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Redskins defend Griffin’s leadership

Robert Griffin III

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of an NFL football game in Philadelphia, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/The News-Journal, Andre L. Smith) NO SALES ORG XMIT: DEWIL108

ASHBURN — The Washington Redskins’ training camp took an abrupt turn when Robert Griffin III expressed opinions that were perceived to be critical of coach Mike Shanahan.

Now midway through the regular season, it’s time for an encore.

This time, receiver Santana Moss is involved after saying in a radio interview that Griffin needed to take more responsibility for the team’s fate.

All parties downplayed the rift on Wednesday, citing Washington’s 3-7 record as the problem.

“We don’t have any problems with the guys in our locker room,” Shanahan said. “I think everybody’s expressing themselves differently. In what may be perceived as something that might be a little bit negative, I can guarantee you it’s not. We’ve got great character, and some people express their opinions in different ways than other people do.”

Griffin’s teammates also stood up for his leadership ability, saying that it’s a lot of noise made from outside the locker room.

“I don’t know if people appreciate how great this kid is,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “He was asked to be the savior of a franchise that hadn’t had a franchise quarterback in 20-some-odd years. He came in after the team gave up all the draft picks. He handled those expectations, and exceeded those.

“He carried himself in a manner that it’s very rare for young guys to do. The guy has great, tremendous leadership qualities. He has intangibles that you can’t coach.”

Griffin drew criticism for his postgame comments in Philadelphia when he said the Eagles seemed to know what plays were coming.

He said Wednesday he was trying to compliment the Eagles, adding that in the future, he will work to watch his words after games, particularly after losses.

“If I could take any of that back, yeah I would take it back, because in the heat of that moment you’re frustrated,” he said. “At the end of the day, I talked to London and those guys, and they knew what I was trying to say. Maybe I can say ‘I’ or ‘me’ a lot more, but people can take that the wrong way, too.”

Moss made waves on Tuesday night when he suggested during a radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan in Washington that Griffin needed to take more responsibility.

“Whether you’re the receiver, the quarterback, the guy making the tackle, whoever, regardless of the outcome, good or bad, you have to, at some point, stand up and say ‘me’ or ‘I,’” Moss said.

Moss, a 13-year veteran, clarified on Wednesday that he wanted Griffin to stay away from situations that could create locker room drama.

“Don’t allow yourself to be put in a situation that causes us to go through what we’re going through,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t meant that way, don’t allow yourself to be put in that situation. Say something that, even if you feel it, don’t even say it. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of ways to go around it, and still give (reporters) what they want.”

Fletcher, another veteran player, agreed. He said part of being an NFL player is shouldering the burden when things don’t go well.

“From a defensive standpoint, if maybe we’re in a defense that I think may not be the best call, I may have recognized it, and maybe I can check us out of it,” Fletcher said.

Even Shanahan, who was the perceived target of the initial statement, said Griffin intended no harm but would learn from the incident.

The Redskins are always in the spotlight, and ESPN devoted a sizable chunk of its programming time to the quotes on Wednesday.

“It’s a growing experience. It’s not easy,” Shanahan said. “I think it’s the toughest position to play in all of sports. Usually Robert is dead on with everything. It comes very natural to him. What doesn’t come natural, to anybody, is going through the trials and tribulations you go through after winning and losing. It’s tough. You’ve got to fight through it, and you learn from it.”

A common theme among players was the media working to create rifts inside the team, which they said they wouldn’t permit.

Fullback Darrel Young said Griffin shows leadership in the locker room on a daily basis, regardless of how he’s portrayed elsewhere.

“I think he holds himself accountable to us,” Young said. “To you guys? It doesn’t matter what he thinks. It’s 53 individuals in this locker room that really ride on his back, and he’s been the man since he’s been here. We know that.”

Fletcher also dismissed outside perspectives. He said the team has twice voted Griffin captain, which indicates how they feel about him.

mphillips@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6546 @michaelpRTD