- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- When Robert Griffin III watched his 2013 game tape, he didn't cringe. Instead, he saw hope, simply because it didn't show what he'd feared: that everything was negative. And that's among the many reasons he can't wait for next season to start.
"It wasn't as bad as we thought," Griffin said of his performance.
But the 2013 season, in general, was a difficult one. Griffin was pulled from the lineup for the team's last three games -- he says it wasn't a benching -- and was criticized in anonymous quotes in multiple stories. And the luster of his rookie season had long faded.
In a wide-ranging interview, Griffin also said his relationship with Redskins owner Dan Snyder did not interfere with any decisions that were being made. He also said he doesn't second-guess himself for anything over the past year, whether it was his "All in for Week 1" slogan, or his documentary, or the decision to play in the season opener.
At the heart of the issue for then-coach Mike Shanahan, numerous sources said, was Griffin's relationship with Snyder. According to those sources, Shanahan felt they were too close.
"I don't think it's been an issue at all," Griffin said. "Dan didn't do anything to impede anything the coaches were trying to do. Coach made the decisions and we all abided by those decisions. Coach said I couldn't practice in OTAs, I didn't practice in OTAs. Coach said I couldn't practice at the beginning of training camp, I didn't practice at the beginning of training camp.
"Dan is an owner that's all for his team. He wants us to win, and that's why he's dishing out the checks. He's the guy that's gotten these guys here, empowering [general manager] Bruce Allen and Jay [Gruden] to get the players to help us win."
Griffin launched a campaign shortly after his January 2012 knee surgery to return for the opener. While he did as promised, he did not return as the same player -- and that led to criticism that he rushed his return.
"I played the hand I was dealt," Griffin said. "I was not allowed to practice in the offseason, whether it was OTAs or minicamps, and I was not allowed to practice early in camp. I don't really know whose [decision] it was, to tell you the truth. I was excited about the fact that I was able to go through those 13 games injury-free and suit up the next week.
"I don't regret it. Anything that happened last year has helped this team moving forward with the fresh start we have. For me, it's a blessing in disguise for what happened. Everything that happened -- whether it was the lack of offseason, the documentary -- was turned into a negative. That wasn't a negative. That was a positive thing. There are a lot of people that go through ACL recoveries, and a lot of people have said how inspiring that was for them."
Griffin embarked on a mini-media tour this week, in part to discuss plans for his upcoming foundation the Family of 3 Initiative, in which he plans to join forces with three organizations to incorporate three new families each year into his life, helping them with money or networking or other forms of support. He also plans to conduct two camps in the area, one football-based and the other focused on academics.
And he said he's noticed a difference now that he can work to strengthen his knee, as opposed to rehabbing it all of last offseason.
Griffin also said the atmosphere around the team feels different.
"It's hard to describe, but the building feels better," he said. "With the new guys we brought in, whether it's coaches or players, it's just the new attitude. It's all about winning. We're all excited about that."
And he's encouraged by what he's seen and done in the offseason, including re-watching his performances in the 13 games he did play in 2013. Griffin did not have the success he did as a rookie, when he threw for 3,025 yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions and rushed for another 815 yards in leading the team to the NFC East title. Instead, he threw for 16 touchdowns, was intercepted 12 times, and the Redskins stumbled to 3-13.
Shanahan was fired soon after the season and replaced less than two weeks later by Gruden.
"We were in bad situations as a team, whether it was the score or just with what was being run and how it was being executed," Griffin said. "The only two games we had no chance of winning were Green Bay and Kansas City, and maybe San Francisco as well -- that got out of hand at the end. There were a lot of positives to pull from."
That doesn't mean he didn't learn from watching those games.
"It showed me what I have to do in my game to play an effective way as far as fundamentals -- base, quick release, where I hold the ball, things I was able to work on with [former NFL quarterbacks coach Terry] Shea," he said. "It was getting back to a lot of things I was doing before, to fix up some of the technique that I was being coached before."
The season's last month was a difficult one for Griffin. Shanahan said he removed Griffin from the lineup after 13 games in order to make sure the quarterback reached the offseason fully healthy and able to better prepare for 2014.
During that time, Shanahan's job security was greatly debated. Griffin, too, became a focal point of harsh criticism. The tension grew thick.
Griffin mostly kept a low profile during that time, eschewing interviews.
"I have grown as a player and a person with everything that's happened," he said. "It's tough as a player; you want to play. [But] it makes you stronger in the end.
"We all know where those attacks came from, but you [really] don't know where the attacks came from. A lot of people referred to it as a benching. I wasn't benched; he shut me down."
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