Four months after he was named Washington's starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III just has to wait a few more days until he plays a game that matters for the Redskins.
"I'm excited about it," Griffin said. "Everyone's working knowing that this game's gonna count. You try not to get too antsy. Coach (Mike Shanahan has told me), 'Don't try to go out and prove anything. Just go out and play and have fun.' That's the approach I'm taking, rather than, 'OK. Now it's time to show what I got.'"
Griffin's 31 passes in preseason were easily the fewest of the five rookie starting quarterbacks, a group that includes Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (49), Seattle's Russell Wilson (63), Indianapolis' Andrew Luck (66) and Miami's Ryan Tannehill (78). However, Griffin's 103.3 passer rating was also the highest. None of the others were within 10 points of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
"When you do play a quarterback that's young ... you feel like he's your best option to win in the short term, but also in the long term," said Shanahan, who never started a rookie quarterback in his previous 18 openers as a head coach with the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver and Washington. "You want him to get the experience, you know what (his) top level of play is and you are hoping that (he gets) there very quickly."
Right guard Chris Chester expects that Griffin's Olympic-class speed will ease his transition to the NFL.
"Robert's mobility probably takes a little pressure off us up front," Chester said. "He just has to play the way he's capable of and he'll be fine."
Although he'll be trying to keep pace with Saints record-setting quarterback Drew Brees while debuting in the surely extremely loud Superdome in his parents' hometown, Griffin doesn't plan to get too hyped. He has made a point of staying even-keeled before games ever since he failed to do as a sophomore at Baylor and followed with three consecutive disappointing performances.
"Everybody gets nervous ... but I have to stay calm, make sure you walk in the huddle with confidence so the guys are confident with what you're running," Griffin said. "I know what I got. I know what we have. What I tell the guys is, 'Trust your preparation so that when you step on the field you know you can go out and do it.'"
The coach said that Griffin "hasn't disappointed us" since the Redskins gave St. Louis three first-round draft choices and a second-rounder for the right to move up four spots and draft him second overall.
"He's worked extremely hard so you let him go and let him execute a game plan," Shanahan said.
Which, no matter how gifted an athlete Griffin is, his teammates believe he'll do and should do on Sunday.
"He's just got to be calm, go through the game plan, remember what he's been coached to do and try not to do too much," said cornerback Josh Wilson.