Griffin tries to downplay winner-take-all against Cowboys

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Associated Press
12/26/2012 7:32:14 PM
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Compare what was said Wednesday by Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan. One sounds like a stereotypical coach. The other could be mistaken for an overeager player.

A case of role reversal hit the Washington Redskins on Wednesday. The rookie quarterback downplayed Sunday's winner-take-all game against the Dallas Cowboys with one-game-at-a-time-type answers, while the veteran hard-nosed coach was the one whose words could be featured on a banner to promote a game that will decide the NFC East.

"It's the biggest stage, but none of us are looking at it that way," Griffin said. "It's another game we have to go out and win, and that's the way we look at it. Every moment in your life is the biggest one at that time, so we look forward to having many more of these, but we've got to make sure we take care of this one."

Griffin, elected a team captain at midseason, said he'll give his teammates that same even-keel message.

"Basketball, the big game, track, the finals, whatever it is, whenever you play the moment up too much it can become too big to seize the moment," said Griffin, whose big moments include winning a bowl game and the Heisman Trophy while at Baylor. "So you just want to make sure you don't make something so big that you can't grab ahold of it."

After Griffin left the room, along came Shanahan, who is looking to end a personal playoff drought. The coach won two Super Bowls with John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the 1990s but lost make-or-break games in the final weeks of the 2006 and 2008 seasons. He hasn't been to the post-season since 2005.

"These are the games you'll remember for the rest of your life. Win or go home," Shanahan said. "I don't care what playoff game, when I look back as an assistant or as a head coach, you go back and you think about the great experiences you had or the bad memories you have.

"You want to take advantage of these opportunities when they exist. They don't come around every day. And when they do come around, you want to make sure that you play your best and you prepare yourself the best possible way.

"And you tell that guys that this is not just a normal game. You've got to make sure the attention to detail's there. You can't make mistakes. The concentration level's got to be there."

Stay medium? Or get pumped? Think of it like any other game? Or treat it as special?

Or somehow do both?

With all due respect to Griffin -- who has deservedly won praise all season for having poise beyond his years -- the coach probably comes closer to reflecting the attitude in the locker room.

After all, the Redskins haven't been to the playoffs since 2007, and they haven't won a division title since 1999.

"This has only happened to me once before, where if you win that final game, you've got a playoff spot," left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.

"It's a special feeling, and when you go a lot of seasons in a row without really playing for anything meaningful in December, it's quite a change. ... We're going to be hyped up. I don't think there's any way around that."

The Cowboys-Redskins game has been moved to Sunday night and will mark the end of the regular season. It's possible that Washington (9-6) could lose and still get a wild card berth, but only if the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings both lose earlier in the day.

There was one point on which Shanahan and Griffin agreed: These are the types of games that can make a career.

"At the end of the day, everybody is compared to winning championships, if you like it or not," Shanahan said. "Is it fair all the time? Probably not. But how you're going to be judged or ranked is how you play in those games. They define you, sometimes."

Griffin has already shown he can handle high-profile games, winning his NFL debut, his Monday night debut and his Thanksgiving debut. He ranks either first or second in the league in passer rating, yards-per-attempt and interception percentage.

He said he'll be able to do more physically against the Cowboys after his sprained right knee prompted coaches to limit the game plan in a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Nothing's definite in the league with how you're going to be judged," Griffin said. "But if you play big in the big stages, people tend to write good things about you, so we all want to play well on the big stage."

While Shanahan's words could be used to market the game, Griffin didn't miss a chance to market himself. He was asked about a $10,000 fine, which he is appealing, levied recently by the NFL for wearing attire from his personal sponsor Adidas instead of league sponsor Nike at a postgame news conference.

"I understand the principle of that. And I respect that," Griffin said. "That why I haven't really worn that much Adidas at all."

"Three stripes," he added with a smile, a reference to the Adidas logo. "That's all I can say about that. Name-dropping all up in here."

Notes: WR Dezmon Briscoe did not practice Wednesday after missing his flight back from the Christmas break. "That'll cost a little cash," Shanahan said. ... RT Tyler Polumbus (concussion) and LB London Fletcher (sprained left ankle) did not practice, while CB DeJon Gomes (sprained left knee) was limited. ... The Redskins' new bubble paid off Wednesday when a winter storm forced the team inside for practice. A year ago, the players would have piled into cars to drive to a gym or an airport hangar.

Robert Griffin III (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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