Less than a month ago, I was wildly (and inaccurately, as it turned out) speculating that Quinton Ganther could be the backup running back for the Redskins in that weekend’s game against the Broncos. At that time Ganther had been on the roster for a total of about three weeks, most of them as a potential backup fullback. He was still feverishly studying his playbook and looking to Rock Cartwright and Mike Sellers for advice.
“Rock and Mike, man, those are the guys right there,” he told me at the time. “Those guys try to make my job as easy as possible, and I’m glad to be playing with guys like that. Because, you know, sometimes you got guys that — when you come in, when you play the same position — they don’t wanna help you. But those guys, they want you to succeed, because they know that if I succeed we all succeed, and that’s an ultimate teammate: one that’s willing to do anything it takes to win football games.”
Since then, he’s carried the ball 19 times for 88 yards — a 4.6 average — but has shown both elusiveness and power in those carries. Which is, presumably, a big part of why Ganther was today named NOT the backup running back, but the STARTING running back for Sunday’s game in Oakland.
And it was none other than Rock Cartwright, Ganther’s mentor of a month ago, who made the announcement. (Or, more accurately, announced that he had been told that he himself wouldn’t be starting.)
Cartwright, who has never made a secret of his desire to see more time at running back, was obviously disappointed in the move. But just as Ganther told me back in November, he did his best to put a good face on that disappointment.
“I’m gonna stay positive,” Cartwright said. “I know my guys believe in me and I believe in them, so just gonna continue to try to win the football game.”
And also, “People think that they really control things, but ultimately God controls everything. So I leave it in his hands, I prayed about, and that’s what it is. If it’s meant for me to be out there, I’ll be out there. If it’s not, I won’t.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if Cartwright would be reclaiming his kick return duties, but — as is his way — he was not quiet about wanting to take on that role. “I don’t know,” he said. “I told [special teams coach Danny Smith] I would like to go back to do my original duties. Because I feel like I left my special teams core guys out there hanging because I went from being out there with them all the time to doing the starting running back thing. I’m no longer starting running back so let me go back to doing my duties on special teams and be accountable to my guys.”
One of those guys, coincidentally enough, is Ganther, who also understands the importance of special teams play for a young player trying to make a mark in the NFL. “Special teams keep you around,” he said, “and a lot of the young guys don’t understand that. A lot of the young guys come in and they wanna play, but you wanna stay in this league, that’s a great way to stay. The more you can do, the better chance you have.”
Head coach Jim Zorn eventually confirmed that Ganther would be the starter, but Ganther himself downplayed the change. “I’m playin’ my role,” he said, “that’s what I’m doing.”
In fact, Ganther was resistant to the idea that he had accomplished anything at all thus far, or to the sentiment that his numbers had been pretty good.
“I haven’t done ANYthing,” he said. Most of the time when guys say things like this, their tone is a little boastful, saying, basically, You ain’t seen nothing yet or The best is yet to come. Cocky. Ganther didn’t sound like that at all. He sounded matter-of-fact, and possibly a little surprised that anyone was impressed with what he’d accomplished in limited work.
“I’m not putting up any numbers, anything spectacular,” he continued. “I’m just doin’ what’s asked of me. Those are not any numbers. To the outside world it might be, but me, I’m always gonna hold myself to a higher standard. I haven’t done anything, so I don’t want the attention. I don’t want the praise. I haven’t done nothing.”
And he was firm on the point that having the opportunity to contribute more won’t make him change the way he approaches the game. “I’m always gonna work hard,” he said. “That’s just the person that I am. I have to work hard. And in my situation if you don’t work hard, you won’t be around long.”
Which is one philosophy that both he and Cartwright can probably agree on.
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