Griffin, inactive but in good spirits, tries to help however he can

Alfred Morris, Roy Helu Jr., Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III, right, spend a late part of the fourth quarter trying to keep spirits up on the sideline. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

ATLANTA — Robert Griffin III found himself in an unusual position on Sunday. A healthy scratch for the first time in his NFL career, he watched from the sideline in street clothes as Kirk Cousins led the Washington Redskins’ offense and fell just one completed pass shy of directing a comeback victory.

Deactivated earlier in the week for the final three games of the season to ensure that he escapes the tumultuous 2013 season healthy — a move intended to protect the long-term interests of the franchise, according to Coach Mike Shanahan — Griffin said on Wednesday that he would do everything in his power to support Cousins and his other teammates.

Griffin appeared to do just that on Sunday. Teammates believe that Griffin has come to terms with Shanahan’s decision and said that if there is any remaining intense displeasure, the quarterback didn’t show it.

“He was great,” said fellow quarterback Rex Grossman, whom Shanahan elevated from the No. 3 quarterback to Cousins’ backup. “It’s a tough situation, but at the same time, he’s a good person and he’s got a bright future. He’s the franchise quarterback and I think this situation is tough because it’s so dramatic. But he’s handled it with class, and going with it.”

Said left tackle Trent Williams, “He was fine. Decent spirits.”

Griffin did his best to keep things as normal as possible despite the drastic turn of events.
Hours before the game, he did his customary pregame run around the perimeter of the field, and then joined Cousins and Grossman in taking turns throwing to receivers just as he always does — only this time, he took the fewest amount of snaps.

After the opening round of warmups, the players retreated to the locker room and later returned to the field in uniforms. Griffin, however, remained in the black long-sleeve T-shirt and burgundy shorts. While Cousins and Grossman took 11-on-11 walk-through snaps, Griffin stood off to the side and threw passes to the receivers who didn’t receive catches from Cousins on those practice plays. As Cousins and Grossman threw warmup passes back and forth prior to kickoff, it was Griffin who caught passes from Grossman and flipped them to Cousins.

Griffin spent much of the game trailing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, play chart in hand and a radio device in his ear so he could listen to Shanahan’s play calls into Cousins’ helmet. Here and there, Griffin chatted with wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel about plays or formations.
He cheered on positive plays and was one of the first players to welcome Cousins back to the sideline following each of his three touchdown passes. Griffin also encouraged Cousins following the latter’s three turnovers (two interceptions and fumble).

“By the time the ball kicks off, the competitor in you kicks in and want to win. So I’m there, helping in whatever way I can,” Griffin said Sunday evening as he left the visitors’ locker room. “When you’re watching, you get excited because you know what’s coming, and then you want to see the play carried out.”

Griffin obviously would have preferred to play, but he sounded like a man that had come to terms with his situation. “This is just how it is,” he said.

Grossman — an 11th-year veteran, who has seen and experienced it all in the NFL, from a Super Bowl appearance as the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback, to demotions, to season-ending injuries and quarterback carousels — said that he believes that Griffin will emerge from the season-ending decision unscathed.

“It’s not that big a deal, I think, really,” Grossman said. “He’s going to have all the opportunity in the world to be as successful as he wants to be. He has a long time to get ready, and his career is still [progressing] and I think he understands that, and everybody does.”

Grossman said he gave Griffin some advice on how to approach the situation, but added, “I tried to pick my spots. He didn’t need it. I may have said it because I couldn’t help myself. But he’s a good person, has a good brain, good family, good logic, so he’s fine.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

●  Full coverage of the Redskins; 27-26 loss to the Falcons, including columns from Atlanta from Jason Reid and Sally Jenkins.

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