ASHBURN, Va. (CBS SPORTS) – The grassy hills along the outskirts of the Redskins Park training facility were starting to fill with cars by 9:00 a.m., and a line of people sitting outside the gates in lawn chairs was already forming. The Washington Redskins first training camp practice would not begin for about six hours, with the temperature set to soar above 100 degrees, but those assembled didn’t seem to care.
They were here, you see, for the first possible glimpse of Robert Griffin III, the savior, the Heisman Trophy winner who the team relinquished an unprecedented haul of draft picks to acquire. Griffin is the singular hope that this long-suffering franchise will rise again. He is, they pray, the antidote to all the years of failed coaching regimes and dubious quarterback experiments and the false-promise of past free-agent binges. They want to believe he will be the closest thing to a star quarterback this team has had since Joe Theismann in the early 1980s. And so they flock, fans and media alike, to see it with their own eyes and begin to make their own determination about whether the hype and hope and franchise-lifting expectations will be fulfilled.
But to his teammates, well, the belief is already there. At least as far as all of the qualities this young man embodies. They believe in Griffin’s leadership and determination and football intellect and personality and promise. Everything about him looks the part. What no one knows is how quickly it will translate to his development and production and, most importantly, to the standings. But veterans on both sides of the ball have been nothing but encouraged by the early stages of the RG3 era in Washington.
“He’s the (bleeping) leader of this football team,” tight end Chris Cooley declared, hoping this year is finally different than the others he’s lived through here since 2004. “I can honestly say that. He’s so real. There’s no B.S. This is who he is. I sit next to him in the team meetings, and there isn’t a guy on the team he doesn’t have a relationship with. Not one.”
This “it” factor, the immediate ability to command a huddle and a meeting room, as Griffin’s teammates describe it, and to get men 10 years his senior to entrust their future in him, comes naturally. It’s part of the young man’s fabric. If he fails at the NFL level, he vows, it won’t be for ego or vanity or falling prey to his massively growing public persona.
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