BY JOSEPH WHITE, AP SPORTS WRITER
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Asked if it really matters whether he’s liked by his teammates, Robert Griffin III had the classic turn-the-tables response.
“Do you like everybody you work with?” he responded to the reporter.
The Washington Redskins quarterback went on to say that winning is “really not even about that,” that it’s more about other topics that several veterans have stressed, such as: “We can’t let anybody try to tear us apart from the outside in.”
Griffin conceded Wednesday that there were “a few out of the group” of his teammates who might have not been in favor of his regaining the starting quarterback job two weeks ago after Colt McCoy led back-to-back victories.
Those few were the target of a brief unity speech delivered by usually quiet receiver DeSean Jackson last week before the team split up for a bye week vacation.
“Who those guys are, we don’t really care,” Griffin said. “The thing that he stressed and the thing that we are stressing is that we’re focused on winning.”
All the talk about unity and leadership in the locker room is the sort of thing that comes with a 3-6 record, which is now an annual occurrence in Washington.
Or, as fullback Darrel Young put it this week: “If we win, there’s no talk about leadership. End of conversation.”
Joining in that chorus on Wednesday was a leadership voice that has been mostly quiet this season.
Nine-year veteran nose tackle Barry Cofield is back on the active roster after spending eight weeks recovering from a severe ankle sprain and groin surgery while on short-term injured reserve. He said he’s kept a public silence because it’s hard to set an example while standing on the sideline.
“From a leadership perspective, I just want to lead by example,” Cofield said. “I’m just going to be honest – I feel it can be overstated.
“I’m kind of on DY’s level: When you’re winning, no one worries about it. No asks you who are the leaders. … Maybe the difference between the team that wins and loses the Super Bowl is a great leader that just brings something to the table, but the difference between being 3-6 and the playoffs is not speeches. It’s not having somebody to look at that you consider a leader. It’s really about individuals doing their job better, so we need to start there.”
For what it’s worth, Griffin said he feels the Redskins are “getting closer as a family.”
“I don’t know everything, that’s for dang sure, but I do know a little thing about changing the culture,” Griffin said. “And it takes everybody from the top down. The players have to be willing, and I think we’ve got guys in that locker room that are willing.”
Coach Jay Gruden echoed the sentiment, saying the media coverage of the team’s leadership issues has, if anything, strengthened some bonds.
“I think since it came to light with y’all saying that we weren’t a unified locker room, (that) we didn’t have leaders, I think it kind of maybe made people think about it and realize we’re OK – maybe,” he said, adding a chuckle.
“I think that’s the case. I think there’s some guys that are more willing now to step out of their shadow and maybe speak up a little bit more than maybe they would’ve. … We don’t have any leadership problems in my book, and the locker room’s been united as far as I can tell.”
Gruden has said in the past that Griffin can try too hard to be liked and can be sensitive to outside criticism, but the coach said Wednesday the QB is handling himself well.
“I just think that people can chip away at you if you continue to read everything written about you and listen to everything that’s said about you on television,” Gruden said.
“He’s a human, it can wear on you. I think really for a young kid that’s been through as much as he has, both good and bad, already at age 24, he’s shown the fact that he is a thick-skinned guy.”
“I don’t think anybody is liked by everybody. Heck, I’m not liked by everybody. I might be,” the coach said with a laugh. “But it’s not about being liked. It’s about performing at a consistent high level.”