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Browns QB Robert Griffin III becoming the leader coach Hue Jackson desires

BEREA -- The perception of Robert Griffin III preceded the player to Cleveland.

BEREA — The perception of Robert Griffin III preceded the player to Cleveland.
After a Heisman Trophy, No. 2 selection in the draft and four years of headlines in Washington, Griffin had become one of the most famous players in the NFL. He was among the first guys ESPN turned to when it needed to fill an hour or four.
After a historic rookie season, his performance slipped, the coverage grew negative and his reputation changed. By the time he was released by Washington — after not taking a snap in 2015 — plenty of unflattering adjectives had been used to describe the quarterback: narcissistic, selfish, insincere, immature.
So Griffin had a significant hurdle to climb that had nothing to do with his ability to read a defense, stay healthy or throw on time from the pocket. He needed to show his new teammates RG3 wasn’t all about me.
“When you come into a new locker room a new team, a new organization and a new coach, everybody wants to see what you do and how you respond,” Griffin said Tuesday. “What I try to do is go in and work hard, show up every day and prove it to them that they can trust me.”
It’s early August — the Browns haven’t made it to the preseason, let alone gone through a losing streak in the regular season — but the reviews have been positive.
Griffin, who’s expected to be named the starter next week sometime, acted like “the guy” soon after he signed a two-year, $15 million deal in March. He immediately called some of his teammates to establish a connection before they gathered in April for the offseason program.
His mission to lead, while fitting in, continues.
“He has to be able to uplift his teammates and have his teammates come follow him and he’s improved by leaps and bounds,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s growing. He’s getting better and a lot of him getting better has to do with (veteran backup) Josh McCown.”
Left tackle Thomas has been through too many quarterbacks to keep track. Most recently he was burned by Johnny Manziel, the next great hope who was never in the building or on the field long enough to lead.
Thomas likes what he’s seen of Griffin.
“He’s a natural leader and I think that’s what you need from an intangibles standpoint,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Everyone knows how talented he is as an athlete and throwing the ball and I think the one thing that maybe guys didn’t know about that have been really impressed with him so far is his work ethic, his intelligence, the way he prepares and he studies just like the great quarterbacks in the game right now.
“You put all those things together and you put a guy like Hue Jackson in his corner and I think he can have an excellent season.”
Cornerback Joe Haden, also a respected veteran, shares the enthusiasm.
“He wants to be part of a team,” Haden said of Griffin. “He wants to build relationships with all of the players. He goes out of his way to set up different bowling things, and he just wants team camaraderie.
“I could just tell he’s a team-first guy, and that’s what I really, really love about him. His work ethic and everything he does, he’s just showing that he’s grinding because we’re all in it together.”
Haden said he didn’t know what to expect with the arrival of Griffin.
“I’m going to go up to you. I’m going to talk to you. I’m going to see how you are, try to see what kind of person you are,” Haden said. “And he’s like me, just a happy-go-lucky dude that wants to work and wants to play and wants to win. That’s the best-case scenario for us.”
Griffin has taken all the first-team repetitions since training camp opened Friday and seems the inevitable choice to start the regular season. Jackson said Tuesday he’s “getting close” to officially naming a starter, but Griffin said he isn’t sweating the timing.
“You just have to focus on what you can control,” he said. “There’s no eagerness to it, you come out every day with the same mindset to get better, continue to prove yourself out here on the field every day.”
Griffin’s inconsistency from the offseason program carried over to training camp. He’ll make a few nice intermediate throws, then miss badly on a couple of short ones.
He had perhaps his best stretch of practice Tuesday after the siren blew to signal a tackling period. He went 3-for-4 and marched the offense to a touchdown, on a catch-and-run by rookie receiver Corey Coleman.
Part of the reason for the struggles could be the quick and heavy installation of Jackson’s complex offense. He plans to have the entire playbook put in in the first week.
“It’s like we’re at the airport directing traffic, getting guys to line up in the right spots, but I think the hustle and effort is always there,” Griffin said.
When Griffin signed he didn’t go to the tape to watch his teammates. He said he looked at the roster but didn’t want preconceived notions and preferred to judge guys by practicing with them.
After four months, Griffin sees a lot of upside for the offense, including receivers Coleman, Josh Gordon and Terrelle Pryor, Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge and running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.
“Potential to be great,” Griffin said. “I think all 32 teams right now look at their roster and say, ‘Man, we’ve got them.’ It’s about the ones who grow together the best, come through training camp and get the best out of their season and become gritty, win close games, when it’s winning time, do the right things.
“It’s real exciting to see our roster. It’s my job to get them the ball and I promise you I’m going to do my best.”
His teammates say they believe him.
“I’ve had a chance to grow close with Robert, and get to know him personally and his family,” outside linebacker Nate Orchard said. “And to see him and where he’s at now, and the swag he’s got, it’s fun, because that’s what you want in a quarterback.
“You want him to be out there loose and enjoying himself, controlling that offense and you can see everyone gravitates towards him and they trust him and know he’s going to do good things for us.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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