- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the sort of offseason Robert Griffin III wanted, and it’s one that has resulted in him noticing a difference. Both in his physical ability and also in his bonding with teammates.
He sees a difference in himself. He sees a difference growing with teammates, too. It started with being able to strengthen his surgically-repaired right knee. It continued into training with teammates in Arizona (and now at Redskins Park).
“That building a trust, building a bond, those memories you create help you on game day,” he said. “People underestimate that bond. I didn’t have as much bonding time last year. I didn’t have the offseason I had to do all the things I’m going to be doing this year. But that’s not an excuse for what happened last year. I’m grateful I got the chance to go through the offseason this year. Building those bonds and trust with teammates, that matters on game day.”
And that’s why Griffin doesn’t look back and begrudgingly thank former coach Mike Shanahan for, in his words, shutting him down with three games left. Griffin is glad to be healthy in the offseason, but to him that’s beside the point.
"What I'm doing now, being able to go through the offseason with the guys and be around them and compete with them, get better, throwing, conditioning and in the meetings," Griffin said, "all that means a lot to me, but it means more to be out with my guys on game day. So, yeah, it was difficult, but you have to play the hand you're dealt. Coach made a decision and you abide by that."
Numerous people at Redskins Park have commented on how happy Griffin seems these days, as if he's been let loose to be the sort of player and leader he envisioned when he came to Washington. The ability to condition with his teammates and having a coach he's not sparring with has increased that happiness. Plus, he's also become one of their top recruiters. He met with receiver DeSean Jackson in Los Angeles after the Eagles released him. He phoned receiver Andre Roberts before free agency, in addition to numerous other players. It's a role he relishes. Griffin also said he'll have more input in the game plan and at the line of scrimmage, where audibles in the past were discouraged. Not now.
But what feels great is this: running sprints with his teammates. It's about bonding. It's about feeling good and running without a knee brace and feeling like himself again -- in more ways than one.
"That's probably the biggest difference," Griffin said. "Being able to run and strengthen the knee as opposed to trying to get it back to where it was. That's the fun part, being able to run the half-gassers, the 300-yard shuttles. All that stuff with my teammates. That's what makes it fun again."