“He was limited,” Shanahan said, “but I was impressed with how he worked and what he did. . . . You go day by day and we’ll see at the end of the week if he’s full-speed, ready to go. If he is, he’ll play.”
Three days removed from the late-game hit that knocked him out of Washington’s 31-28 victory over the Baltimore Ravens and left him with a Grade 1 sprain of his lateral collateral ligament, Griffin wore his usual non-contact jersey, helmet and cleats, along with sweatpants that concealed a brace on his right knee. But Griffin ran briskly through straight-line drills and appeared to move through lateral shuffle exercises without a hitch.
Griffin occasionally moved gingerly as he walked or jogged from one practice station to another. He alternated with fellow quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman, taking snaps, dropping back and throwing passes to receivers during the early portion of practice that was open to reporters. His passes had the usual velocity. He didn’t appear to put his full weight on his right leg when making throws, however.
Griffin, Shanahan and Cousins declined to say how snaps were divided during the closed portions of practice. But Griffin said, “I did enough to give myself the confidence to push it tomorrow and Friday.”
Asked how Griffin looked, left tackle Trent Williams, who protects Griffin’s blind side, said: “I didn’t even see him. I had my back to him.”
Griffin called himself “blessed” to have suffered only a Grade 1 sprain, defined as a stretching or very mild tear of the ligament, and said he has made significant strides since Sunday night, when he went to bed expecting to miss playing time.
“Sunday night, I thought there was probably no chance that I could play the next week, and Monday morning, I felt better about it,” said Griffin, who had an MRI exam Sunday night. “Yesterday, I felt better about it, and today I feel really good about it. So, it just depends on if I continue to progress the way I am.”
The Redskins will prepare Cousins to play in the event that Griffin has a setback and can’t go. Cousins, who has suited up as the backup all season, threw a touchdown pass and ran for a two-point conversion with 29 seconds left in Washington’s comeback victory over Baltimore on Sunday.
Unlike typical weeks, Cousins saw more action with the starters on Wednesday. He said those reps, along with his two relief cameos in games this season, have left him feeling better prepared to play. Cousins replaced Griffin in a Week 5 game against the Atlanta Falcons after Griffin suffered a concussion.
Little else has changed, including the time Cousins spends studying tape and the team’s playbook.
“I’m getting here the same time every day. I’m leaving at the same time,” he said. “I view it as though I’m one play away, with the style of Robert’s play. That may mean a little bit more than if you’re backing up Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, who have been so stable for so long. . . . I prepare the same regardless of the likelihood that I would play.”
As they monitor Griffin throughout the week, the Redskins must weigh the risks of allowing the quarterback to return prematurely. Having won four consecutive games to move into contention for a playoff spot, Washington has little room for error. The Giants hold a one-game lead over the Redskins for the NFC East lead, and the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears hold a one-game lead over them for one of two wild-card berths.
Griffin has driven Washington’s offense, compiling a league-best quarterback rating of 104.2. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, and rushed for another six touchdowns.
The struggles of a defense that ranks 28th in the league amplify the need for production out of Griffin and Washington’s fifth-ranked offense.
But if Griffin were to return to action too quickly he could suffer a setback that would sideline him for an extended period of time.
On Wednesday, he dismissed those concerns, citing the nature of this injury.
“I know in 2009, when I tore my ACL and I wanted to come back and play two weeks off of that, then you have a chance of messing up the other ligaments,” he said. “But with a Grade 1 LCL sprain, I don’t know that you are in danger of damaging the other ligaments. I wear a brace and go on from there.”
Griffin conceded that the decision isn’t his to make, however. And Shanahan said he would trust his eyes and the opinion of the team’s medical staff.
“You look at him every day and how he’s practicing in comparison to what he could do before, when he was completely healthy. You try to evaluate him on the field and not what he’s telling you. . . . Then you make a decision what’s the best thing for him and the football team.”
Redskins notes: Linebacker London Fletcher did not participate in the Redskins’ practice Wednesday, Shanahan said. Fletcher has missed practice time in recent weeks but has continued to play on a sprained left ankle.
Williams also has been playing through injuries, including a thigh bruise. He was a limited participant, Shanahan said.
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon and cornerback DeAngelo Hall practiced fully, according to Shanahan. Garcon has been bothered all season by a torn ligament near the second toe of his right foot. Hall played on an injured ankle in Sunday’s win over the Ravens.