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 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 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 -- a reversal of Shanahan's oft-stated position that Griffin needed as much game experience as possible.

"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."

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."


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The move only serves to stoke the turmoil surrounding the 3-10 team in general and Shanahan in particular. It appears increasingly unlikely he'll return for the final year of his five-year, $35 million contract.

Packers: Aaron Rodgers took some first-team snaps in practice, though the quarterback still hasn't been cleared to play in a game. If that stands through the rest of week, backup Matt Flynn would start when Green Bay visits the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in a game critical to both teams' playoff hopes.

The Packers are 1-4-1 since Rodgers fractured his left collarbone in a 27-20 loss Nov. 4 to the Bears.

Coach Mike McCarthy didn't sound like someone who was sure Rodgers is ready. The quarterback is still officially listed as "limited" in practice. He is "the face of our franchise and until he's medically cleared, just like any other player going through a significant injury, that's really where the focus will be," McCarthy said.

Broncos: Receiver Wes Welker won't play Thursday night against San Diego as he recovers from his second concussion in less than a month.

Bears: Coach Marc Trestman is optimistic quarterback Jay Cutler will return from an ankle injury this week against the Cleveland Browns. Cutler has missed the past four games. Linebacker Lance Briggs, meanwhile, has missed the past six games because of a broken shoulder, and the odds that he'll suit up against the Browns appear slim.

Vikings: Running back Adrian Peterson has shed the walking boot on his sprained right foot, but he wasn't ready for practice Wednesday. He probably won't participate until Friday at the earliest, and coach Leslie Frazier said he's more optimistic about the condition of backup Toby Gerhart (hamstring) than he is with Peterson for Sunday's game against Philadelphia.