Griffin cleared to play

Published 4:21 am Friday, December 30, 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) — Robert Griffin III can finish what he started.
Cleveland’s quarterback was cleared from concussion protocol and will start Sunday at Pittsburgh in the season finale.
Griffin was checked by an independent neurologist — the last step in the NFL’s procedure on head injuries — and practiced as the Browns (1-14) prepared to face a Steelers team assured a playoff spot. Pittsburgh will rest several starters, including stars Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Coach Hue Jackson said as long as Griffin doesn’t have any setbacks he’ll make this fourth straight start.
“Looked good,” Jackson said following Thursday’s workout. “Looked like Robert.”
RG3 sustained his concussion in the fourth quarter last week against San Diego and was replaced by rookie Cody Kessler, who finished the Browns’ 20-17 win.
Griffin has made three straight starts after missing 11 weeks with a broken left shoulder sustained in the season opener. Griffin has improved in each game but has yet to throw a touchdown pass.
Jackson has been pleased with Griffin’s progress and would like to see more before deciding if the 26-year-old can be Cleveland’s starter going forward.
In four starts, Griffin has completed 58 of 107 passes for 654 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Last week, he completed 17 of 28 passes for 196 yards and added 42 yards rushing before getting hurt the seventh time he was sacked.
Jackson wants to Griffin to build off his last performance.
“Just have to keep making that jump,” he said. “We went from not scoring very many points to scoring 17 and had a good start. We scored on three of the first four or five possessions, whatever it was, before the half. That is a sign of improvement.
“We need to do that and do a little bit more. We made some third downs early in the game that I thought were huge. Made some plays throwing the ball and with his feet. Have to continue to grow that way. We can keep building on those things. I think that will show more improvement.”
The Browns will likely have the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and could use it to land a franchise quarterback, something they have not been able do since their expansion return 17 years ago. Cleveland has started 26 quarterbacks during the span. There will be other options, including trades and free agency.
Griffin signed a two-year, $15 million free contract last spring. The Browns can void the second season by not paying a $750,000 roster bonus due in March.
“Hopefully, there will be enough body of work to make a good decision about where we go and what we do,” Jackson said. “I think I have a pretty good feel for our quarterbacks and who they are and what they are. That is why I want to see as much as I can over this last game.”
Jackson has been a strong supporter of Griffin’s since his arrival and remains an advocate for the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, whose flashes of brilliance have been muted by injuries. Jackson conceded that Griffin’s durability is an issue.
“You have to stay healthy,” Jackson said. “I will be the first to tell you that. It is hard to play in this league when you are not out there playing. He did everything to help us have a chance to win the game. He played better in some areas, but you have to find a way to stay out there.”
On Wednesday, Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas gave Griffin a strong endorsement and said he will not be surprised if RG3 is the starter next season.
“I think you’ve seen franchise-level talent for sure and I wouldn’t write him off by any stretch of the imagination,” said Thomas, who has a strong relationship with Jackson. “I think he’s shown enough that if they do decide to make Robert the guy, I think he can definitely be the guy and I think he’d have the support of the locker room.”
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