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Kirk Cousins to start for Redskins; RGIII will be deactivated for rest of the season

Kirk Cousins will get his second NFL start this Sunday.Kirk Cousins will reportedly get his second NFL start this Sunday. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

On Wednesday morning, ESPN's John Keim confirmed an NFL Network report indicating that the Washington Redskins will start quarterback Kirk Cousins over Robert Griffin III against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. It's an interesting move because Griffin has no specific injury -- at least no specific injury that has been noted -- and while he's underperformed at times this season, the switch appears to be more about keeping Griffin healthy for the 2014 season. Later in the day, Griffin confirmed that not only will he be the team's third quarterback behind Cousins and Rex Grossman on Sunday, but also that the team has deactivated him for the rest of 2013.

“I’m sure everybody knows by now that coach decided to shut me down for the rest of the season," Griffin said. "I expressed my desire to play. At the end of the day, coach’s decision is what we go with. That’s the way it’s always been. It’s my job to help Kirk win."

When asked if he was being benched for health reasons, Griffin said that “I can’t bother myself thinking about those things."

As to the spirit of the team?

"We’ll rise out of this. I believe that, and I hope everybody else does, too. You have to keep it rolling. I’ll make sure I’m there for Kirk, that I’m there for this team in any way I can."

Head coach Mike Shanahan's Monday press conference was packed with news about this quarterback change -- Shanahan said, flat-out, that he was considering benching Griffin for his own safety. Following Washington's 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, Shanahan was noncommittal about Griffin's short-term future as the starter.

“The reason why I kind of left it up in the air about that after the game is that anytime you have 24 sacks in the last five games … the reason I was hesitant is that I’m always going to look at … you’ve got your franchise quarterback,  and you want to make sure going into the offseason that he goes through a full offseason program,” he said. “And that’s why I didn’t say he [Griffin] was the starter. That’s just something in the back of my mind right now, and I’ll let you know in the next couple of days.”

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Shanahan had said before that it was important for Griffin, who missed the entire offseason from a team training perspective as he recovered from knee surgery, to get game reps even though 2013 is clearly a lost season. But after watching his franchise quarterback attacked by enemy defenses far too often in the last month, the coach clearly changed his mind.

“Well, just what I said -- we had 24 sacks in the last five games, and you go against a team that had two sacks in the last five games [Kansas City], I’m talking about his health. I want to make sure that he’s healthy. I think that’s the most important thing going into the offseason; that he has his first full season being healthy. If he did play, and something did happen to him, I think it would set our franchise back. That’s not to say I’m not going that way, that’s why I answered it the way I did.”

Griffin has completed 274-of-456 passes for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for the 3-10 Redskins in 2013 after a 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign. Cousins, selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, has started one game in his NFL career and has completed 12-of-25 passes for 107 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

Complicating matters in this soap opera is the distinct possibility that Shanahan has recently tried to quit, and may very well be out of the picture whether he wants to be or not. ESPN's Dan Graziano reported this week that Shanahan had cleaned out his desk as the 2012 season was wrapping up because he was tired of Snyder's alleged interference, but changed his mind following Griffin's knee injury in the Redskins' wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Recent reports also indicate that owner Dan Snyder may be looking to fire Shanahan for cause. Shanahan would not address the Graziano report during his Monday press conference, but he did not deny it.

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