RG3: 'I believe that I am' Redskins' franchise QB

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Jay Gruden said the ''the jury is still out'' on the Washington Redskins' quarterback position. Robert Griffin III doesn't think that way at all.

The coach also said his quarterbacks need to be ''thick-skinned'' and not let outside criticism get to them. Griffin, on Tuesday, turned two football questions into answers that referenced outside criticism.

Griffin's physical and mental performance will be hyper-analyzed over the final seven weeks of the season. He needs to stay healthy, and he needs to show the first-year coach that he can handle all of the other rigors of playing quarterback in the NFL.

On Monday, Gruden said the jury is out at quarterback because he's started three players at the position. Griffin only just returned on Sunday after missing six games with a dislocated left ankle, a layoff that disrupted his efforts to learn to be more of a pocket-passer.

Gruden said he feels good about Griffin's progress to date, but there are things the team will ''have to find out'' about the third-year QB before the end of the season - after which the Redskins will have to decide whether to pick up an option year on Griffin's contract.

On Tuesday, however, before the players broke for a five-day bye-week vacation, Griffin said he doesn't view the rest of the season as a chance to prove he's definitively the franchise quarterback.

''When it comes to being the franchise guy, that is what it is. I believe that I am,'' Griffin said. ''I believe that this organization knows that I am, and I know those guys in the locker room believe that I am. There's no doubt there, so I don't ever step onto the field trying to make a claim saying `I'm the guy.' No, it's not like that. This is my team and I'm going to lead it.''

Asked about Gruden's ''jury is still out'' remark, Griffin said he understands it because he hasn't had much of a chance to play for the coach because of the ankle injury.

''Availability is the key,'' Griffin said, ''so my job is to continue to go out there, get better each week, help this team win football games, and the rest will take care of itself.''

Griffin had a mixed performance in Sunday's 29-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He used his tremendous athleticism to extend plays, revived his ability as a running threat in the zone-read and led a pair of second-half scoring drives in a tight game.

But he also took five sacks - more than Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy took in any of their starts - and made two bad throws at inopportune times, one a momentum-turning interception and the other a short-armed toss that ended the Redskins' final legitimate scoring threat.

Gruden said Griffin still needs to get a better feel for the pocket to avoid the sacks, but Griffin said there's also some good that can happen when he holds onto the ball a little longer.

''I feel like I add an element to the game by being able to extend plays and make plays ... Sacks are a part of the game. You don't want to take many of them, and I always will work on that,'' Griffin said, ''but I'm not going to limit myself out there on the field because I think that's a detriment to our offense if I take that part of my game out.''

Griffin has always displayed a sensitively to criticism of his play, something Gruden has mentioned more than once and cited again Monday. The outside pundits were clearly on Griffin's mind Tuesday when he was asked if it was good to get in a game before the bye week.

Instead of answering the question, Griffin sought to quash the notion that he should've waited until after the bye to return.

''For us to push that off to after the bye just because of outside opinion, I think is a disservice to this team,'' Griffin said, ''because we always want to have the best opportunity to win each week.''

Later, asked about his decision to slide on a third-and-20 run in the fourth quarter instead of fighting for the extra yards, Griffin said he wasn't contemplating public reaction as he made his way upfield.

''I wasn't thinking about what anybody else was going to say,'' he said. ''I just knew I was going to get molly-whopped if I tried to go for that first down.''

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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