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ASHBURN, Va. — It takes quite the sales job to explain why a medically cleared Robert Griffin III won’t play for the rest of the season.

Embattled Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan realized that and gave it his best shot Wednesday, speaking passionately at times in a 28-minute news conference that included references to the team’s “circus atmosphere” and insistences that the move isn’t a ploy to get himself fired.

The upshot is that Griffin will be the inactive third quarterback for the Redskins’ final three games, behind starter Kirk Cousins and backup Rex Grossman. Shanahan’s reasoning is that he fears Griffin, who has taken a pounding in recent weeks, will get hurt, and that would ruin the franchise player’s offseason. This is a reversal of Shanahan’s oft-stated position that Griffin needed as much game experience as possible and would play to the end of the season.

“You’ve got to take a look at the risk and reward,” Shanahan said. “And with Robert I thought that his hits were piling up on him, giving him his toll, and I was afraid that we would set him back.”

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Griffin, who publicly clashed with Shanahan at times this year, clearly wasn’t happy with the decision. He gestured, shrugged and shook his head throughout his turn at the podium, and he declined to answer when asked if he believes Shanahan’s rationale for the benching, saying: “At this point, I just have got to leave it up to Coach.”

“I expressed my desire to play,” Griffin said. “Of course, I want to be out there and finish the season with my guys, see it through. He explained to me his reasoning, and at the end of the day Coach’s decision is what we go with.”

Asked if he’d rather play for a different coaching staff next year, Griffin said: “I think that’s the general misconception, that players in our locker room want people gone.”

Still, the move only serves to stoke the turmoil surrounding the Redskins (3-10) in general and Shanahan in particular. The team has lost five straight, giving the coach his third season of double-digit losses in four years in Washington. It appears increasingly unlikely he’ll return for the final year of his five-year, $35 million contract.

Shanahan went into great detail about his decision to sit Griffin, to the point that he made a quote that he no doubt wishes he could re-word because it will rank high in all-time Redskins infamy: “What I’m trying to do is be as honest as I can. And I don’t normally do that.”

Shanahan conceded for the first time that his decision to keep an obviously injured Griffin in last year’s playoff loss to the Seahawks cost the Redskins the game.


• Denver wide receiver Wes Welker won’t play Thursday night against San Diego as he recovers from his second concussion in less than a month. Broncos coach John Fox officially ruled him out.

• Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was moving around, throwing lasers and taking snaps with the No. 1 offense in practice just as he did before breaking his left collarbone Nov. 4 against Chicago. And he was doing it without pain. Yet Rodgers still is not medically cleared to play in Dallas this weekend.

• New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said outside linebacker Victor Butler won’t be returning for the Saints’ playoff push.

• New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie (concussion) and wide receiver Stephen Hill (knee) didn’t practice, and both might not play Sunday at Carolina.

• Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has shed the walking boot on his sprained right foot but wasn’t ready to practice.

• Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman is optimistic quarterback Jay
Cutler will return from an ankle injury this week against the Cleveland Browns.

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