Robert Griffin III walked off the practice field on the final day of mini-camp and into a swarm of reporters and cameras just feet from the back entrance of the Redskins' practice facility. There wasn't anything particularly unique about this moment. NFL starting quarterbacks, meaning the position though at times the person, demand attention.
As 30 or so people circled Griffin, another quarterback, Kirk Cousins made his way up the concrete path connecting the field to the building. His walk slowed and then stopped altogether in front of the remaining small batch of autograph seekers. Cousins dutifully put pen to paper and pigskin for two children and a handful of adults. It's an act the rising fourth-year pro and former Michigan State star performed numerous times over the years, though he couldn't quite remember the first request.
"I think late high school. Once I signed with Michigan State, you had some people who might ask for one," Cousins said. "It's an odd feeling, but I guess [I'm] used to it now."
Cousins and the other quarterbacks are entering their second season in head coach Jay Gruden's offense. The entire point of all the practices and camps and film work and extra sessions throughout the offseason is simple: Get used to Gruden's playbook.
Build up the overall roster, of course, but winning, championship teams typically have high-end quarterbacks. Coming off a 4-12 season, perhaps only those young and excited autograph seekers believe the Redskins have one.
"I think it's been a lot of good development," Cousins said to Breaking Burgundy of the June mini-camp, which served as the final team practice before the start of training camp. That slog or, opportunity begins Thursday in Richmond.
"I think I've gotten a lot better, learned a lot. Continue to feel more and more confident in Coach Gruden's system and I'm excited about what the future holds," he continued. "Just have to keep stacking days on top of each other and be ready to roll (for training camp)."
The lengthy days of training camp include morning walkthroughs and afternoon practices. For the most part, the starters will work with the starters, though a fair amount of mixing and matching occurs. Cousins, for now, is a backup. While he'll throw to deep threat DeSean Jackson or stick a handoff into running back Alfred Morris' gut and take snaps from center Kory Lichtensteiger, those instances will happen occasionally and not with regularity. Griffin is the starter and which means he gets to play with the better toys.
"It doesn't matter who you work with. It's still valuable to go out there and get reps," Cousins said. "That being said, as you get closer to the games, if you're going to be playing, you want to work with the guys who are going to be out there. In camp, you fully expect a revolving door. That's OK, that's part of it. It helps you with whatever could be thrown at you during the season."
Over three NFL seasons, Cousins has started only nine times, including five last season. Good moments, highlight worthy moments occurred in those contests. So did plenty of turnovers and losing. The pocket passer won his first NFL start and technically his last, though it was Colt McCoy finishing off the Tennessee Titans last season in the Week 7 triumph. In between, nothing but L's. Considering the team's 7-25 record over the last two seasons, he's not unique in that regard. All three quarterbacks have their share of knocks.
When his next starting chance comes remains uncertain.. It likely takes a Griffin injury, but even then, Gruden could go with McCoy. Perhaps a struggling Griffin leads the organization to think change, but that won't be a decision made in haste.
Asked if he felt he would have a true shot at winning the starting job during training camp, Cousins responded, "I think it's an opportunity to develop myself as a quarterback. Ultimately, I can only control so much. I'm going to go out there and try and play as well as I can. From there, it's not my job to decide and not my call. That's a question for Coach. It's definitely my job to be the best quarterback I can be and play at a high level."