ASHBURN, Va. – Rex Grossman created quite the stir last week, and all he did was exude some confidence.
The veteran quarterback went on TV and said he really feels the Washington Redskins are going to win the NFC East. While perhaps an outlandish prospect to some, it was more or less his way of stating the standard win-the-division goal that every team has in training camp.
Nevertheless, the reaction and over-analysis – generating everything from ridicule to kudos – verified once again that there’s no such thing as a low-key Redskins quarterback controversy. The talk became even weightier – literally – when some unflattering photos taken during practice made it appear that Grossman had become a gross man, as in a bit on the heavy side.
Grossman later appeared again on Comcast SportsNet and said he didn’t mean to make such a “bold statement” and that he was just expressing his faith in the team. He also addressed the weight issue, telling ESPN980 that he has to lose “maybe five or six pounds.”
Just another week in the NFL, huh?
“I’ve been here and Chicago,” Grossman said Monday, “so I just think that’s the norm. Any time you’re a quarterback in a tradition-rich franchise with a huge fan base that are passionate about their team, it’s head coach, quarterback, down the line. I fully understand that. And it’s part of the responsibility of the quarterback to handle outside pressures and perform.”
When it came time to perform, Grossman did just fine, completing 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown in the first half against Pittsburgh in Friday’s exhibition opener. The timing and rhythm looked promising, especially this early in the preseason, and it gave him an early advantage in the competition for the starting job over John Beck, who missed the game with a strained groin.
“It’s one thing to think you can do it, but to actually do it in a live game situation, it was nice to see,” Grossman said.
Beck is fully practicing this week, so both quarterbacks should see plenty of playing time Friday at Indianapolis.
Grossman knows the expectations are low, for both himself and the Redskins. He’s started only 11 games since taking the Bears to the Super Bowl five years ago, and he’s dogged by a reputation for committing turnovers. Since the start of the 2006 season, only Derek Anderson and Mark Sanchez have higher interception percentages than Grossman. He’s also lost 12 fumbles over that span, a disproportionately high number considering his amount of playing time.
“Rex can play at times as good as anyone,” said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is starting his third season with Grossman, one in Houston and two in Washington. “Then he can play at times when he gives up the ball too much.”
Grossman threw four interceptions and lost four fumbles in four games for the Redskins last year, including three starts and one relief appearance while Donovan McNabb was benched. He was stellar late in a come-from-behind attempt against Dallas, completing 18 of 30 passes for 214 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in the second half of a 33-30 loss.
“When I’m in a groove I feel like it’s pretty tough to stop this offense,” Grossman said. “That’s my challenge, to be consistently great and not have any lulls. There’s going to be adversity, but (I want to) be really proud of myself after every single game.”
When Grossman was negotiating a new contract after the NFL lockout, he took a one-year deal instead of a longer-term offer because he feels he can get something better if he puts together a good season. It’s a gamble – because he won’t be much in demand at all if Beck wins the job and keeps it.
“I just wanted to give myself an upside – if I play the way I think I can play,” Grossman said. “In the NFL, there are not guaranteed contracts anyway.”