We apparently can add one more item to the long list of Robert Griffin III's physical gifts. His right knee can withstand a direct blow from a charging 330-pound nose tackle.
Griffin emerged from a knee-contorting, cringe-inducing tackle Sunday with only a mildly sprained lateral collateral ligament, coach Mike Shanahan said Monday.
The Washington Redskins' franchise quarterback might be able to play Sunday in a critical road game against the Cleveland Browns. That's one of the best prognoses Griffin and the team could have hoped for after trainers helped him off the field in the decisive moments of Washington's 31-28 overtime win over Baltimore.
"It was a pretty nasty, awkward hit," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. "For him not to be seriously injured is a blessing."
The Redskins medical staff will evaluate Griffin daily this week. The sprain is classified as Grade 1. That means the ligament that stabilizes the knee by attaching to the thigh bone and fibula on the outside of the knee either was stretched or slightly torn.
Griffin's status for Sunday should crystallize by Thursday, according to a source. Shanahan, meanwhile, conveyed optimism that Griffin will be able to help the Redskins extend their four-game winning streak and improve their standing in the NFC playoff race.
"If you check with people what a Grade 1 means, that kind of gives you a good indication of where he's at," Shanahan said.
Griffin was not made available to reporters Monday. Williams, however, talked to him.
"He is doing well," Williams said. "He is in high spirits."
So began a week that figures to be rife with speculation.
Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for a late touchdown and ran for the game-tying two-point conversion Sunday after Griffin was injured. That inspired widespread confidence that he could lead the Redskins to victory over Cleveland if necessary.
Griffin and Cousins are rookies with different skill sets, so some concepts in this week's game plan likely will vary depending on who is playing quarterback.
The Redskins experienced a similar situation in early October after Griffin suffered a concussion against Atlanta. The following week, he participated in each practice at least to some extent.
Griffin's elite speed enables the Redskins to incorporate quarterback option runs and play-action passes. Cousins, a fourth-round pick, is mobile and can extend plays with his legs, but he's not a game-breaking runner like Griffin.
"You try to adjust the offense to your personnel regardless of who's in the game," Shanahan said. "Both of them will have a game plan. Obviously, Robert can do some things in the running game that Kirk can't. We'll put the best game plan we can together."
Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger doesn't believe the offense would suffer without Griffin's athleticism.
"We're not going to be able to run as much of the quarterback-option stuff, but I think we'll be able to keep enough of what we've been doing with Robert to keep defenses off balance," he said after Sunday's win. "The way we moved the ball today and the last half of the season, I don't think we're ever going to lose faith in ourselves and what this offense can do."
Beyond the question about whether Griffin will play is uncertainty about his effectiveness if he does.
Griffin's injured leg is the one he uses to plant and push off on throws. The stress on the outside of his knee resulted in too much pain for him to play through in the fourth quarter against Baltimore.
"It just makes you a little unsure about what you're doing," Griffin said Sunday evening. "Everybody has had an injury before and tried to do something athletic, so I knew I wasn't myself, but I felt like I could still go out and help the team win."
Griffin's teammates don't doubt his toughness.
Williams has played the past three games through a severely bruised left thigh and numerous other lower-body injuries throughout his three NFL seasons. He knows what's required to play hurt.
"It just takes confidence," he said. "You can't be scared to get re-injured. Most of all, it takes heart, which I think he has both. So I think he will be fine if he does decide to play hurt."
If Griffin is not healthy enough to play, though, Williams, at least, would understand.
"His health is far more important than any game we will play this season," Williams said. "His well-being is the only thing he should be worried about at this time."
Griffin on Sunday indicated that won't be the case. Before he had an MRI on Sunday night that revealed the nature of his injury, he wondered aloud if it was a bruise.
"I'll still be able to run and do those things if it's just a really bad bruise," he said. "If it's anything else, like I told coach, I'll fight through it, and I'll be playing next week."
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