The fans cheered. And chanted his name. And cheered some more.
Washington Redskins did during the three days of the NFL draft meant more than the brief appearance by the franchise player on Saturday.
The Redskins made some intriguing choices. They cornered the market on ball hawks and Florida State players who’ve been through career-threatening injuries, then took a chance with Bacarri Rambo, who failed two drug tests in college.
But how much it matters will likely hinge on how quickly Griffin recovers from his surgically reconstructed right knee.
“I’m good. You guys saw me jumping. I mean, I can run a little bit,” he said, running in place some more. “I’ll be good. No worries. I’ll take it slow, but at the same time I’ll be ready to go.”
Meanwhile, back at Redskins Park, coach Mike Shanahan and the front office continued to add to a team than won the NFC East last season and hopes to become a Super Bowl contender with Griffin under center.
The primary task to improve was the secondary, and the Redskins landed a unique haul. They selected the last two players to lead major college football in interceptions, along with the player who finished second in picks two years ago.
Cornerback David Amerson grabbed 13 with North Carolina State to lead all FBS players in 2011; he was taken in the third round on Friday night. Safety Phillip Thomas had eight last year with Fresno State; he was chosen in the fourth round on Saturday. Rambo, a safety from Georgia, was runner-up to Amerson with eight in 2011; he went in the sixth round on Saturday.
All are now members of a defense that allowed 4,511 yards passing last year, third worst in the NFL.
“I know that we needed a safety,” Thomas said. “I’ve been a Redskins fan my whole life.”
Shanahan said this was a fortuitous draft in which the team’s needs more or less aligned with the top players available when the Redskins were on the clock, even if meant taking a chance on a player who has been hurt or suspended.
“This year when it was our pick, we had a guy in mind, and that guy was available,” the coach said. “It doesn’t always turn out that way. ... We wanted to fill a few holes, and we were able to do that.”
Thomas had an anxious wait before getting the call at No. 119 overall, even though he was a consensus first-team All-American.
“I feel like I’m going to be the steal of the draft,” he said.
Thomas sat out the 2011 season with a broken left leg and dislocated ankle, but he returned last year to anchor a Bulldogs secondary that transitioned to a more aggressive 3-4 scheme. He grew up in California and went to college there, so his favoritism for the Redskins is pretty random.
“I saw them play one day on TV when I was younger,” he said. “And that was my team ever since then.”
Rambo fell even farther than Thomas, going at No. 191 — well below the projected slot for the 6-foot, 211-pound defensive back.