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Reflections on RG3: What it was like covering the hype from his hometown to the NFL Draft

Reflections on RG3: What it was like covering the hype from his hometown to the NFL Draft

Thursday night the Redskins hold the second overall selection in the NFL Draft. The last time Washington held that pick was eight years ago when the team famously traded to land Robert Griffin III. Below is part of a series of reflections on RG3's rookie year. JP Finlay wrote on Monday on the night Washington traded with the Rams to get the second spot. Next up, Mitch Tischler on what it was like being embedded with the young quarterback for an early series of interviews leading up to and after he was drafted.

Bouncing down a dusty road in the heart of Cowboys country, it was surprising to see a Redskins banner flying high. That has always been one of my enduring memories leading up to the drafting of Robert Griffin III. 
 
Two days before Griffin’s Pro Day on March 21, 2012, our crew landed in Dallas after a massive thunderstorm re-routed our scheduled flight to San Antonio. Two hours north, two hours south, it didn’t matter. The expectation was the same. We were headed to Robert’s hometown right in the middle, Copperas Cove, where we’d spend some time before driving to Waco for an exclusive interview with Griffin III and to cover his showcase at Baylor 
 
The airline, which I guess should remain anonymous, not only dropped us in the wrong city but lost our luggage, too. We had to rent a car and get a hotel room in Dallas. The trip might have started off a zoo, but the excitement surrounding it was off the charts.
 
Between the time the trade was announced on March 9 and the Redskins drafting RGIII on April 26 was a pretty wild time for DC sports. I had just come back from the Nationals’ spring training in Viera, Fla., where Bryce Harper was prepping for his first season in the big leagues. The Capitals were wrapping up their fifth consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. And yet a kid from small-town Texas was leading every sportscast and talk radio show.
 
Driving into Copperas Cove we stopped and had breakfast at a sleepy diner. Once seated, our waitress – in the most perfect Texas drawl - started eagerly telling us about how great RGIII was. Turns out, we didn’t find a single person who had anything but glowing things to say about their native son. They say everything’s bigger in Texas. Well, the effusiveness with which he was talked about lived up to the hype. 
 
Jack Welch, the head football coach at Copperas Cove High, took us on a tour of the school. What stood out to me the most about it wasn’t all of the athletic accomplishments, but the impact Griffin III had on everyone from Welch to the school secretary. The tour didn’t stop there. We drove down to the house Robert grew up in and traced the route that his father, Robert Griffin, Jr., had Robert train, running, flipping tires. To say it was quintessential Texas is an understatement.
 
On to Waco where, as had become the norm, excitement reigned whenever folks asked us what brought us to town and we gave the answer. Stepping onto Baylor’s campus, we talked with then-coach Art Briles, who told us in no uncertain terms that we would love the man Robert Griffin III far more than the player. That was saying a lot for someone who had won the Heisman Trophy three months earlier. Then came our time with Robert. With a hearty handshake and the flash of his million-dollar smile, you just knew he was going to take D.C. by storm.
 
Griffin’s Pro Day was electric, but for all the camera flashes and buzz it was one fleeting, flirting moment that stuck out. After finishing his workout with a 65-yard bomb and a hand-grenade endzone celebration, Griffin playfully jabbed at a ball then-Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was holding. In that moment, regardless of how history was later rewritten, you could tell there was legitimate excitement from the head coach and the quarterback. 
 
As an aside, after the trade was made our Redskins crew at the time had an RGIII “swear jar” where every time you referred to him by that nickname, you had to put a buck in the pot. Thank god that was eight years ago, because this blog post alone would have cost me a small fortune back then.
 
Fast forward to draft week in New York, multiple NFL events featuring 20-plus first-round prospects and current players, and no one stood taller than Robert. Crowds followed him wherever he went: At the NFL’s Play 60 event, security tried to hold back kids attempting to get near him, but Griffin stopped and signed autographs for every one of them. He embraced his celebrity in the best possible way.

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While all of this was happening during draft week, the Caps were in Game 7 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins. The night before the draft, one prominent D.C. sports media personality took upon himself to jump up on a table at a bar to lead a “C-A-P-S!” chant after Joel Ward netted the series-winning goal in overtime. What this has to do with RGIII, I’m not entirely sure. But it was a crazy night and a crazy week in New York. 
 
Come draft day all eyes were on the soon-to-be Redskins QB…and his socks. With Andrew Luck parading down the red carpet, RGIII stepped out of his town car. All eyes, cameras and attention turned toward him. With a sly wink, he lifted his pant leg teasing burgundy and gold socks. 
 
It’s amazing that something seemingly so mundane became the buzz of NFL Draft Twitter. Bigger than that was his recognition of the moment as he caught up with Luck and posed with the presumed No. 1 pick. Griffin’s enormous personality enveloped those around him. He even got the straight-laced Luck to ham it up for the cameras.  
 
The pick came and went and though he couldn’t quite get his new Redskins hat to fit over his signature plaits, Griffin’s thousand-watt smile projected across Radio City Music Hall. In a back room, we waited for our post-draft interview. Redskins senior vice president of communications, Tony Wyllie - you probably know him as the “No means no” guy - brought Robert to us amidst a throng of reporters. When I say throng, I mean literally hundreds of reporters and cameramen from all over the world were waiting for their chance to talk with RGIII. 
 
