When reporters converge upon Cornelius Griffin to ask his outstanding 2004 season, the defensive tackle in his first year with the Redskins invariably comes up with a refreshing response.
Even though the 6-3, 300-pound fifth-year player out of Alabama has been a dominant force during many stretches of 2004, Griffin prefers to look at the larger picture.
"It's never about me, individually," he says. "It's only about the team and trying to win games."
That pretty much sums up Griffin's attitude toward his teammates and toward the season in general ever since the former New York Giant joined the Redskins on March 3 as an unrestricted free agent.
Sunday at FedExField, Griffin and the Redskins will be out to make amends for their 20-14 loss to the Giants on Week 2 at the Meadowlands.
Griffin is listed as probable with a hip injury. He sat out the Week 11 game against Philadelphia due to the injury, but returned for last week's game against Pittsburgh.
"It wasn't 100 percent, but this is football, you're never 100 percent at this time of the season," Griffin said. "My teammates were out there and I wanted to be out there with them."
Griffin has been one of the big reasons for the defense's solid performance this season. Entering the Week 13 game, the defense is ranked No. 2 overall and third against the run.
Says defensive coordinator Greg Blache, whose speciality is the defensive line: "Cornelius is making all the plays."
Adds Gregg Williams, assistant head coach in charge of the team's defense: "He's as active as any defensive tackle in the league. I don't know another defensive tackle in the NFL I'd rather have right now than Cornelius."
Williams said he has eyed Griffin for years.
"I really wanted to draft him, but I didn't get the opportunity [in Tennessee]," Williams said. "When he became available last year, I was excited about the opportunity to hook up with him because we had done a lot of research when he came out for the draft."
The soft-spoken Griffin is not one given in to self-promotion. He puts it this way: "Sure, I'd like to make the Pro Bowl. But I'd rather make the playoffs."
Said Williams: "I like the fact that he is not a me' person. He is not going to go out there and sing his own praises. He just wants you to watch the film. He wants you to watch him play on Sunday. That's a good attitude to have for our defense."
Griffin's teammates, particularly those along the defensive line, know they're lining up next to a player who is in the midst of a special season. Just ask eight-year NFL veteran Renaldo Wynn.
"Cornelius is having a phenomenal season," says Wynn. "He doesn't like to take a lot of credit. He's just a guy who likes to go out, work hard and have fun with his teammates. He's definitely a guy you can depend on, play in and play out."
Should Griffin make the Pro Bowl this season, and he should at the very least receive serious consideration, he would be the first Redskin defensive tackle selected to play in the post-season, all-star game since Dave Butz in 1983.
In recent seasons, such talented players as Dan Wilkinson, Dana Stubblefield and Daryl Gardener have been featured at defensive tackle. But the way Griffin has played on a consistent basis this year has made him perhaps the most significant player at the position since Butz led the 14-2 Redskins defense of 1983. The numbers for Butz, named one of the Redskins 70 Greatest, in 1983: 69 tackles, 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Through the first 11 games, Griffin had produced 72 tackles and four sacks. In 2003, by contrast, the Redskins received just 3.5 sacks from their defensive tackles over the course of 16 games. Bernard Holsey had 2.5 sacks, Lionel Dalton one.
This year, in his first standout game as a Redskin, Griffin had 12 tackles against his former team at the Meadowlands on Week 2.
On Week 6 at Soldier Field, he contributed 10 tackles and a pair of sacks versus Bears QB Jonathan Quinn on Chicago's final possession.
"I thought our defense played great today," he noted in the aftermath of the Redskins' 13-10 win, which snapped the team's four-game losing skid. "I took it upon myself to help us beat that team. We really needed a win."
Griffin has not let any of his coaches or teammates down, as his performances versus the Giants, Bears or Lions will attest. In Detroit, he came up with seven tackles and two sacks of Joey Harrington to help lead the Redskins to a 17-10 win.
"Cornelius has bought into how hard you have to work," Williams said. "When you get paid, you're supposed to bring with that the responsibility of setting good examples. He has set a good example.
"A defensive line has to have the workmanlike attitude day-in and day-out, and Cornelius has really been shining in that way."