ASHBURN, Va. – The power is so great the Washington Redskins don't describe their prodigy's throwing as a verb but rather a noun.
"The Arm," they say. And every conversation about Robert Griffin III includes some mention of "The Arm" because those players who have experienced it don't appear to have seen something quite like "The Arm" before.
They try to describe it, putting into words the strength that awes them. And as they do, the stories get larger and seemingly more preposterous, except that the men don't smile when they tell them. They say "The Arm" is real, even if their attempts to make it come to life sound ridiculous.
"It's more of running to your left and flicking your wrist and throwing the ball 70 yards," Washington's backup quarterback Rex Grossman said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Then he shook his head.
"His arm almost comes off like a whip," Grossman added, holding his own hand above his head, then flinging it forward about a foot in a vain attempt to demonstrate the way Griffin throws.
It looks a lot like the way Michael Vick throws, Grossman finally said. Perhaps nobody in the NFL throws the ball harder with seemingly less effort than Vick. Except maybe now, RG III.
The Redskins have been practicing together for barely more than a week, hardly time to learn much about a player. And these OTAs aren't considered real practices. Yes, the coaches yell and the players run plays, but the urgency of training camp and the regular season is missing. Nobody hits. Nobody tackles. There is no pass rush. Really, these workouts are glorified walk-throughs designed to teach players the offense and keep them under team supervision for as much of the spring as possible.
So fully assessing Griffin is impossible. A better understanding will come with the games, when the defenses surge forward and opposing tacklers find him in the open field. Still, since the OTAs are the closest things to real practices, impressions are made. Abilities are dissected. Understandings come. And when the Redskins players found themselves facing the man around whom the franchise is going to be built, one thing surprised them most... "The Arm."
Maybe because so many of the college highlights everyone has seen of Griffin show him darting past tacklers, embedding a thought that he is more of a running quarterback than a passer. It's easy to think this, especially when the story is told again and again about how he was once an elite hurdler, so fast he went to the 2008 Olympic trials as a teenager.
But ever since Griffin injured a knee his second year at Baylor, he has worked to make himself a quarterback who passes first and runs second. Back when the surgeon's stitches were still fresh and he could barely walk, Griffin's father, Robert II, had him sit on a stool in the parking lot behind Baylor's basketball arena and fire passes for hours, slowly building a motion that barely relies on anything but the strength of his wrist.
The result is what the Redskins have seen in the past few days as their new quarterback has dazzled them with throws that shoot down the field like rockets.
Tight end Logan Paulsen said RG III's passes come on a straight line without any deviation up or down. Normally a quarterback's throw – even a short one – has an arc. Griffin's throws come so hard they don't have time to rise or fall. "It takes some getting used to," Paulsen said.
Kirk Cousins, the quarterback the Redskins drafted three rounds after they took Griffin, marvels at RG III's accuracy. Cousins has seen plenty of passers who can throw hard. He has also seen a lot who can throw long. But to throw the ball three quarters of the length of the field and have it land right where you want it?
This, Cousins had never seen. "He can put the ball into tight windows," he said.
It is, of course, spring. But already the Redskins can see in their new star quarterback something that will make them different.
Like running to the left and firing the ball 70 yards.
"There are a lot of plays in our offense where you boot[leg] and run to the left and the receivers cross downfield," Grossman said, explaining that firing the ball 70 yards while running to the left could be a necessary skill for the Redskins offense.
"He's going to make some impressive plays," Grossman continued. "Not just runs, he's going to make some big plays when everything breaks down." Which is what you can do when you have "The Arm" like no one has ever seen.