Robert Griffin III's First Start in Three Years, But It's Not About Him

QB Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III has been honest for the past two years he's been with the Ravens. He loves being in Baltimore, loves Lamar Jackson and his teammates.

But he wants to be a starter again someday.

The No. 2-overall pick in the 2012 draft and former Offensive Rookie of the Year has had a career reboot in Baltimore. At 29 years old, he feels he's a better quarterback today than when he was last a starter in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns.

On Sunday, against the Pittsburgh Steelers' ferocious defense, Griffin will have a chance to prove it. He'll get the start with Lamar Jackson staying safe on the sideline in the regular-season finale that has no playoff implications.

There's a lot of intrigue around Griffin to this day. He was once one of football's biggest stars. As he prepares to start a regular-season game for the first time since Jan. 1, 2017, Griffin is excited but refuses to soak up the attention.

"This game's not about me. It's about the team," Griffin said. "Those guys in front of me, those guys going out there with me every play are looking to play at a high level, looking to go out and execute. So, I'm not going to make this game about me."

Griffin repeated that several times Tuesday.

Griffin's last start also came against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was 29-of-40 for 232 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 32 yards but fumbled twice and lost one. There was one other issue that day.

"I was playing with a broken [non-throwing] shoulder back then. I don't know if everybody knew that," Griffin said with a chuckle.

After being dumped by the Browns, Griffin spent the entire 2017 season out of football. He kept training, debated making a run at the Olympics, but eventually decided he wanted to stick with football. He knew he could still play at a high level.

The Ravens were the team that gave him a shot, signing him to a one-year deal in April of 2018. Despite drafting Jackson later that month, and with Joe Flacco still the starter, the Ravens kept Griffin on the roster because he proved his value over the summer.

Now Griffin is one step closer to being a starter, and he feels like he's only grown as a player.

"I'm healthy, and I've learned a lot [since 2016]," Griffin said. "To be in the position I've been in the past two years, you can either be upset about it and don't work or you're upset about it and you work. And I worked through it."

Griffin will have the advantage of being in the Ravens' top-ranked offense. But he'll also be playing without some of Baltimore's top weapons, such as running back Mark Ingram II and guard Marshal Yanda, who will also be resting.

On the other side, the Steelers have the league's No. 4-ranked defense and are tied with the New England Patriots with 36 takeaways (19 interceptions, 17 fumbles). Outside linebacker T.J. Watt could be the Defensive Player of the Year.

Griffin certainly has his work cut out for him on Sunday. The Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives, and they'll bring everything they have in the finale.

"It's a very, very, very good defense, great defense. Not only statistically, but they're what you call a 'That-Dude Defense,'" Griffin said. "They have that dude and that dude and that dude and that dude. So I know they're not going to come into The Bank and lay down."

Griffin does have the benefit of having some reps under his belt this season, thanks to Jackson and the offense orchestrating so many fourth-quarter blowouts. So far, Griffin has gone 12-of-17 for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He's run 12 times for 20 yards.

Griffin has been lauded for his work as a mentor for Jackson. He's been applauded for how seriously he's taken his role as the scout team quarterback, mimicking opposing quarterbacks with uncanny accuracy.

Now it's time to see what Griffin can do with a full workload and a game-plan tailored for him.

"It will be a great opportunity for him," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I fully expect him to make the most of it and play a very good football game."

Griffin re-signed for two more years this offseason to back up Jackson. But there's no doubt that teammates are hoping Griffin proves he's ready for more.

"I'm extremely happy for him," rookie center Patrick Mekari said. "He puts in a lot of work. He cares about it a lot. The fact that he gets to go out in this game and go shine and show what he has, I'm really excited and really happy for him."

While Griffin is right that Sunday's game doesn't revolve around RG3, it is one of the most interesting storylines from Baltimore's perspective. It's so interesting that Griffin even got asked what socks he'll be wearing Sunday. That made the sock enthusiast chuckle, but he declined to give any sneak peeks.

"Like I said, I'm not going to make this game about me. I know everybody wants to," Griffin said.

"It's just a blessing, honestly, for what I've been able to go through and come out of. I wouldn't be here without God, and honestly, I wouldn't be here without the Ravens giving me an opportunity last year. So, I'm very thankful, very grateful. But I'm not looking at that stuff. We're just trying to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers."

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