Shaquill Griffin is the one newcomer in Seattle's secondary and knows Aaron Rodgers will likely target him as often as he can Sunday.
On the flight to Los Angeles for Seattle’s first exhibition game last month while many of the veterans around him began to fall into various stages of sleep rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin pulled out his computer and began doing some last-minute studying of the Chargers, the opponent the next day.
Griffin watched film until coach Pete Carroll walked by and noticed and told him to put the computer away.
The message Carroll was sending was a simple one — don’t overthink things.
“He didn’t want me to overwhelm myself,’’ Griffin recalled. “At the end of the day, just got to go play football. That’s all there is to it.’’
That’s the same approach Griffin plans to take Sunday when he plays his first regular season game in a much more daunting setting — at famed Lambeau Field against the quarterback who has the highest passer rating in NFL history, Aaron Rodgers.
A third-round pick out of Central Florida, Griffin could have as big of a role as any of the team’s rookies in Sunday’s opener, slated to be the third cornerback. In that role, he’ll enter when the team goes to its nickel package — which it usually plays about 70 percent of the time or so — as the right cornerback with Jeremy Lane sliding inside to cover the slot.
And Rodgers, who in a 2014 game against Seattle famously didn’t throw one pass the way of Richard Sherman, is likely to make sure he knows where Griffin is and test him early and often.
“I’m definitely expecting that,’’ Griffin said Thursday.
In fact, he said he’s looking forward to the challenge. As the best cornerback on his college team he got more used the last few years to being the one that quarterbacks would avoid.
“That’s going to be very exciting (going against Rodgers),’’ Griffin said. “It’s going to be different for me. But I’m excited about it. It’s a situation that I want to be in. It’s a task that I want to take and get a chance to prove that I really belong here and I am here to make plays and help this team get back to the Super Bowl.’’
Seahawks coaches and players talk about Griffin as if he has already proven himself.
Sherman this week began to gush about the way Griffin has played and practiced and carried himself before laughing and stopping himself.
“I’m probably giving him way too much credit,’’ Sherman said. “You never give rookies credit. Nevermind, nevermind. He does a good job. He is a good rook, man, he is a good rook. He does what is asked of him and more. He doesn’t fight, he doesn’t argue with you. With most rooks, you got to sit there and be like ‘man, take my helmet, I did this, everybody has to do this, it is just part of it.’ You argue with them for weeks. But with him he is like ‘here, give me your helmet’ and it’s like ‘wait no argument, no nothing.’ ‘Hey, hey go get me some sunflower seeds,’ ‘OK’, wait, oh, ‘OK, well yeah, yeah, about that.’
“The way he approaches the game, I mean he is just poised out there. They catch a ball on him and he isn’t turning, his eyes wide, shocked, confused, frustrated, he just turns around next play, bang, goes out there and steps and kicks and gets back to technique and that is pretty much all you can ask for a rookie. I have not seen very many rookies in my time in the league that poised.”
Receiver Doug Baldwin heaped similar praise on Griffin.
“Shaquill is probably one of my favorite rookies ever when it comes to the mental side of the game,’’ Baldwin said. “Nothing fazes him. It is pretty incredible for a rookie to come in at that position, to have that amount of poise, that amount of mental strength, he is phenomenal. He is extremely mature. … Shaq is just, I really don’t know how to describe it, he seems like a 10-year vet maturity wise. I don’t know how to explain it. He is ready for the job and every time I look at him, every time that I watch him, his mannerisms, his body language, they don’t show that of a rookie. He seems like he is very comfortable in his own skin and he is very comfortable in his position and he is learning as much as he can and taking it from the older guys like Richard and he is translating it to the football field, very quickly, which is extremely impressive for a rookie.”
The ability to be unfazed, of course, is a critical trait for cornerbacks to possess. Even the best give up receptions. The key is to quickly forget about it and stop the next one. Carroll said Griffin showed he can do that during an exhibition game with the Vikings when Sam Bradford targeted him on a few plays early.
“I was really tuned in to him how he was handling it play-to-play and sequence-to-sequence coming off from the sidelines, and he was great, he was great,’’ Carroll said. “That’s important and he was able to answer the call in the game where they were coming after him. If you remember, he knocked a couple of balls down down the field and did some really good things in the midst of the focus that they were putting on him. That was a great illustration, I think probably that was kind of the culmination of making that evaluation of ‘Okay, he’s ready to handle it here.’ That’s all he could’ve shown us, and he did a good job of it.”
Griffin says the experience reinforced a lesson that he plans to take with him to Green Bay on Sunday.
“Just had to pretty much relax and understand that my technique is going to save me and I can rely on that pretty much the whole game and the whole season,’’ Griffin said. “. … it’s just football.’’