NFL notes: Shanahan benches RG3, will start Cousins
It takes quite the sales job to explain why a medically cleared Robert Griffin III won't play for the rest of the season.
Embattled Washington coach Mike Shanahan realized that and gave it his best shot Wednesday, speaking passionately at times in a 28-minute news conference that included references to the team's "circus atmosphere" and insistences that the move isn't a ploy to get himself fired.
The upshot is that Griffin will be the inactive third quarterback for the team's final three games, behind starter Kirk Cousins and backup Rex Grossman. Shanahan's reasoning is that he fears Griffin, who has taken a pounding in recent weeks, will get hurt, and that would ruin the franchise player's offseason a reversal of Shanahan's oft-stated position that Griffin needed as much game experience as possible and would play to the end of the season.
"You've got to take a look at the risk and reward," Shanahan said. "And with Robert I thought that his hits were piling up on him, giving him his toll, and I was afraid that we would set him back."
Griffin, who publicly clashed with Shanahan at times this year, clearly wasn't happy with the decision. He gestured, shrugged and shook his head throughout his turn at the podium, and he declined to answer when asked if he believes Shanahan's rationale for the benching, saying: "At this point, I just have got to leave it up to Coach."
Still, the move only serves to stoke the turmoil surrounding Washington (3-10) in general and Shanahan in particular. The team has lost five straight, giving the coach his third season of double-digits losses in four years in Washington. It appears increasingly unlikely he'll return for the final year of his five-year, $35 million contract.
Around the league
Broncos • Wes Welker won't play Thursday night against San Diego as he recovers from his second concussion in less than a month. Coach John Fox officially ruled him out Wednesday.
Vikings • Running back Adrian Peterson shed the walking boot on his sprained right foot, but he wasn't ready for practice Wednesday. He probably won't participate until Friday at the earliest, and coach Leslie Frazier said he's more optimistic about the condition of backup Toby Gerhart than he is with Peterson. Gerhart's hamstring injury will also likely keep him from practicing until Friday.
Packers • Aaron Rodgers took some first-team snaps in practice Wednesday, though the franchise quarterback still hasn't been cleared to play in a game since he fractured his left collarbone in a 27-20 loss Nov. 4 to the Bears.
Week 15 schedule
San Diego at Denver, 6:25 p.m., NFL
Philadelphia at Minnesota, 11 a.m.
Washington at Atlanta, 11 a.m.
San Francisco at Tampa Bay, 11 a.m., Ch. 13
Seattle at N.Y. Giants, 11 a.m.
Chicago at Cleveland, 11 a.m.
Houston at Indianapolis, 11 a.m.
Buffalo at Jacksonville, 11 a.m.
New England at Miami, 11 a.m.
Kansas City at Oakland, 2:05 p.m., Ch. 2
N.Y. Jets at Carolina, 2:05 p.m.
Arizona at Tennessee, 2:25 p.m.
New Orleans at St. Louis, 2:25 p.m.
Green Bay at Dallas, 2:25 p.m., Ch. 13
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 5
Baltimore at Detroit, 6:40 p.m., ESPN