Cousins will start if Griffin can't go

ASHBURN -- Mike Shanahan stepped around the podium, pointing to the area of the knee Robert Griffin III hurt. For the record, it's on the outside. Then the Redskins' coach answered one question after another about the most famous knee in Washington.

When it was over, the first 28 questions of Shanahan's news conference dealt with Griffin's well-being as well as the man who might replace him: Kirk Cousins.

But while one part of the puzzle was answered Monday -- Griffin suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his lateral collateral ligament -- other questions remain. Those answers -- as in, will Griffin play Sunday at Cleveland -- can't yet be provided.

All Shanahan would say is that "he's definitely not ruled out" for Sunday. A Grade 1 sprain means mild swelling, but players can return from such an injury without missing a game. A Grade 2 sprain likely would result in a two to four week absence.

"When I looked at it on film, I thought it would be worse than it was," said Shanahan, who initially called it a strained ACL before later correcting the information. "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 there was no structural damage to Griffin's knee but that he does have swelling. Shan?ahan said he's not sure whether Griffin will practice Wednesday.

"Everyone reacts a little differently," Shanahan said. "We get a chance to evaluate during the week ... if he can help us. If a guy can't play at full speed or is playing on one leg or there's a chance he could further hurt himself, I'm not going to put them in that situation."

Griffin hurt his leg at the end of a 13-yard scramble with 1:56 left in regulation. He returned for four plays, attempting passes each time, and Shanahan said, "You could tell there was something wrong." Griffin was unable to plant fully and throw.

The mystery surrounding Griffin will force Cleveland to prepare its defensive game plan to face two different quarterbacks. If Griffin can't play, then Cousins would start. The Redskins' base offense would remain the same: stretch zones, play-action passes, bootlegs. But they likely would scrap the zone-read game that Griffin runs.

"He can run this offense as well as anyone else can," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said of Cousins. "He doesn't have the dynamic 4.3 speed, but he is a smart quarterback. We have more than enough confidence in both of our quarterbacks to get the job done."

Shanahan said, "Obviously Robert can do some things in the running game that Kirk can't. We'll put the best game plan we can together."

Shanahan said Dr. James Andrews, who was on the sidelines Sunday, told him Griffin could re-enter after he was initially hurt. As for the scramble, Shanahan said it was a case of a player trying to make a play at a crucial time.

"It was like a playoff game to us, and Robert was going to do anything to get that first down," Shanahan said. "In normal circumstances, he would have slid or get to the outside. Most quarterbacks -- or at least the quarterbacks we would want -- put themselves in that situation. You want him to protect himself so he can stay healthy, but when you think of the mindset of the quarterback, [it's], 'We have to get the ball in the end zone; I'll do whatever I can to help this team win.'?"