For Robert Griffin III, A Day of Goodbyes at Redskins Park

by Brian McNally

ASHBURN — Robert Griffin III walked into the locker room at Redskins Park, his home for almost five years now, and methodically packed his things, a man ready to move on with his life.

Around him, teammates were also busy stuffing a season’s worth of gear and equipment into garbage bags and boxes. Some chatted with reporters. Others played cards together one final time at the couches in one end of the room.

Griffin gently filled a cardboard box with clothes and jerseys and even his Redskins helmet. Then he pulled an Incredible Hulk doll off the top shelf of his locker and placed it atop the pile.

A group of reporters awkwardly approached, but Griffin politely said only that he had nothing at all to say and the pack slowly dispersed.

The second pick of the 2012 NFL draft, once the toast of Washington, is unlikely to return next year. He was active for just one game out of 17 this season. The Redskins hold a $16.2 million option on Griffin’s contract for 2016, but teammate Kirk Cousins posted a breakthrough season as the starter, leading them to the NFC East title and the playoffs.

Washington could only bring Griffin back if it saw him as a legitimate starter. His workload this season shows the organization clearly doesn’t. Colt McCoy was the primary backup for all 17 games.

“Whether you’re the first, second pick of the draft, Heisman Trophy winner, rookie free agent, third-round guy, this league will humble you,” veteran teammate Kedric Golston said. “And the difference between Robert was he had every eye, every camera on him when he was going through that process.”

The story is well told now. Washington traded multiple draft picks to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 selection in the 2012 draft and tabbed Griffin, a college star at Baylor, a Heisman Trophy winner, as their quarterback of the future.

A brilliant rookie season ended with a division title, a playoff berth, NFC rookie of the year honors – and shredded knee ligaments. So began a downward spiral that included a feud with former coach Mike Shanahan, a serious ankle injury and harsh public criticism from new coach Jay Gruden, who was hired in part to help mold Griffin into a pocket passer less prone to injury.

It didn’t work out. Named the starter for 2015 as far back as February, Griffin held that position throughout the offseason program and into training camp. But continued on-field struggles and a concussion in the second preseason game gave Cousins a chance to win the job. Gruden named him the starter late in preseason. Griffin never saw the field again.

“I can’t say I’ve met a guy who’s in a better spirit in a sense where he was the biggest cheerleader this year,” said teammate Darrel Young, who drove to and from most home games with Griffin. “You can respect a guy like that and a guy that’s in a situation that basically he had to sit on his hands and take a back seat.”

Griffin left the locker room on Monday lugging the box filled with his possessions. All that was left in his stall were a small, framed bible verse – Phillippians 4:13 – and a printed version of the Paradoxical Commandments taped and hanging from the middle shelf of his locker. As a final statement, those affirmations served well enough for a 25-year-old man who so often uses them on social media.

Later, Griffin returned to give nose tackle Terrance Knighton a small, signed Baylor jersey. He shook hands and exchanged hugs with the group of teammates playing cards, including Young and injured tight end Niles Paul, who have been with Griffin during his entire tenure in Washington. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and safety Duke Ihenacho were there, too, among others.

The Redskins had a team meeting at noon. Griffin left the room, a trail of laughter and smiles behind him, and was off into an uncertain future.

“This team wishes [Griffin] nothing but the best. He’s a good teammate,” Golston said. “He’s been a guy that has had some really high highs and had some difficulty times here. And you hope that he can grow from all these situations and still achieve all the things that he wants to achieve in his career.”

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter.

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