With the hoard at my back, we had our own five minutes with the newest Redskins star and in my not-so-proudest work moment, my camera battery died mid-interview. God bless him, RGIII waited for me to change batteries, didn’t miss a beat and finished the interview. 
 
Back to D.C. we went and to the team draft-day party, which felt like a coronation long in the making. Despite the rain, FedEx Field was rocking and Griffin III took the stage in front of raucous fans chanting “R-G-III!” over and over.  He couldn’t have loved the moment more, goading the fans to be louder. Then he took the mic and led everyone in singing Hail to the Redskins.
 
From there the love affair between Robert Griffin III and Washington, D.C. was on.

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Packers won't have fans for 1st two home games

Packers won't have fans for 1st two home games

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers say they won't have any fans for at least their first two home games this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Lambeau Field will not be the same without our fans' energetic support in the stands," Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. "Given the extraordinary circumstances this year and the additional protocols in place, though, we determined it was best to take incremental steps to start the regular season. These two games will allow us to focus our attention on safely conducting games inside the stadium with all necessary participants."

That means there won't be any spectators for their Sept. 20 game with the Detroit Lions and their Oct. 5 Monday night game with the Atlanta Falcons.

Green Bay's third home game is Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. Packers officials say any decision on whether to admit fans for that game would depend on the status of the pandemic, and that they'd consult with local health officials.

This announcement comes two weeks after Packers CEO Mark Murphy had said that any Packers home games this year would include no more than 10,000-12,000 spectators, if any fans were allowed at all.

All other public areas at Lambeau Field, including parking lots, the pro shop and the Packers Hall of Fame, will be closed during the home games that have no fans. The Titletown area surrounding Lambeau Field will remain open to the public, but no team-run, game-day activities will be planned.

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Radio host Kevin Sheehan says it would be 'major indictment on Dwayne Haskins' if he doesn't start Week 1

Radio host Kevin Sheehan says it would be 'major indictment on Dwayne Haskins' if he doesn't start Week 1

As the Washington Football Team continues to ramp things up in training camp, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to officially name the team's starting quarterback.

However, for Team 980 radio host Kevin Sheehan, there's only one direction the team should go at the position.

"If he doesn't start September 13th against the Eagles, it's a major indictment on Dwayne Haskins," Sheehan said Thursday on Washington Talk & Friends.

In the QB room, there's Haskins, a first-round pick from a year ago that many expect to be the eventual starter. But Washington did trade this offseason for Kyle Allen, who has spent the past two seasons under Rivera and Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Carolina.

Earlier this offseason, Rivera said that if there was no normal offseason program due to the coronavirus pandemic, Allen would have a "leg up" on Haskins entering camp. 

Despite all that has transpired the past several months, Sheehan doesn't want the odd, pandemic-riddled offseason to be an excuse as to why Haskins shouldn't be the team's Week 1 starter.

"I don't care what anybody says about the offseason, minicamps and OTAs missing and Kyle Allen getting traded for, [Haskins] has got to be the guy," Sheehan said. 

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Earlier this week, Rivera praised Haskins for how he's handled everything this offseason. He commended the passer for how much of the playbook he's already mastered, albeit that being less than three-quarters of it.

Rivera's ultimate decision for who the team's starter will be isn't just between Haskins and Allen. Besides those two young signal-callers, there's also another QB in the mix: veteran Alex Smith. The 35-year-old is currently on the active PUP list, but has been cleared by his personal doctors to return to football activities.

Smith's journey is remarkable. After nearly losing his leg (and maybe his life) from infections that occurred as a result of the gruesome leg injury he suffered in November of 2018, Smith has worked incredibly hard to return to football. 

Even if Smith does get the clearance from Washington team doctors, Sheehan doesn't envision a scenario where the quarterback takes a meaningful snap for Washington.

"I don't see Alex Smith taking anything other than, if he takes a snap on an NFL field, it'll be ceremonial," Sheehan said. "That's what I'm hoping for, too, but I hope he gets back to where he's cleared and then decides not to play."

RELATED: DOES ALEX SMITH MAKE SENSE AS WASHINGTON'S QUARANTINE QB?

When asked why he thinks Rivera has not come out and named Haskins the starter already, Sheehan explained that the second-year passer may benefit from believing he's in a competition.

On his radio show, Sheehan spoke to former Washington cornerback Shawn Springs, who happens to be one of Haskins' biggest mentors. Springs explained to him that Haskins may benefit from not being given the title of QB1 just yet.

"[Springs] really thinks that it's better if Dwayne perceives he's in a competition," Sheehan said. "Maybe Ron recognizes that, too."

While Haskins may not be the starter just yet, plenty of signs point towards the second-year passer being Washington's Week 1 starting quarterback. And that's exactly why Sheehan and many others in the D.C. area believe he is the best direction for the team to go.

"I think he's fearless," Sheehan said of Haskins. "This thing is not above him, it's not too much for him."

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