Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) leaves the game on a cart after injuring his left ankle during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws and injures his left ankle in front of Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds (56) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Landover, Md. The Redskins have said he will not return to the game. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
ASHBURN, Virginia — The Washington Redskins are optimistic that Robert Griffin III will return this season. Less clear is how much more Griffin can take before the "injury-prone" label supersedes anything else he accomplishes in his NFL career.
An MRI exam on Monday revealed that Griffin doesn't have any broken bones to go along with his dislocated left ankle, which means he doesn't need season-ending surgery and could theoretically return in a couple of months if all goes well with his rehab. Kirk Cousins will be the starting quarterback for much — if not all — of the rest of the year.
"This game, we only get to play it for such a short period of time," safety Ryan Clark said, "so, for me, it's more just being sad for Rob. The football part of it goes on. The game? The NFL ain't never missed a play. They're going to keep playing no matter who's in those jerseys."
Griffin was hurt when his left ankle planted awkwardly into the turf during the first quarter of the Sunday's 41-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The scene was familiar: Griffin lying on the turf, the crowd murmuring with concern, teammates offering support. His tears spoke volumes.
Griffin missed all or part of four games during his record-setting rookie season of 2012, yielding the field to Cousins because of a concussion and later due to injuries to a right knee that eventually had to be surgically reconstructed for a second time. In 2013, he missed part of one game with a tweaked left knee and was benched for the final three games by coach Mike Shanahan.
Now the quarterback with the world-class sprinter's body has broken down again.
His MRI results will be sent to a specialist for further analysis, and coach Jay Gruden said he won't have a timetable for Griffin's return until the leg has been in a cast for a few weeks.
Gruden said there's "no consideration" at this point of putting Griffin on season-ending injured reserve. The coach answered "yes" when asked if he was optimistic about having the franchise player back in 2014.
"You're sick about it," Gruden said, "because you spend a lot of time with Robert, getting him ready and you watch how much passion he has for the game and how seriously he takes his job and what kind of will he has to succeed. And he's such a great kid on and off the field that you hate for something like this to happen to somebody.
"It's just a bump in the road for him. It's another little bit of adversity he's going to have to overcome. And part of being a quarterback is your mental toughness and ability to overcome adversity, and he's done it in the past, he'll do it again and we have total faith that he'll bounce back and be as good as ever soon."
Gruden said he doesn't think the troubling list of injuries should cast doubt on Griffin's durability.
"The more injuries mount on him, it just becomes an issue, I guess, for a lot of people to think that his durability's in question. ... I think they're just fluke injuries, and they happen from time to time to certain players," Gruden said. "And hopefully, when he recovers from this, it'll be the last one he ever has."
Meanwhile, Cousins has a sustained chance to prove he can be a starting NFL quarterback. His various fill-in appearances for Griffin have produced mixed results. He looked sharp Sunday, albeit against a Jaguars defense that left receivers open everywhere.
But he looked very comfortable — more so than Griffin — when running new coach Gruden's system during training camp and preseason. Gruden was trying to teach Griffin how to be a pocket-passer; Cousins is already one.
Gruden said he won't have to make any significant changes to the game plan with Cousins calling the signals.
"We were trying not to make this about Robert when Robert was the quarterback," the coach said. "We're going to try not to make this about Kirk now that Kirk's the quarterback. We've got to make this about the Redskins moving forward."
Note: Gruden said WR DeSean Jackson, who also left Sunday's game in the first quarter, has a Grade 1 sprain of the AC joint in the left shoulder. Jackson will be eager to recover in time to play Sunday against his old team, the Philadelphia Eagles. "It depends on if he can play with the pain," Gruden said.
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