It is not often that a preseason game in any sport generates event-specific t-shirt sales, but such is the nature of the hype surrounding the first meeting of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins are offering just such an item in advance of Saturday’s matchup between No. 1 pick Luck and the Colts against No. 2 pick Griffin in Washington. The t-shirt, which lists for $35 (or $38 for XXL, if you’re built like a sportswriter), is emblazoned with side-by-side images of Luck and Griffin under a masthead that reads “QB Showdown.”

All for a game that does not count, featuring rookies that will not directly oppose one another.

“You realize that’s sort of the nature of the best, the nature of playing quarterback, the nature of being drafted one-two at any position in any sport,” Luck said Wednesday. “I don’t speak for him but I’m sure he feels the same way; it’s not too hard not to get caught up in it.

“We have, at least I have, much bigger things to worry about. I believe football’s the biggest team game there is so I’m just happy to be part of a good team.”

Both players have taken impressive early steps in two preseason games apiece.

Luck has a quarterback rating of 87.8, with 26 completions in 41 attempts for 363 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. In slightly less than four full quarters with Luck behind center, the offense has generated 38 points.

Griffin has a quarterback rating of 114.9 in a more limited sample size with nine completions in 14 attempts for 119 yards and one touchdown. He has rushed four times for 17 yards and been sacked three times.

“Just realize that’s not what the game is about,” Luck said. “The game is about much more than either team’s quarterback. I think we both know that very well so it’s not too hard to stay clear of it.”

Both players have risen above the hype. As contemporaries in an elite fraternity, they have of course known of each other for years but did not meet until the events leading up to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. They’ve texted a few times, but not with any regularity.

“We told each other good luck in our careers and moved on from there,” Griffin told the Washington media Tuesday. “He’s trying to lead his team, I’m trying to help lead my team. I will never truly get to face Andrew because he doesn’t play defense so that’s the one thing I’ve always said and that’s the one thing I’ll continue to say so I look forward to playing the Colts’ defense.

“I think I’ll leave the talking about me and him and the comparing and everything to you guys. I definitely look forward to playing the guy throughout my career. I think they’ll be exciting matchups every time we face each other.”

The true matchup challenge lies with the Indianapolis defense. This will be the first look at an active, mobile and athletic quarterback for the Colts’ revamped hybrid 3-4. Griffin has the ability to threaten both the front seven and the cover guys.

“Absolutely it’ll be a great test for us because obviously a great athlete, great athleticism, can throw it, can beat you with his legs, can extend plays,” Coach Chuck Pagano said. “They’ve got great skill all around, they’ve got great runners, they’ve got great speed at the wideout, so it’ll be a great test across the board for us.”

In a preseason of disproportionate importance to the Colts, this stands as the marquee game — even moreso than the past weekend’s Sunday Night Football appearance in Pittsburgh. It offers many of the challenges of big games during the regular season — bright lights, big headlines and plenty of potential for distraction because of the Luck-Griffin presence.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot made out of that,” Pagano said. “Like I always say, the enemy is always in your own camp. It has nothing to do with who you’re playing. So we’ve got to take care of the things that we can take care of, control the things that we can control and go out there and get ourselves ready to take the next step.”

So while this may not be the stuff of another Bird vs. Magic rivalry, it does stand on its own as an interesting and compelling measuring stick of two young quarterbacks destined to be linked throughout their careers.

Too bad that won’t fit on a t-shirt.


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