When Robert Griffin III III took the podium at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, nearly every one of the hundreds of reporters at the event encircled him. He was the biggest show in Indianapolis.
Six years later, Griffin stepped in front of a much smaller, yet still intrigued, crowd of reporters at the Under Armour Performance Center to introduce himself to Baltimore after signing a one-year contract.
After a year out of the NFL, Griffin still has the same confident, cool and collected nature. But now he has a resume full of wonder* *and woes, as well as the lessons learned.
Griffin exhibited a changed person and professional who has been humbled, yet remains hungry.
“It’s time to let that stuff go and move forward as a new player, a better player, a grown player,” Griffin said. “That’s what I’m excited about, and I’m glad [the Ravens] saw that in me.”
Griffin was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and immediately led the Washington Redskins back to the playoffs. He had one of the best rookie seasons in league history, throwing for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran for 815 yards and another seven scores.
But a late-season knee injury (dealt by former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata), which Griffin reinjured in the playoffs, derailed his magical start. He didn’t play at the same level in his second year, then was replaced by Kirk Cousins as the starter in Year 3.
Griffin didn’t see any action in 2015, was released by the Redskins afterward and played in just five games with the Cleveland Browns in 2016 after suffering a shoulder injury in the season-opener.
The Ravens had interest in Griffin when Joe Flacco was dealing with a back injury last offseason, but they, nor anybody else, pulled the trigger. A former projected phenom was suddenly on the couch just five years after being drafted.
“Playing football in the NFL is not something that’s promised,” Griffin said. “You have to make sure you stay ready, and that’s kind of what my focus was all last year.”
Griffin watched games every Sunday thinking he should be out there playing, but said he didn’t let bitterness build. Instead, he tried to use his unexpected situation to learn more from a distance.
He studied what offenses and defenses were trying to do. Whatever Griffin saw that he did or didn’t like from other quarterbacks, he tried to work on the next week in his training.
“It helped me become a smarter player, and I tried to use that experience to grow,” Griffin said.
“That’s all I can preach is hard work and dedication. You can’t get complacent or feel sorry for yourself because life’s not fair. You have to make the most of your opportunities. The Ravens blessed me with this one and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it’s lasting.”
Griffin is certainly in a different kind of situation in Baltimore than he was early in his career. On just a one-year contract, he’s trying to prove himself once again.
But he said his focus is not on showing he can be as good as he was when he was a rookie.
“I’m a Baltimore Raven; my job is to do whatever I can do to help the team win games in whatever capacity that may be,” Griffin said.
It was difficult when Griffin had to sit behind Cousins, even once he was healthy. Griffin was the second-overall pick while Cousins was picked in the fourth round that same year.
Now Griffin comes to Baltimore knowing he’s going to sit behind Joe Flacco. Griffin pointed out that he’s still young at 28 years old, and said he’s excited to learn from a quarterback who was named Super Bowl MVP the same year Griffin came into the league.
“I knew coming into this situation that this is Joe’s team. I understood that when I came in to work out, I understood that when I signed,” Griffin said.
“Hopefully this is something that can manifest and be a long-term thing, but right now all I can focus on is what I can do to help the Ravens this year and go out and prove it every single day and come in ready to compete.”