WASHINGTON (AP) - Even in the era of inflated ticket prices, it's a bit of a stretch to say there's $35 worth of entertainment value in a typical NFL preseason game.
But put together the top two picks in the draft - both quarterbacks - and schedule it for the third week - the game considered the dress rehearsal for the preseason - and the teams involved figure it'll not only be worth the price of admission, it'll be worth a $35 T-shirt.
The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins have been pushing "QB Showdown" T-shirts featuring Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III ahead of their game Saturday, feeding on a frenzy of hope and hype surrounding two rebuilding franchises and the thought of witnessing the beginning of a match-up that could only flourish in years to come.
"People will make a buck off everything," Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen said.
Hope is about the only commodity on hand when one team is coming off of a 2-14 season and the other just went 5-11. Fans of the two-win Colts (No. 32 AP Pro32) want Luck to be the next Peyton Manning, while supporters of the five-win Redskins (No. 25) figure there's no way Griffin turn into another Ryan Leaf.
"They're two good players, but they have a long road ahead of them," Washington defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. "There's definitely going to be a buzz in the stadium because of those two guys, but ultimately it is just the third preseason game. You want to go and put your best stuff out there and let the chips fall where they may. The reason everybody's excited is because they want to have a conclusion on these two guys' careers in their third game."
Reviews after training camp and two preseason games have been generally positive for both rookies. Luck has more polish because he played in a pro-style offense at Stanford, while Heisman Trophy winner Griffin from Baylor has shown the speed and arm strength that could make him one of the game's most dynamic players.
Luck is 26 for 41 for a league-high 363 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Griffin has completed 9 of 14 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
That said, both have been playing vanilla August football, running basic schemes with limited game-planning as they prepare for the games that count starting next month. Saturday will give the quarterbacks their most extended work yet, with both expected to play into the third quarter, but it will still be preseason fare.
Then again, every snap is a learning experience for a rookie, and both are aware of the significance of this first meeting. Overpriced T-shirts or not, it truly isn't a routine preseason game.
"I definitely look forward to playing the guy throughout my career," Griffin said. "I think it will be exciting matchups every time we face each other." Likewise, Luck knows the two will be linked throughout their careers. "I think you realize that's sort of the nature of the beast, nature of playing quarterback, nature of being drafted one, two, at any position in any sport," Luck said. "I don't speak for him, but I'm sure he feels the same way. It's not too hard not to get too caught up in it. I have much bigger things to worry about."
Griffin says he and Luck have exchanged text messages in the past and have met at award ceremonies and at the draft, but they don't have much of a connection this early in their careers.
"Since we've been drafted, we haven't talked very much," Griffin said, "but that's because we've both just been busy."
If nothing else, at least they now share space on the front of a T-shirt.