The Washington Redskins backup QB Kirk Cousins leads the team to their fifth straight win in a row to put them on top of the NFC East igniting playoffs hopes in the Washington region. (The Washington Post)

Robert Griffin III prepared all week as if he would quarterback the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He flew here with his teammates Saturday, still thinking he would play. Only that night did he receive the news: The Redskins would deactivate him for the game against the Cleveland Browns because of his injured right knee.

His initial reaction was closer to anger than disappointment.

Even in the afterglow of the Redskins’ 38-21 victory, with backup Kirk Cousins guiding the offense to 430 total yards, Griffin barely attempted to hide his bitterness over the decision to bench him.

“Players play, so I was not happy with the decision,” Griffin said flatly. “But at the end of the day, that’s the decision they went with. I respect that, but it doesn’t mean I necessarily have to like it.

“They said [they were] just protecting me from myself, not allowing me to go out there and put myself in harm’s way.”

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan attributed the decision to the team’s doctors, who ultimately decided that the knee injury Griffin suffered a week ago — a Grade 1 sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee — placed him at too much risk of further damage had he played this week.

“He tried to show us everything that he could possibly do to get himself ready to play in this football game,” Shanahan said. “And I was so impressed with how he worked. But at the end of the day, the doctors did not feel that he was ready. That LCL was just not in position for him to play a live game.”

The question now becomes whether the doctors will clear Griffin to play next Sunday at the Philadelphia Eagles, with the Redskins tied for first place in the NFC East and able to clinch the division title with wins in their final two games.

Asked after Sunday’s game whether he felt he could play against the Eagles in seven days, Griffin said: “I feel like I could play this week, next week, [and] the week after that. But that’s not my decision.”

Shanahan, though, was less definitive about the same question. “We’ll be evaluating him day by day for next week,” he said. “. . . The doctors have been very impressed on how [the knee has] come along. But I can’t tell you anything until the doctors clear him.”

Before Sunday’s game, Griffin, wearing a knee brace and being watched carefully by team medical personnel and General Manager Bruce Allen, went through his most strenuous workout of the week, testing his knee with a series of drills that involved explosive maneuvers and stress. He passed every test, but by then the decision had been made.

“They said I looked impressive,” Griffin said, referring to the doctors.

Instead of piloting the Redskins’ offense, Griffin spent Sunday afternoon on the sideline, dressed in team-issued workout clothes and a winter hat, and wearing a headset that let him listen to the Redskins’ play calls. He stood for nearly the entire game, rarely in one place, bouncing among teammates to provide encouragement, and conferencing with Cousins and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on the bench between offensive series.

“I play for those guys in [the locker room], and if I can’t help them out on the field, I’m going to help them on the sidelines,” Griffin said. As for his advice to Cousins, Griffin said, “I just talked to him about being cool, calm and collected, and just to not freak out.”

By the end of the day, Griffin could at least acknowledge what the Redskins had accomplished by winning the game while protecting their star quarterback from his own competitive nature.

“We’re in first place in our division now. It was a great business trip for us,” he said. “Although I was not happy with the decision, I got healthier by not playing, and we won the game and put ourselves in position to control our destiny. That’s a huge thing.”