By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — Robert Griffin III is getting a chance to revive a career that once seemed unstoppable.
One of the NFL’s brightest and flashiest stars just a few years ago, Griffin signed a two-year contract Thursday with the Cleveland Browns, a franchise on a perpetual mission to find a quarterback. Financial terms were not immediately available.
Griffin hasn’t been the same since his dazzling rookie season in Washington in 2012, when RG3 — possessed with a rocket arm, a tailback’s speed and endless swagger — burst onto pro football’s stage. The Browns, who tried to trade up and select Griffin four years ago, believe he can still lead on and off the field and they’re giving him a chance to revive his career and win their starting job.
“I’m just excited to come in and compete,” Griffin said. “Nothing’s ever been given to me in my life, so I just want to go out and compete with the guys and grow with this team. I feel like that’s all I’m really focused on. I cherish the opportunity to get another chance to play this beautiful game.”
Griffin met last week with new Browns coach Hue Jackson, who was impressed by the 26-year-old’s candor and eagerness to begin anew.
“He brings starting experience to our team and organization,” Jackson said. “He’s a young, athletic, talented passer and he’s really just starting out in this league. Just like every player on our team, Robert will have to earn every opportunity he gets. He will compete with the rest of the quarterbacks on our roster and he helps improve our QB room, which was one of my goals upon taking the job.”
Cleveland has started 24 quarterbacks since 1999 and the team is expected to take one with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. That rookie — possibly California’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz — will compete with Griffin, the second selection in 2012. Jackson and other members of the Browns attended Wentz’s pro day Thursday in North Dakota.
The Browns recently released troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel, who they once thought would solve their problems. They also have quarterbacks Josh McCown and Austin Davis on their roster, but as is always the case with that position in Cleveland, nothing stands still.
After winning the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, Griffin was taken in the draft just after Andrew Luck was plucked by the Indianapolis Colts. The Browns attempted to swing a deal to move up and get him but were outbid by the Redskins.
Griffin took the nation’s capital by storm. He led the Redskins to the NFC East title and was named the league’s top offensive rookie. It didn’t take him long to become one of American’s most celebrated athletes and there seemed no limit to what he could accomplish. Griffin, however, sustained a significant right knee injury in a playoff game against Seattle and things would never be the same.
The indelible image of Griffin lying face down on the turf is one that will haunt Redskins fans for years. In a way, it symbolized what might have been.
Griffin underwent reconstructive surgery, but there was little he could do to fix a fractured relationship with then-Washington coach Mike Shanahan. Griffin wound up being benched at the end of his second season, and he missed a big chunk in his third year after dislocating his ankle.
Last year, coach Jay Gruden named Griffin his starter during preseason, but then came a concussion. Griffin lost his job and spent the season behind Kirk Cousins. He was eventually demoted to third-string behind Colt McCoy.
When the Redskins placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Cousins last month for $20 million, Griffin, who went 14-21 with 40 touchdown passes as a starter, was let go with little fanfare.
In search of a team, he and the Browns will try to restore each other.