Jul 29, 2016 6:59 PM
RG3 not looking back, excited and ready to lead Browns
The Associated Press
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — He's now RG4.3.
Trying to revive a once soaring career that crashed badly in Washington, quarterback Robert Griffin III believes he has a leg up — two of them actually — over the competition to win Cleveland's starting job.
As the Browns prepared to open training camp Friday under first-year coach Hue Jackson, Griffin gave his assessment of the QB field.
"There's only one of us that runs 4.3," he joked, noting his blazing time in the 40-yard dash. "They like to race me a lot."
Cleveland's other quarterbacks may not catch him. They won't have time.
Griffin is expected to beat out veterans Josh McCown, Austin Davis and rookie Cody Kessler for the top gig and become Cleveland's 25th starting quarterback since 1999 — and the one the Browns hope finally pulls them from the NFL's basement.
Griffin signed a two-year contract in March with the Browns, who are eager to see if the 26-year-old can recapture the magic he showed while electrifying the NFL as a rookie in 2012. While that was only four years ago, it seems like ages, and even Griffin isn't entirely sure if he can get back to being the player he once was.
Hours before his first practice, Griffin was asked how to get his game back to its jaw-dropping rookie level.
"I just think you have fun," he said. "It's a kid's game that we get to play for a king's ransom. At the end of the day, you know what you're doing. You've done your studying, you worked hard, you've run, you've lifted, all those things. Now you've just got to come out here and have fun. I think that's the beauty of the game, the more fun you have the easier it is for you to play freely and go out and make plays."
Jackson plans to name his starter before the team's first exhibition game on Aug. 12 at Green Bay, giving the quarterbacks 11 practices or scrimmages — at most — to make an impression.
Griffin didn't offer much of an opinion on Jackson's timetable, while McCown, the 37-year-old who started eight games last season for Cleveland, believes it's best to get such an impactful decision — and potential disruption — out of the way.
"I think it gives us a sense of direction and the way he's headed," McCown said. "The team and everyone can get behind the guy and move forward. We're all supportive of that. I just think sometimes if it drags out and lingers it can be a distraction. You name a guy and move forward, and everybody gets behind that guy. I trust his leadership on that."
Griffin took the majority of snaps with Cleveland's starting offense on Friday, but Jackson said that was more because McCown doesn't need as much work than any kind of pecking order.
The 6-foot-2 Griffin had a rather unspectacular workout. He showed good velocity on several throws over the middle, but he overthrew a couple deep balls and never left the pocket to showcase his running ability. McCown made some plays but will have to do more to overtake Griffin, still knocking off some rust after not playing last season.
Griffin's stunning fall in Washington led to speculation about whether his skills are declining. He underwent surgery following the 2012 season, and his release in March sparked talk that his career might be in jeopardy.
Jackson, though, believes Griffin remains a superior athlete.
"I know people have questioned where he is physically," Jackson said. "I don't see that. He's still Robert Griffin. The same guy that came out in 2012, but just wiser. He's been through a lot of different systems and a lot of different things and I think he has grown by leaps and bounds."
Off the field, Griffin has been doing all he can to bond with his teammates. One of the knocks on him in D.C. was that he was selfish. The Browns haven't seen that at all.
"The thing I like about Robert the most is he's hungry," cornerback Joe Haden said. "He's super hungry. You could tell in everything that he said, everything he does, that he just wants to work. He wants to be part of a team. He wants to build relationships with all of the players. He goes out of his way to set up different bowling things, and he just wants team camaraderie.
"I could just tell he's a team-first guy, and that's what I really, really love about him."
NOTES: Haden, who underwent offseason ankle surgery, is confident he'll be ready for the season opener. He'd like to play in one of the final exhibitions. ... The Browns closed practice to fans for safety reasons after thunderstorms rumbled through the area. ... Starting RG John Greco is sidelined with an unspecified injury. ... Rookie LB Emmanuel Ogbah is getting some time at defensive end as the Browns try to make up for the loss of Desmond Bryant, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Ogbah was the No. 32 overall pick in this year's draft.
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