears. He also appears to have tamped down his social media usage. But his personality and elocution haven’t changed.
Just like with his socks, he’s trying to mix in his brand of fun with a team-focused mentality.
“You can hear the noise, but you have to block it out,” Griffin said. “I think I’ve done a better job of that.”
Griffin had some calls from teams last year, and workouts with the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers, but he ultimately did not sign. He moved to Orlando, Florida to train and studied NFL tape quickly picking up on a trend of run-pass options, zone reads and play-action drops from the pistol formation, reminders of his time as a dual-threat in Washington.
“I looked at how the defenses were trying to challenge that and shut it down, and that kind of kept me in it mentally,” he said. “Then I was able to go out and work out on the things I felt like I needed to work on.”
Quarterbacks coach James Urban said Griffin’s decorated past gives him “street credibility.”
“Regardless of how he ended up with us, he was a great player and still I think is playing at a very high level,” Urban said. “I’m anxious to see him (in games).”
Along with longtime starter Joe Flacco, Griffin is in a position to mentor the 32nd pick in the 2018 draft, Jackson, the electric playmaking quarterback from Louisville. The smiley rookie said Griffin and Flacco both have been very helpful.
“In certain plays I’ll go through and start to read it the wrong way or something like that, they all let me know how they all do certain things,” Jackson said.
“I think having both those two guys in the same room with Lamar, they bring a perspective which is a veteran perspective, but also different perspectives,” Harbaugh said. “Joe and Robert have different experiences to bring to the table to talk to Lamar about, different styles of play a little bit, so I think it’s got to be a benefit. Lamar has said that.”
Urban added that the parallels between Griffin’s and Jackson’s speed and scrambling prowess help with that.
“Some of the things that he’s done athletically in terms of schematics and then making plays outside the pocket, Lamar can relate to those, so I think there’s an instant bond that way,” Urban said.
In talking about Jackson at OTAs in June, Griffin used the metaphor of a baby bird. He described it on Tuesday as more of an older sibling reminding the younger that the NFL is faster than college, even if you’ve got a Heisman in your trophy case.
“It’s not that he can’t run. He just has to be smart when he does run,” Griffin said. “I feel like he’s my little brother, but I’m not gonna try as the big brother to tell him, ‘Don’t do this.’ He’s gonna have to learn some things on his own as he’s out there and he’s working. I think he’ll figure it out pretty quickly and he’ll still be the dynamic player that he is.”
The Ravens drafted Jackson three weeks after they signed Griffin to a one-year, $1.1 million contract. It’s not that they are competing for one spot, exactly, because there is no chance Baltimore cuts Jackson. Griffin must convince the team to keep a third quarterback.
If he can’t, he may be looking for another home all over again. Reports this week said Griffin is selling his $2.6 million lakeside mansion in his home state of Texas, and his wife, professional track and field athlete Grete adeiko, skipped a competition overseas to support him at training camp. In a way, it all contributes to how high the stakes are for things to work out in Baltimore.
Nonetheless, Griffin said he won’t “cheat a guy to beat a guy.”
“I’m not going to try to cheat you, not tell you something and not help you try to win a spot. We’re all about the team here,” he said. “My job is to help Lamar, Joe, Josh (Woodruff), everybody getas good as they possibly can, and then go out there and let the chips fall where they may.”