FLOWERY BRANCH — Robert Griffin III pulled a hoodie over his head, tied the string tightly and pushed some glasses onto his face.
Griffin thought he was ready for his trip the shopping mall.
It has been difficult for the wildly popular rookie quarterback to travel around the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia when he’s not throwing passes and running through defenses for the Washington Redskins.
His disguise didn’t even work.
“I think people spotted me, but they didn’t want to blow my cover, so that was nice of them,” the affable Griffin said. “For the most part, I can’t go anywhere without being spotted. But that’s the life that we live as professional athletes and as quarterback of the Washington Redskins.”
Griffin will attempt to stop the franchise’s streak of seven consecutive home losses when the Redskins (2-2) host the undefeated Falcons (4-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
By all accounts, he has captivated the rabid Redskins fan base.
“It’s crazy,” said Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who played for the Falcons from 2004-07. “He’s probably the most popular guy behind President Obama. He’s a rock star. Everywhere we go, he has a huge following. A lot of people are supporting the Redskins and supporting him. It’s nice to have that kind of backing.”
Hall compares the hoopla surrounding Griffin and the Redskins to the pre-dogfighting-charge days of Michael Vick and how he had Atlanta wrapped around his finger.
“It’s kind of like when Mike Vick was on top and we would go to different cities,” Hall said. “It’s crazy. That’s kind of what the atmosphere and vibe is like around here.”
Griffin has felt the warm bipartisan embrace of Washington.
“It’s been incredible from the day that they traded up to get the second pick in the draft. I felt at home even before I was drafted,” Griffin said. “Everybody has been great. You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the excitement about this team and what we can do. The way I look at it, it’s a match made in heaven.
“As a football player you want to feel wanted. You want to feel like the fans are behind you and your team is behind you. We definitely have that here.”
Griffin got off to a great start when he led the Redskins to a 40-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. He passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns, including an 88-yarder to wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
He amassed 288 yards — 206 passing, 82 rushing — in a 31-28 loss to St. Louis in Week 2. In Week 3, the Bengals beat the Redskins 38-21.
Last week, he earned his first come-from-behind victory as he guided the Redskins into field-goal position while calling his own plays over the final 1 minute, 42 seconds of a 24-22 win over Tampa Bay.
“We had a couple of big plays,” said Griffin, who had a 15-yard scramble in the key drive.
All in all, Griffin has enjoyed the first four games of his NFL career.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Griffin said. “Every kid dreams of being a professional athlete no matter what [sport] it may be. To play at the highest level, there is nothing better. We are playing against the best guys in the world.”
Griffin hopes that the Tampa Bay win will propel the once-proud franchise to greater heights.
“That’s what you try to do, string some wins together,” Griffin said. “No matter what level you play at, that’s what you have to do. You have to make one win turn into two, and you have to make sure that one loss doesn’t turn into two, three or four. We are definitely going to ride the wave.”
Griffin has a slight frame for the NFL at 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds. He appears more selective about his running after he took a major pounding against Cincinnati. The Falcons likely will come after him after they yielded a career-high 86 yards rushing to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton last week.
“I didn’t run as much last game,” Griffin said. “It’s based on whatever coach calls and whatever the defense is allowing us to do. For me, it all depends on the different situations. Third-and-10, I’m not sliding at four yards when I think I can get 10 or 11. I just try to weigh each situation.”
As Vick did early in his career, Griffin prefers not to slide, which will expose him to vicious hits.
“I’ll slide,” Griffin said. “I’ve slid a few times, and I’ll probably slide a few more times, but right now I try not to worry about that because I have other things to stay focused on.”
Griffin should have Garcon back at near full strength. His top receiving threat played last week against Tampa Bay, after missing two games with a foot injury. He is officially listed as probable for the game.
“We definitely have to keep getting him back in rhythm,” Griffin said.
Overall, the Redskins are pleased with Griffin’s play.
“There are going to be growing pains. We understand what growing pains usually come at the quarterback position especially since, he’s a rookie,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “But he’s been very impressive.”