The moment that Robert Griffin III put pen to paper on a 2-year, $15 million deal with the Browns he was given a clean slate and fresh start.
But he also came with a lot of baggage and an awful reputation stemming from 4 turbulent seasons in Washington. His critics in Washington have called him everything from selfish to a cancer.
“When a new player comes in you try not to have any preconceived notions about him based on the media or what you hear from other players,” 9-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Robert’s been such a great leader, being accountable, doing all the things that you need a franchise quarterback to do.”
In 6 short months with the Browns Griffin has debunked his reputation, put the past behind him and won over his new locker room.
“I’m extremely happy, not satisfied but happy with where I am,” Griffin said. “I can’t speak enough about how this locker room has been awesome. I have been able to grow as a player and as a leader in this locker room.”
On Wednesday Griffin, who was a castoff for the Redskins, was named 1 of 5 team captains for the season in voting conducted by his teammates.
“The testament of Robert being named captain is it came from his teammates,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “They voted on it. Coaches had nothing to do with it. This was all his teammates. Obviously, he has embedded himself within the organization and this team, his teammates. I think that he has shown them that he is somebody that they can depend on and look to and that he is working each and every day to not only better himself but also his teammates.”
Joining Griffin as captains are Thomas, 2-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, inside linebacker Demario Davis and linebacker Tank Carder.
“I’m excited about the guys who were voted captains because those guys have worked extremely hard to change the culture and also to want to change our fortunes here from what they have been in the past,” Jackson said.
Griffin continues to take a beating in Washington reporters, columnists and hosts who have yet to move on. One person who doesn’t feel Griffin is worthy of a leadership role is former Washington cornerback Darrell Green, who ripped Griffin in an interview on 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. that saw him call Griffin “childish and selfish” regarding his personal life that includes a separation from his wife.
“I make sure I don’t focus on those things, Griffin said when asked about Green’s comments. “That is the first time I have ever heard of that. That is not my job. For Darrel, a guy that I know personally, that is his prerogative. Whatever you say in a public sphere, you have to make sure you are ready to say that in a private sphere, as well.
“Darrel hadn’t approached me about anything, and I considered him a friend so that is disappointing. It is nothing that I can control. I just focus on being here with the Browns, worry about football, focus on that, and don’t let anything distract me.”
Right now Griffin’s focus is on the Eagles and his young receiving corps that feature 4 rookies out of 6 at the position.
“The young bucks, they are hungry,” Griffin said. “I just think the expectation is for guys to go out there and do their job. As my guy London Fletcher used to say, ‘The expectation is domination.’ We have to go out and those guys know that when we snap the ball, when they put that helmet on, they are no longer rookies; they are football players.”
There’s still a lot Griffin, a former Heisman trophy winner and No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, has to prove and he’ll get his opportunity this year with the Browns to validate their decision to give him a second chance.
“You have to go out and lead by example,” Griffin said. “It is a blessing to be the face of a franchise or be the team leader. That is not something that you take lightly. I appreciate all these guys in here giving me that opportunity because you have to earn that. Nothing is ever given to you.”