ASHBURN, Va. -- This is a tough trick Kirk Cousins is attempting. He's working to establish his bona fides as an NFL starting quarterback while the world can't stop asking how soon he'll return to a backup role. Cousins has been working as the Washington Redskins' starter this offseason while Robert Griffin III recovers from knee surgery, and he's got this balancing act in the right perspective.
"Hey, if Robert is back by the start of training camp, which may happen, then this maybe was my last day with the 1-offense," Cousins said at the end of Wednesday's minicamp practice. "It was great to get that experience, and working with the 2-offense will be great as well. I'm still going to be getting a lot of reps. So I'm benefiting from this practice time, for sure, regardless of whether I start."
He admits this wasn't always the case, and being drafted in the fourth round last year by a Redskins team that had just spent so much to draft Griffin didn't fit his initial plan for his future. But Cousins is all-in on the long view now.
"It takes time to develop into the quarterback that we all want to be," Cousins said. "It's not going to happen overnight. But we're putting the work in, and I'm excited about the career I have ahead of me, as long as I keep doing the things I need to keep doing."
What's impressive, though, is that while keeping his long-range perspective, Cousins has indeed managed to establish himself in the minds of his teammates as a viable short-term option should Griffin need more recovery time. It helps that he started and won a game last December in the midst of the streak the Redskins rode to their division title, but teammates say Cousins is a natural as a leader of the huddle and a maker of plays.
"I feel extremely confident with him. He just looks great," nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "He just looks calm back there. He commands the huddle. The O-line, the vets we have on our offense, they all respect him and have trust in him, and he can make all the throws. What he went and did on the road in Cleveland last year was no surprise to anybody, and I think he'll be a starter in this league sooner than later."
The day before, left tackle Trent Williams called Cousins a "stud" and told me, "I just think it's funny -- everybody's looking for "that guy," and we've got two of them." Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur talked about Cousins' knack for slipping in a joke to loosen up the huddle during tense or dull parts of practices. It's not an act -- the Redskins really do believe Cousins can lead them if Griffin can't.
Cousins does too, which makes his patience about his own situation even more impressive. He laughed when I asked him if he was telling Griffin not to hurry back.
"You know what? He looks good," Cousins said. "And I tell him obviously for his sake, long-term, to not rush it, but he knows that. But I'm optimistic about him getting back. He looks great right now."
No quarterback controversy here. Just a depth chart at peace, and a team unworried about its most important position.