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  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins autographs Chantel Williams' jersey that has Cousins' name and No. 8. Cousins and former Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings spoke Friday at the Indiana Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Night of Hope.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 1:00 am

Well-paid Cousins enjoying NFL life

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Were it not for the autograph seekers and security detail, it might have been hard to miss Kirk Cousins. He looks more “Grey's Anatomy” doctor than NFL quarterback and doesn't project the disgruntle­ment hyped by the national media. Cousins may have the most ­talked-about contract situation in sports – he's helped us get versed on the minutiae of franchise tags – but he seemed neither beleaguered nor eager to get away from Washington.

At Memorial Coliseum to speak Friday at the Indiana Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Night of Hope, Cousins was smiling and appreciative of his place in the NFL.

“We take it all in stride. We're fortunate to be Washington Redskins, my wife and I, and we feel privileged to be in the NFL no matter where you are,” said Cousins, 28, who hails from Barrington, Illinois, and won 4 of 6 games against Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana while playing for Michigan State. “We've had a tremendous experience these last five years in Washington. We don't feel it's (wise) to look very far down the road in the NFL. It's week to week, year to year. I don't plan too far ahead. I've got enough to worry about with this coming season.”

Maybe it's hard to be upset when you've just been paid $20 million for one season of Pro Bowl work and are about to earn almost $24 million for the coming season, giving you a top three quarterback salary. Or, maybe Cousins, the eighth quarterback taken in the 2012 draft, just knows this might not have been. He was drafted in the fourth round as insurance for the second overall pick, Robert Griffin III, whose tailspin now has him jobless.

“I certainly saw myself as a backup when I was selected in that spot. I thought there was no chance. It felt like a dead end,” said Cousins, who started all 32 games over the last two seasons and has totaled 72 touchdown passes, 42 interceptions, a 65.9 completion percentage and nine rushing touchdowns, and played in two playoff games.

“I guess it was a chance for God to show up and show how big he is. There were a lot of things out of my control, but I certainly knew I had to go in and work very hard. And just to make the team was a challenge.”

Determination was among his topics for the Indiana FCA crowd, which also heard from basketball player Tamika Catchings, who overcame hearing and speech problems, and bullying, to become an Olympic gold medalist and all-star with the WNBA's Indiana Fever.

Under the nonexclusive tag last season, it would have cost another team two first-round picks to sign Cousins.

This year, under an exclusive tag, Washington has to pay him no less than the average of the top five quarterback salaries, or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater.

Cousins might not have a long-term deal, but he also can't cry poverty.

While many theorize he's destined for San Francisco in 2018, Cousins, who is 19-21-1 as a starter, is focused on improving in “the red zone” and with his “situational awareness.” 

He has shown that hard work and the right situation can change the course of a career.

Zach Terrell, the Homestead and Western Michigan graduate who was undrafted this year and just released by the Baltimore Ravens, should take note. If people wind up scrutinizing your contract, no big deal.

“When you're a quarter­back in a league like the NFL, there's such a fan base and so much passion. That's a good thing. We want that kind of following,” Cousins said. “I don't mind the discussions or the articles or the reports. It's the fun part of this business.”

Justin A. Cohn is a senior writer for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1997. He can be reached by email jcohn@jg.net; phone, 461-8429; or fax 461-8648.