The thud of pads was missing Tuesday morning, and so was much of the crowd noise. In a relatively tame open practice, the Ravens turned their focus to Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.
With Wednesday a private walk-through and travel day, here’s what else could be gleaned from Tuesday’s workout — beyond another strong day from the offense and the looming debut of the Ravens’ possible successor at quarterback.
Because it was Robert Griffin III who revitalized the Washington Redskins, however briefly, it is also Robert Griffin III who is remembered as an instrument of their doom, however fairly or unfairly.
A sampling of headlines:
— The Washington Post, August 2015: “Ryan Clark says RGIII lacks ‘meaningful locker room relationships’ ”
— CBS Sports, March 2016: “No one on the Redskins liked Robert Griffin, says a former teammate”
— Bleacher Report, November 2017: “Mike Shanahan: Robert Griffin III 'Really Believed He Was Aaron Rodgers' ”
But here’s another old headline, one that with every Griffin news conference and coach’s compliment this preseason seems to align more with a new reality:
— ESPN, September 2016: “Robert Griffin III voted a team captain by Browns teammates”
When the Ravens announced in early April that they’d signed Griffin, and coach John Harbaugh said of the former Heisman Trophy winner, “I believe our players are going to love the fact that he’s here; they like him as a person,” it was hard not to write off the praise as coachspeak.
Then you look at Griffin’s presser Tuesday and wonder why you ever doubted the endorsement.
Griffin has known Buck Allen as long as he has known most other teammates, which is to say, not very long. But there was the running back on Tuesday, throwing himself into the media scrum and breaking from the string of questions about the stakes of Thursday’s opener to instead ask about the quarterback’s choice in socks. (More on other socks later.)
It was a moment to remember, if only because there might not be many more news conferences for Griffin to win as convincingly as he did Tuesday. The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their regular-season roster since 2009, and rookie Lamar Jackson, even if he doesn’t start Thursday, is as untouchable as Joe Flacco.
So Griffin, out of the NFL entirely last season, can be counted on to at least take joy in this career renewal. And to acknowledge the importance of having his wife and baby daughter at practice. And to treat Jackson like a little brother, not an overbearing parent. He doesn’t have to be the old, electric Griffin — he probably never will be again — if he can be a presence teammates respect.
“What those guys in there [the locker room] think about me is more important than what anybody on the outside thinks. What my wife and daughters think about me is more important to me than what anybody else,” Griffin said Tuesday. “And I’ve learned that through the course of my career. You can hear the noise, but you have to block it out.
“So I think I’ve done a better job of that. I can hear it. Things are going to be said, people are going to doubt you, but you have to go out and perform and play to the best of your ability. So really, I’m just excited to go play football.”
Veteran starters are afforded certain privileges in training camp. Most get to ease into practice, others might skip a preseason game or two, and a rare few get to ride to the field in style.
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon might have taken his entitlements too far, though. Tuesday morning, he started singing loudly and proudly in the team’s warm-up lines.
“John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” he belted out in the familiar singsong cadence, infecting everyone within 10 yards, reporters included, with a nagging earworm. Their pain is my pain, too.
Just like Kanye?
Initially, this space was reserved for remarks on safety Eric Weddle’s seeming embrace of “dad style” at practice Tuesday. On a shorts-and-shells day at camp, he wore his usual top — a Ravens jersey over a hooded sweatshirt — and some comfortable-looking sweatpants. But these sweatpants were — and here’s where your stomach might turn — tucked into his calf-length socks.
I should’ve known better. In a half-hearted attempt at research, I discovered that no less a fashion authority than Kanye West himself once donned a similar sweats-and-socks look. (So did Shia LaBeouf, but then again, he also did this.)
In conclusion: Weddle the fashionista remains as ageless as Weddle the safety.