WACO, Texas – This time a year ago, Robert Griffin III was proving yet another point.
He had already helped turn around the Baylor football program and won the school’s first Heisman Trophy. But at the Baylor Pro Day in Waco, he showed the world, and definitely the hundreds of scouts, coaches and observers in attendance, that he was clearly ready for the NFL.
If that wasn’t enough proof, he backed it up once he got to the Redskins last year, helping Washington win its last seven regular-season games to make the playoffs. Griffin was also named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was invited to the Pro Bowl.
Of course, the Cowboys were on the wrong side of two of those Redskins’ victories down the stretch. And both were big in their own right. While the final game was certainly the biggest as it gave the Redskins the NFC East title and sent the Cowboys home without a playoff spot for the third straight year, the first meeting was also rather meaningful. Thanksgiving Day games always generate a memorable buzz and who could forget the way Griffin carved up the Cowboys’ defense and helped the Redskins hang on for a 38-28 win at Cowboys Stadium.
For Griffin, who grew up in Copperas Cove, Texas, he said that game will always be a memorable experience for many reasons.
“Everybody knows … I’m a Texas kid,” said Griffin, who admits he wasn’t a big Cowboys fan growing up, but couldn’t help but watch them. “They were Copperas Cove’s team. I grew up, my best friend in high school, was a diehard Cowboys fans. I heard about them all the time. I paid attention. I watched football. The Cowboys were a big deal. And I knew that most Cowboys fans hate the Redskins.
“But when I walked on the field and got cheers from the fans, in pregame and during the game, it was awesome. Like I said, I’m a Texas boy, but just because I’m wearing Redskins colors, it doesn’t mean I’m a horrible person. I think they saw that. That meant a lot that Cowboys fans can say they hate the Redskins but still cheer for me.”
Still, that was before the game. Before Griffin lit up the Cowboys and before he did it again in the season finale. And in the last one he played with a knee injury that eventually led to a torn ACL injury from which he is currently recovering.
In that final game, Griffin was wearing a mic from NFL Films and was seen and heard comforting
“I think he is highly criticized,” Griffin said of Romo. “But everyone said it, he’s not the problem. He’s played well for that team for a long time and his own teammates say he’s not the problem. I think people need to understand that. People on the inside probably know it better than people on the outside.
“But that’s what I told him after the game and I forgot I was miked. I told him, don’t worry about what anyone else said. You can use whatever you want for fuel. But whenever you get criticized as much as Tony does, you have to block it out and know that what you’re doing is the right thing. And that you are a good player and your teammates love you and move from there.”
Griffin is hopeful and even counting on the fact he will be 100 percent for the start of next year, although he said he will be smart about his rehab and won’t rush the recovery.
The NFL schedule for the 2013 season won’t be released for a few weeks, but it’s likely Griffin and the Redskins will see the Cowboys later in the season, and possibly even twice in the second half like they did last year.
Regardless of the date, Griffin said he’s not worried about the changes the Cowboys are making with the 4-3 scheme.
“That’s just football, it’s always changing. Sometimes coaches think one thing for a long time and then decide to switch it up,” Griffin said. “My college coach (Art Briles) always says if you’re not changing then you’re dead. He changes his offense every year.
In the NFL, it’s the same. Every couple of years, there’s a big chance from 3-4 to 4-3. And now it looks like some teams are going back to 4-3. It’s changing times. Coaches change all the time. You have to have the right players to run that and sometimes it takes a few years to get those. I know (the Cowboys) are changing and they’ll be tough like all the teams are. That’s just part of it. But we’ll be ready, too.”
And by “we” it’s assumed that Griffin is certainly referring to himself and his knee as well.