“I always expect to play,” Griffin said, an edge in his voice. “They’re going to keep playing it by sight, come out, watch me and then figure out what they think the best progression is from here. . . . I’m ready to play whenever they want me to play. So, if it’s this week, next week, couple weeks — whatever they say goes. I’ll be ready.”
Coach Mike Shanahan injected the only note of caution in the ongoing debate over Griffin’s status, saying at his daily news briefing that Griffin has not yet been cleared to play. Shanahan said he didn’t know when the decision would be made, but pointed to the condition of Griffin’s knee Thursday after his first full-speed action since the injury as an important indicator.
“What doctors will do, is they’ll evaluate him tomorrow. Hopefully there’s no setback, no swelling through the knee,” Shanahan said. “He’ll be evaluated through the week, and when doctors tell me the [ligament] is ready to go, then I’ll announce he’s ready to go.”
Griffin sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee two weeks ago against Baltimore and wasn’t able to finish the game. He practiced in a limited capacity last week, but didn’t take any reps with the first team. Shanahan said he saw improvement each day, but waited until Saturday night to announce to the team that Griffin would not dress for the game and that fellow rookie Kirk Cousins would start.
Cousins completed 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 38-21 victory, Washington’s fifth in a row. He said Wednesday that he believes it is less likely he will play Sunday but is preparing as if he will start.
Despite being upset about not playing, Griffin was Cousins’s biggest cheerleader during the game.
“You don’t want to take those things to the field and try to become a cancer or a distraction to the team. You support the team,” Griffin said Wednesday. He also said he learned a bit watching from the sideline.
Now, however, he is ready to end the observation period.
“It is frustrating,” Griffin said. “Players play.”
Griffin said he didn’t feel any weakness or instability in his knee Wednesday and reported no problems even during the full-speed 11-on-11 part of practice. His teammates said they saw no limitations. In the portion of the practice open to reporters, Griffin rolled out without a hitch, planted without hesitation and fired balls to receivers with the same velocity as usual.
The Redskins play yet another crucial game Sunday as they try to remain in control of the NFC East. They Eagles have lost nine of their past 10 games, but Griffin and his teammates said they aren’t underestimating the team and are well aware of how much is riding on the game. The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, division rivals, also have 8-6 records, though the Redskins hold tiebreaker advantages over both.
Griffin said he wants to be on the field, doing everything he can to help the Redskins win. “I just have to prove it to [the team doctors] on the field,” Griffin said. “When I’m out here running around, doing all the plays, getting the reps, that’s when they’ll see, and then it’s up to them to decide.”
Despite his annoyance, Griffin insisted that he doesn’t resent coaches or team doctors for their decision, even if he doesn’t agree with it.
“There’s no strained relationship. What they’re going to tell me is they did the best thing for me,” Griffin said. “But as a player, I’m not going to say sitting out a game is the best thing for me. That’s just not how you operate or how you think.”
Griffin’s lingering displeasure with his team’s patient approach was obvious during his midweek news conference, and he has shared it with his coach. His stance didn’t anger Shanahan or his teammates, however.
“I loved it, to be honest with you,” Shanahan said. “I love guys who want to play, especially when they play when they could be injured. I know he was hurting, but there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. When the doctor feels like it’s in his best interest not to play, then you go with the doctors. But his mind-set: He was just hurt. It gives you an idea of what type of competitor he is, and he doesn’t want to let his teammates down.”
Note: The NFL fined Griffin $10,000 for wearing Adidas apparel to a postgame news conference following the win over the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 9. Nike is the league’s official uniform supplier. League officials issued Griffin a warning but did not fine him earlier this season when he covered the Nike logo on his shirt before a game.