OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Even now, six years after the delirious high of Robert Griffin III’s rookie season, it’s oddly satisfying to watch him flee the pocket, edging out a chasing defender before flicking a dart into the end zone.
Here at Ravens practice, preparing to play his first preseason game since 2016, Griffin is part reclamation project and part support system—the kind of player most teams don’t have the time or money to squeeze into camp anymore. Theoretically, he’s an ideal parallel to first-round pick Lamar Jackson if the offense shifts in one direction. Realistically, he’s wedged between a newly-motivated veteran trying to hang on to his job, and a generationally talented rookie bent on torching opposing defenses once he gets the chance.
With his wife and youngest child hovering in the back of a small media scrum, Griffin seemed at peace, admitting there’s some perspective that comes from being away for so long.
“I don’t think I can put into words how fun this process has been,” he said. “Being here in Baltimore, just having the ability to grow with this team, grow with my teammates. I just want them to go out there and show them they can trust me and hopefully help lead us to a win.”
He and Jackson call one another Heisman brothers, and players crash his interviews to ask him about the Dragon Ball Z socks he might be wearing to practice sometime soon. Unlike Washington, where a toxic mix of enabling owner and stubborn coach created a player who never had the time or opportunity to be one of the guys, he’s very much in on the joke this time.
In training camp, we’re always obsessed with the new. For fans, it’s the one thing in life we can emotionally discard and pick up again three months later with no consequence. For coaches, it’s a necessity. But amid the scattered thoughts of position battles and rookie stock rising, here’s a player getting to be what he never got the chance to be in previous stops, where he was either too different, too injured or too withered by the endless monsoon of nonsensical NFL criticisms and politicking.
Maybe it won’t last, but sometimes it’s fun to take a long pause and watch someone return to the natural euphoria of playing a game—and think about what that means.
“It’s like someone taking something away from you,” Griffin said. “Someone taking your girl, and then, you know, you miss her a little bit. You thought you missed her before, but now you miss her a little bit more.”
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WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Aaron Rodgers doing what I could never do—give up ice cream … Jalen Ramsey is quickly approaching Revis status. Now what? ... The best quarterbacks in football, 2018 edition.
TRAINING CAMP TIDBITS, AUG. 1
Notes and observations from The MMQB’s staffers on the road at training camp.
From Albert Breer in Westfield, Ind. — The Colts (like a lot of other teams in training camp) are ecstatic with the potential of their draft class. And they believe the windfall they got in dealing down three spots in the Top 6 has produced a handful of guys (Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith, Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis) who should fortify the team inside the tackle box, on both sides of the ball. But there are sleepers too, and two late skill-position picks have coaches and scouts buzzing—fifth-round RB Jordan Wilkins and sixth-round WR Deon Cain. And fourth-rounder Nyheim Hines looks like he’ll have a role on special teams (and maybe a slash role on offense, like Corey Clement had in Philly last year for Frank Reich) right away.
From Kalyn Kahler in Westfield, Ind. — The Colts used to hold training camp at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind. Last year they stayed home and held camp at their facility, but this year they're utilizing a massive youth sports complex as their training camp base. Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield is a 400-acre sports complex that features 24 multipurpose fields for football, soccer and lacrosse and more than two dozen baseball diamonds. And it’s still under construction (a hockey rink is coming soon.) From the media center we took a golf cart to the indoor facility—the walk was that far. Rain forced the Colts inside because on Tuesday. While driving through the sports park, it felt like the place could host the whole AFC South. To put in perspective how large 400-plus acres is, the place can hold the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indianapolis Zoo, with room to spare.
PASSYUNK, Philadelphia — Over the best dim sum in America (Bing Bing at 1647 E Passyunk Ave.), Philly-based rocker and Eagles aficionado Dan Campbell tells The MMQB that Doug Pederson and company will repeat in 2018. Dan’s band, The Wonder Years, is totally kickass and just released its best record yet, Sister Cities. Find them on iTunes or on tour, and find Dan openly weeping on Broad Street the next time his Eagles Super Bowl prediction comes true.
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