By JOSEPH WHITE, Associated Press
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Robert Griffin III is vibrant and fun-loving. Mike Shanahan is businesslike and no-nonsense.
Nevertheless, Shanahan thinks they'll get along just fine.
The Washington Redskins coach assured eager fans Wednesday that he will indeed let Robert be Robert when RGIII comes into the fold, starting Thursday night when the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor is selected No. 2 overall in the NFL draft.
Shanahan joked that he won't hold it against Griffin "just because he's got a lot of charisma and I don't."
"He's a natural leader. ... You want guys to lead your football team," Shanahan said. "Everybody's got their own way of doing things. Some guys are a little bit more serious. You've got to be yourself."
Shanahan, playing the role of pragmatic, close-to-the-chest coach to the very end, even tried his best to leave just the slightest doubt that the Redskins might not get Griffin, claiming that there was a "one percent of one percent" chance that the choice will be Andrew Luck instead.
That's not happening, of course. The Indianapolis Colts have said they're taking Luck at No. 1, and the Redskins have invested a lot of time getting to know Griffin.
"He's got everything that we look for," Shanahan said, "and I'm looking forward to working with him."
The Redskins moved into the No. 2 position nearly seven weeks ago by trading three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams.
Shanahan said he will incorporate Griffin's skills into the Redskins offense and anticipates some growing pains along the way. Rex Grossman was re-signed earlier this offseason to be the veteran place-holder in case Griffin isn't ready to start on opening day.
"You just don't want to throw a guy in there right away until he feels comfortable," Shanahan said. "And there's a growing process. It doesn't happen right away. Obviously when you give up a first and second, you want that guy to get in there as quick as possible, but you want to do it at the right time and make sure he's ready."
Shanahan stressed that he doesn't expect Griffin alone to turn the Redskins into an instant winner. Washington went 5-11 last year, its fourth consecutive last-place finish in the NFC East.
"When you take a look at the young quarterbacks that have been successful in this league, what have they had? Great defense," Shanahan said. "If you come in and don't have great defense and you start as a rookie quarterback, usually you don't see very many teams that are over .500."
The news conference ended a month of media silence for the coach, and he touched on numerous topics:
—Shanahan said he's granted receiver Jabar Gaffney permission to find another team because of the additions of free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.
"I believe I owe it to him to give him a chance to look around the league and check his options," Shanahan said.
—Shanahan said this season he will have "18 or 19" starters that are different from the starting lineup he had when he arrived in Washington two years ago. Doing the math, that leaves linebackers London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and perhaps receiver Santana Moss as the holdovers.
—Shanahan had a glowing report about the status of right tackle Jammal Brown's injured hip. Brown has been hampered for two seasons, leaving to speculation that the Redskins will target the position in the draft.
"Right now I feel better about Jammal Brown than (at any time) since I've been here," Shanahan said.
—Shanahan confirmed the Redskins brought in veteran kicker Neil Rackers to compete with Graham Gano. The coach also is moving Lorenzo Alexander to inside linebacker and Niles Paul to tight end and hopes that tight end Chris Cooley, who is recovering from a knee injury, will be able to go full speed when offseason practices begin next month.
—Shanahan said the $18 million salary cap penalty imposed by the NFL had an impact on the Redskins' offseason, but he said he is not allowed to discuss the issue in detail until it is resolved. The team's appeal of the penalty is scheduled to be heard by an arbitrator on May 10.