BEREA — All signs point toward Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III starting against the Browns on Sunday afternoon.
The immensely talented rookie took part in most of Washington’s practice Wednesday, just three days after suffering a sprained right knee in a game against Baltimore.
“I felt good on Monday morning and I felt better yesterday,” Griffin said. “Today, I feel really good about it. Now, it’s just about getting confidence back in my knee. I plan on getting that back pretty quick.”
Griffin was injured when his right knee hyperextended on a downfield hit by Ravens defensive end Haloti Ngata. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins relieved RG3 and led the Redskins to a 31-28 overtime victory.
Though Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur insisted, “Who plays quarterback will not affect our preparation as we move forward,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson pulled no punches about the Browns’ focus.
“We’re preparing for Griffin to play,” Jackson said.
If Griffin plays, Browns fans will get a look at the proverbial “one that got away” on the eve of the NFL Draft.
The Browns attempted to pry the No. 2 overall pick from St. Louis in order to draft Griffin, but were outbid by Washington’s package of three first-round selections and one second-rounder.
Cleveland’s counteroffer would have cost it the opportunity to add running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, tackle Mitchell Schwartz and another player in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
“That’s a lot, but they thought he was worth it,” Weeden said. “Decisions like that are why I’m not a GM.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who holds decision-making power in his organization, said he has no regrets about trading up for the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.
Griffin owns an NFL-best 104.3 passer rating with a spectacular 18:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has thrown for 2,906 yards on a .664 completion percentage, while rushing for 748 yards and six scores.
The former Baylor star also leads the league in highlight-reel plays and is on pace or has already set four all-time NFL rookie records.
“We felt very strongly about Robert as a quarterback, which is why we gave up what we gave up,” Shanahan said on a conference call with the Cleveland media.
“In a quarterback, there are so many things you look for and so many intangibles — mobility, arm strength, poise, decision making, accuracy and you want to make sure they’re a great worker. He really impressed us with what he brought to the table.”
Griffin’s rapid recovery also has impressed his peers, including Washington running back Alfred Morris, who is arguably the NFL’s third-best rookie behind Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck and Griffin.
“I have no clue if Robert is going to start, but I think he can go because he’s just a tough guy and doesn’t let anybody keep him down,” Morris said. “Today at practice, he was out there moving fine and everything, so he’s either a great actor or that’s what’s up.”
Shanahan said he probably won’t reveal his starting quarterback until game day for competitive reasons, but it’s a safe bet that many Browns fans hope it’s Griffin. So does Weeden, who befriended Griffin during their college careers and would love to get another chance to beat him.
Under the NFL’s scheduling format, Cleveland and Washington aren’t lined up to play again until 2016 and won’t play in Cleveland until 2020 — when both quarterbacks will be in their ninth pro seasons and perhaps playing for different teams.
“We became pretty good buddies as we were training for the whole draft process, so I hope he’s able to bounce back and play,” Weeden said. “It was a lot of fun to go against Andrew (Luck) earlier this season, and I’d love to be able to say I went up against Robert, as well.
“Everybody’s going to be watching him, and as a player you love to be a part of games like that.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.