In first Ravens start, RG3 receives inspiration from Lamar Jackson

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Moments after what would be Lamar Jackson’s final regular-season action of the year, the Pro Bowl quarterback was asked what Robert Griffin III has meant to the Baltimore Ravens.

“Knowledge,” he said.

What Griffin has received in return has been just as valuable. Griffin is making his first start in three years on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the latest turn in a career that has taken him from the No. 2 overall NFL draft pick in 2012 to being out of football five years later.

Now, Griffin is the Ravens' backup who gets a different vantage point of a fleet-footed quarterback who has taken the NFL by storm.

“The one thing Lamar [Jackson] has done is he's kept me young,” Griffin said. "I'm still young. I'm 29. But watching him go out there and move around the way that he does, it inspires us all to go out and try to move a little bit better.”

The last time Griffin started a game in the NFL was Jan. 1, 2017. It was against the Steelers, as well, but that’s where the similarities end.

At that time, Griffin was quarterbacking a one-win Cleveland Browns team while protecting a broken left shoulder. On Sunday, he is filling in for Jackson because the Ravens (13-2) have won 11 straight games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

"I’m not going to make this game about me. I know everybody wants to," Griffin said. "It’s just a blessing, honestly, for what I’ve been able to come through and come out of. I wouldn’t be here without God, or, honestly, I wouldn’t be here without the Ravens giving me an opportunity last year. I’m not looking at that stuff.”

Like Jackson, Griffin grabbed the attention of the league when he entered the NFL in 2012 with his ability to beat teams with his arm and legs. As a rookie with the Washington Redskins, Griffin was named NFC offensive rookie of the year and reached the Pro Bowl. By the end 2013, he had run for the most yards by a quarterback in his first two seasons (1,304).

Injuries and inconsistent play led to his bouncing from Washington to Cleveland. He was out of football in 2017, throwing passes to receivers at UCF to keep sharp.

The Ravens signed him after a workout in 2018 and then re-signed him to a two-year, $4 million contract this offseason.

“Obviously, any quarterback in my position is going to want to get back in the league and be starting right away, so I don't think in that sense it was ideal,” Griffin said. "But because that was the hand that I was dealt, and I knew that coming here, it was an ideal situation. Because I came to an organization that has an identity, takes care of their players and allows you to be yourself. And I think that's something that I was fighting a lot in previous stops.”

Griffin has finished out the fourth quarter in five blowout victories this season and has been part of the “Heisman Package,” in which Baltimore lines up three winners of college football’s top award (Griffin, Jackson and running back Mark Ingram) in the same backfield. He has completed 12 of 17 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

On Sunday, he’ll get the most extensive playing time in his two seasons with the Ravens. Teammates are excited to see what Griffin can do with a full week of preparation.

"He's RG3, you can't forget about that,” Jackson said. “He's set his own records before. ... I already know what gonna happen: He's going to turn up.”

Griffin understands the challenge facing him, calling the Steelers “That Dude Defense” because “they have that dude and that dude and that dude and that dude.” Pittsburgh ranks No. 4 in the league in fewest points (18.3) and yards (304.1) allowed per game.

The Steelers are also a motivated team. Pittsburgh (8-7) can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Sunday but also needs the Tennessee Titans to lose to the Houston Texans. The Steelers also can make it with a loss but would need help from several teams in those scenarios.

"We know that they need it,” Griffin said. "I know everyone thinks that we don’t, but the guys in that locker room feel differently.”