Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon played college football in the Browns’ backyard at Mount Union.
But even with his connection to Northeast Ohio, Garcon wouldn’t dare do the Browns a favor by revealing the status of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, would he? And what about Griffin’s father?
The Browns (5-8) will host the Redskins (7-6) on Sunday, and it’s unclear whether Griffin, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, will play after suffering a mild sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee this past weekend. RG3’s teammate and dad have presented conflicting information.
In an interview Tuesday morning on ESPN’s SportsCenter, Garcon indicated that he expects rookie Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick, to start in place of Griffin.
“Now we have a little bit tougher task — we have Kirk starting,” Garcon said. “We have to play well around Kirk, so Kirk doesn’t feel like he has to try to save the team.”
ESPN anchor Bram Weinstein then said: “I hope we didn’t give away too much there. We think Kirk is starting this weekend. We’ll see if Robert can ...”
Garcon interrupted and said, “We have to prepare for the worst.”
In an interview Tuesday afternoon with USA Today Sports, Griffin's father said his son plans to face the Browns.
“He's doing great,” Robert Griffin II said. “He definitely said he plans to start. I haven't seen him [the last two days]. But he told me [today] everything has gone well.”
Rich Campbell, who covers the Redskins for the Washington Times, believes Griffin will play Sunday. He elaborated on Griffin’s health and discussed the Redskins in the following question-and-answer session:
Q: What is the latest on Griffin’s status for Sunday?
A: “[Coach] Mike Shanahan did not rule him out for the game, even though he left in the decisive moments of the overtime win over Baltimore on Sunday. Because it’s on the outside of his knee, it affects him when he plants and pushes off to throw, and it’s also going to affect the stability of the knee when he’s cutting. So if he is less than 100 percent Sunday, which I think is going to be the case still on Sunday, you’d have to think it limits his effectiveness at least a little bit. His status is supposed to come into focus by Thursday, so I think we should know more later in the week. And if he can’t play, then they would start Kirk Cousins, a rookie fourth-round pick from Michigan State who finished the game-tying drive against Baltimore with a couple passes, including a touchdown. So the Redskins feel confident in either guy, but obviously there are some offensive concepts they can’t run without Griffin in the game, and those are the quarterback-option runs and some of the pistol, zone-read play actions.”
Q: Do you think the Redskins, who have a four-game winning streak, will lean toward letting Griffin recover for a week or is there too much at stake right now because they’re in the playoff hunt?
A: “It’s hard to say because this is a game against an AFC opponent, so it doesn’t affect a lot of the tiebreaker scenarios. The Redskins are pretty well positioned when it comes to tiebreakers in this NFC wild-card race, and in the division race, actually. So their two most important games are Philadelphia next week and Dallas in the finale. So if there was a game on the schedule that you had to pick for Griffin not to play, this is one of the three because it’s against an AFC opponent. He did come back in the game after he suffered the injury, so he’s a tough player, and he doesn’t mind playing through pain. I just think the problem is he can do further damage to the knee, so he’s going to have to test it, see if he can wear a brace and get by and see if it holds up. If he can get by, he’s going to play. He’s too good and he’s too important and he wants to play, and Shanahan, in these situations, likes to defer to the player, especially somebody of Griffin’s importance and talent level. So Shanahan will just evaluate him this week. I think it’s hard to say. But I think personally, this is just my opinion, I think he’s going to play.”
Q: Running back Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, has fumbled in each of the past two games. But overall, he has had an impressive rookie season. To what do you attribute his success?
A: “He has some incredible natural talent and more specifically he’s got a really great body lean when he runs. He runs behind his shoulder pads. Mike Smith, the Falcons’ coach, told us on a teleconference earlier this year when you try to tackle him, he’s all shoulder pads and shins. I think that’s a really good way to describe his running style. So the first guy to try to tackle him rarely succeeds. It usually takes a couple guys to bring him down. He’s very good getting yards after contact. He’s got great vision in the Redskins’ outside-zone running scheme, so he’s able to diagnose cutback lanes very well. He’s got really good feet, so he’s able to burst up the field and hit with a one-cut, up-field style that Mike Shanahan requires in his running game. And the other part of it is because Griffin is a running threat, they’re able to run some option concepts that cause hesitation in defensive linemen and linebackers.”
Q: The Redskins outbid the Browns when they tried to trade with the St. Louis Rams for the right to draft Griffin. Then the Redskins signed Garcon and wide receiver Josh Morgan, both of whom the Browns targeted in free agency. How have those signings worked out for the Redskins?
A: “They’ve worked out really well. Garcon has missed six games this season with a sprained foot. He missed six games and was ineffective in two other games, so the Redskins hadn’t gotten a great look at his ability until the last three games, and he’s got a touchdown in all three games. He’s brought this explosive element to the offense, and he’s also an extremely tough blocker in the running game, and that’s why Mike Shanahan targeted both Morgan and Garcon because both of those guys are really good blockers. So Garcon’s got good hands, and he’s able to make plays after the catch. And then Morgan is a really tough Z receiver, very physical at the point of attack and willing to and able to catch balls over the middle and take hits.”
Q: In which areas are the Redskins most vulnerable?
A: “Their offensive line is not built to sit back and protect the passer. They thrive on play action and keeping the defensive line or front seven off balance and not able to sell out rushing the passer all the time. So if they’re in a situation where they have to just sit and pass protect, opposing teams will just tee off on them because they’re not good enough. Particularly at right tackle, they struggle. [The defense has] given up a ton of big passing plays this year. Part of that is because they don’t generate an effective pass rush consistently, and the other part of that is personnel issues in the secondary.”
Read Rich Campbell’s coverage of the Redskins: www.washingtontimes.com/sports. Follow him on Twitter: @Rich_Campbell. Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.