Robert Griffin III Says He's Ready to Play Well If Called Upon

Robert Griffin III hasn't dressed for a game all season, but that could change with Joe Flacco's status uncertain for Sunday's pivotal matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

If Flacco's hip injury prevents him from playing, Griffin could be the backup quarterback to rookie Lamar Jackson, and Head Coach John Harbaugh has not ruled out Griffin as the possible starter.

Members of the media surrounded Griffin's locker Wednesday, in stark contrast to the first 10 weeks of the season when he walked through the room largely unnoticed. However, Griffin said his focus has never wavered. He has been ready to play all season. And if called upon Sunday, Griffin insisted he would be ready again.

"I know there's a lot of uncertainty about who's going to be playing and starting at quarterback, but it doesn't change the mindset that I've had the entire season," Griffin said. "Being a part of this locker room, this environment here has been great for me. I want to show those guys that I've been ready to roll the entire time if I get that opportunity."

What's at stake Sunday would only add to the pressure if Griffin sees his first action of the season. The Ravens (4-5) have lost three straight and another defeat Sunday would do serious damage to their playoff hopes.

As the No. 3 quarterback, Griffin gets the fewest reps at quarterback in practice, and he has not taken an in-game snap since the preseason finale in August. Griffin has far more NFL experience than Jackson, but none of that experience is recent. Griffin sat out the 2017 season before signing as a free agent with the Ravens and earning a roster spot during training camp and preseason. However, Griffin dismissed the notion he would be too rusty to play effectively Sunday.

"My job to make sure I'm always ready," Griffin said. "Whether that's during practice, after practice, maximizing the reps that I do get. Making sure after practice I'm getting the things I need if I am called upon that week to play. That's why they brought me here. They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be."

Griffin's career had hit rock bottom before his opportunity with the Ravens. He entered the NFL as a star, a 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Griffin had a superb rookie season with the Washington Redskins, leading them to the playoffs, making the Pro Bowl, and winning the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

But injuries and inconsistent play derailed his success, and by 2015 he had lost his starting job to Kirk Cousins. The Redskins released Griffin in 2016, and after signing with the Cleveland Browns, Griffin suffered a shoulder injury and was released after one season.

After a year out of football, the Ravens signed Griffin to a one-year deal this offseason, and he showed in the preseason that he could still play in this league. He had a 87.8 quarterback rating in five preseason games, completed nearly 66 percent of his passes and made some plays with his legs.

Now 28 years old, Griffin has more appreciation for being back in the NFL, getting a chance to play this year would be a gratifying moment.

"It'd be awesome," Griffin said. "It's been a heck of a journey. Coming here was the best thing I could've done. Growing with this team, knowing what it means to play like a Raven. Growing with these guys has been something that's been really special for me. If I get that opportunity to go out and play, I'm going to make the most of it and show these guys not only how hard I've been working, but how much I believe in them."

Griffin has impressed the coaching staff with his willingness to serve as a mentor to Jackson, another former Heisman winner (2016). After going through success and failure as a young player, Griffin has schooled Jackson on the do's and don'ts of what it takes to survive in the NFL. Head Coach John Harbaugh appreciates Griffin's attitude as much as his talent.

"We've played against R.G. a couple of times, we've defended him, we saw him from that perspective," Harbaugh said. "But when you see a guy on your own team, you gain kind of a whole new appreciation. I think he's a pro. Very talented player. Just very happy with what he's done so far."

But at some point, Griffin wants to be more than a mentor to Jackson, or a backup quarterback. He remains a player at heart, yearning to be in the action on Sunday. It has not been easy for Griffin to be inactive every game.

"I haven't been OK not playing," Griffin said. "But I think if I was OK not playing, then I wouldn't be the competitor that I've grown to be. I'm on this team for a reason. I earned that right by the way I came back and played after being out of football for a year. I think the guys recognize that, the coaches definitely recognize that. Throughout the weeks, I've just had to make sure I don't lose that edge."

Griffin sees similarities between his personal story and the Ravens' story, as the team tries to overcome adversity. Some people thought Griffin's career was over, but it wasn't. Whether he plays this season or not, Griffin strongly believes the Ravens will bounce back as well.

"This franchise has done a lot of winning," Griffin said. "We just have to make sure we get back to that and get over that hump, figure out why we're not winning games. We're 4-5 and we have an opportunity to win the next game, the next game, the next game and go to the playoffs. That's kind of our whole focus."

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