The Washington Times - December 13, 2013, 04:42PM

Although he proceeded through offseason workouts as the Washington Redskins’ first-string quarterback, Kirk Cousins knew the role only his temporarily and that Robert Griffin III would reclaim it as soon as he was healthy.

Technically, that hasn’t changed. Cousins will be the Redskins’ starting quarterback for the final three games of the season, knowing he’ll surrender that responsibility to Griffin as soon as organized workouts begin in the spring.

But for the first time all year, Cousins doesn’t need to find any additional motivation to get through a week of practice and preparation. The outcome – Sunday’s road game against the Atlanta Falcons, in which he will make his first start of the season – is finally tangible.

“Leading up to this season, I almost had to trick myself into thinking I was the starter, because that’s the best way to be motivated,” Cousins said Friday. “Now, I don’t have to trick myself. I am. That’s where it’s gonna be a little bit different. But getting the reps makes a big difference.”

Cousins has played in two games this season – a road loss to the Denver Broncos on Oct. 27, when he played the final 10 snaps, and last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, an eventual 45-10 loss in which he entered at the start of the fourth quarter.

It’s been nearly a year since the last, and only, time he started a game, leading the Redskins to a 38-21 road victory over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 16.

This opportunity will be longer. And, Cousins knows, the opportunity to showcase himself will be greater. Given the uncertainty with the coaching staff and, in a smaller regard, the quarterback situation, Cousins will have the chance to show how much progress he’s made not only to his own team, but also to the 31 other teams in the league.

“With how much there’s turnover in the NFL, with how many coaching changes happen, you’re auditioning every day,” Cousins said. “Who knows? My coordinator could become a coordinator somewhere else next year. My quarterback coach could be a quarterback coach somewhere else next year. Our quality control coaches could be quarterback coaches next year somewhere else, and all of them have the opportunity to – you’re auditioning for them now to have the opportunity somewhere else. Who knows?

“I think every day you’re treating people in a way, or working a way, or studying in a way where the people around you say, ‘If I ever get a chance to stand on a table for this guy, I’m gonna find that table and stand on it.’ I’ve tried to do that since I walked in here a year, two years ago, and again, Sunday’s performance, and the next two weeks after that, will go a long ways in people being able to stand on that table.”

Requisite of the Redskins’ starting quarterback, Cousins took all of the first-team snaps during the three practices this week. Rex Grossman, who hasn’t played since starting 13 games in 2011, has been the backup, and Griffin has been the scout-team quarterback, mimicking Falcons starter Matt Ryan.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Thursday that if something were to happen to Cousins or Grossman, the Redskins would look outside the organization to sign a quarterback rather than play Griffin, who was shut down for the season. Griffin, though, will be prepared to play in case one of the two is injured during a game or suddenly falls ill, making signing a fourth quarterback difficult on short notice.

Shanahan said Friday that Griffin has had a positive attitude since the decision was made on Wednesday.

“He’s been great,” Shanahan said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and he’s been up-tempo and taking advantage of the reps that he gets and relating it to some of the terminology that we have. Any time you get reps, regardless if it’s with the first, second or third team, or even doing the scout team on the other side, you can take advantage of it – and he did.”

Cousins, too, said Griffin has been helpful, especially when it comes to questioning the specifics of certain plays the Redskins are likely to run.

Otherwise, Cousins said, he’s tried to treat the week as normal as possible – which has been difficult to do, given the circumstances.

“There’s a greater sense of urgency,” Cousins said. “You feel that in your gut walking around, whether you’re in the building or not. You know that it’s your job [to start] on Sunday, and it’s an extra motivation on top of the motivation that was already there, being it’s my job. I’m getting better.”