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Kirk Cousins’ Role As Backup Quarterback Not A Controversial One

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – Robert Griffin III stood behind a microphone and a podium Monday afternoon, looked into the lenses of a half-dozen television cameras and spoke to two dozen reporters about his performance on Saturday at Chicago.

Cousins

Kirk Cousins did the same thing at the same time, though his audience, significantly smaller, was clustered next to his temporary metal stall near a back corner of the Washington Redskins’ locker room.

A quarterback controversy? Forget it.

“This is Robert’s team,” Cousins said. “This is Robert’s opportunity, and the coaches have made that very clear. It’s my job to be the best I can in my situation and in my opportunities, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Not many could play better than Cousins did on Saturday, when he very nearly led the Redskins to victory despite being down 20 points at the start of the fourth quarter. Playing only the second half, Cousins completed 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns, though the Bears won 33-31 on a last-minute field goal.

Cousins, though, doesn’t remain disillusioned when it concerns his place on the team. He isn’t the player the Redskins have consistently referred to as the franchise quarterback, nor the one who required the team to give up two future first-round picks to take No. 2 overall in the NFL Draft in April.

That’s Griffin – the Heisman Trophy winner, the one with the endorsement deals, the one whom the Redskins have tailored their playbook around, if only slightly.

And Cousins is fine with that.

“I don’t even have a bin over there yet,” Cousins said, pointing to a wall of assigned laundry containers. “I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

The reasons for Cousins’ success are varied. His familiarity as a drop-back passer in a pro-style offense at Michigan State has made him a good fit for the Redskins, while the opposing defense, especially in the fourth quarter, mostly consisted of players who are unlikely to make the Bears’ final roster.

“I think you also can look at it as the guys around you,” Cousins said. “I’m playing with rookie offensive linemen, rookie wide receivers, rookie running backs. If I’m playing in the first quarter, I’m playing with veteran wide receivers, veteran linemen, veteran running backs.

“There’s a tradeoff there, but yeah, you’re absolutely right – I didn’t play against Brian Urlacher on Saturday night, and I understand that.”

That doesn’t mean he won’t try to take advantage of the opportunity provided him. When he entered the huddle for the first time at the start of the second half, he immediately gave his teammates a spirited pep talk. That excitement, several said, was infectious.

“He kept me motivated, you know?” said tight end Niles Paul, who caught one of the touchdown passes. “At one point in the game, it was like 30-10, and I was like, ‘This one might be over.’ Kirk came into the huddle and was like, ‘We can win this game, fellas!’ I was like, ‘Oh, all right. Yeah. Yeah we can!’ You know, he kind of made the magic happen after that.”

Cousins will likely play a few series Saturday against Indianapolis, then a good portion of the finale against Tampa Bay on Aug. 25. He played the entire second half, Mike Shanahan said, because the head coach believed it would have been uncomfortable for Rex Grossman to play meaningless snaps against his former team.

Then it’s likely to be a season on the sidelines for Cousins, who will almost assuredly defer to Grossman, last year’s starter, if something happens to Griffin.

“Preseason games, right now, are my Super Bowl,” Cousins said, “and I need to do as well as I can in every one I get a chance to play in.”

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