A preseason game against the Washington Redskins will play a part in determining Robert Griffin III's future with the Ravens.
Ironic indeed. With the Redskins, Griffin experienced his best NFL moments, and some of his worst. With the Ravens, Griffin hopes to redefine his NFL career.
When roster cuts are made this weekend, the Ravens will decide whether to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009. If they do, Griffin will make the team, after being out of the NFL in 2017.
The uncertainty makes Thursday night's Ravens-Redskins game at M&T Bank Stadium more than just another preseason game for Griffin. It could be his last game in a Ravens' uniform. Or it could be the start of a new beginning.
"If I was to say I stay out of football all of last year, and was to come and have an opportunity to play for the Baltimore Ravens and have the preseason we've had so far, winning all our games and personally playing the way I've played, I'd say it was a successful camp," Griffin said. "I'm just really excited and grateful for the opportunity from the Ravens.
"I just tried to earn the respect of my teammates, get the coaches to trust me. I think I've accomplished those things, but still looking to grow with this team. If I'm blessed with that opportunity, I'm more than willing to take it."
There has always been a buzz surrounding Griffin, a former Heisman Trophy winner, a former No. 2-overall pick, a Pro Bowl quarterback as a rookie. But since being signed by the Ravens, Griffin has not been about the hype, or the past. He has won over teammates with his positive, business-like attitude. He has worked tirelessly. After Tuesday's practice, Griffin was alone on one of the team's practice fields, running sprints in the sweltering heat. Not only has Griffin's play been solid, his effort has been unquestioned.
"Robert has done everything we've asked him to do and more," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's everything he's always been as a player, he's back on his feet, he's healthy, he's in a new environment, new situation."
Griffin could play at least a half Thursday night, with the starters not expected to see much if any action. During the preseason, Griffin has completed 27 of 41 passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Meanwhile, Griffin has shown a knack for knowing the right time to escape the pocket, and the right time to slide once he scrambles. He had a 21-yard scamper against the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night that ended with a perfect baseball slide. As a rookie, Griffin may have tried to juke a defender to gain more yards, which could have resulted in unnecessary punishment. But Griffin's playing style has changed.
"The thing I think I've learned the most about is who I am as a player," Griffin said. "A better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, and how to counteract that. I know what I tend to do. I know where I've come up short in my career. One of those is being available. I think I've proven throughout the preseason that I've learned to protect myself, while also still playing aggressive. I think that's something I really didn't do earlier in my career. I was a little reckless. Everybody thinks they're Superman. I had to learn that I am human, but there are some things God has blessed me to be able to do that other guys cannot do. I have to maximize those things."
Some thought Griffin's career was over after he was released by the Redskins (2015) and Browns (2016). But Griffin said the adversity has given him a new perspective and maturity. Still only 28 years old, Griffin believes he has plenty of football left in him.
"Tom Brady (New England's quarterback) is playing until he's 41," Griffin said. "I'm 28. I'm looking forward to continuing to get better as a player, as a leader and just as a teammate, and hopefully it's here because that's where I want to be."
With Joe Flacco entrenched as the Ravens' starting quarterback, and a first-round pick behind Flacco in Lamar Jackson, Griffin signed with the Ravens knowing it would not be easy to make the roster. But he has given himself a chance and has made it clear he wants to stay. Asked about the possibility of being traded, Griffin said he had not focused much that scenario.
"I would be doing my guys, my players and the coaches a disservice if I was going out there trying to play to showcase myself for another team," Griffin said. "(I'm) solely focused on being here and seeing this thing out, and if doesn't happen and a trade happens, or whatever comes, then you just adjust on the fly to that.
"You're not always going to get what you want, but I think there's something special brewing here, I want to be a part of it."
Griffin will soon find out if he gets his wish.