National Football League
             === Griffin benched, Cousins to start for Redskins ===
 Ashburn,  VA ( - Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has
 made  a  change at quarterback  and will start  Kirk Cousins instead of Robert
 Griffin III for Sunday's game against Atlanta.
 In fact, Griffin won't play again this season.
 Shanahan  gave  an indication that he  might make the switch on Monday, saying
 such  a move would  be to keep Griffin healthy heading into the offseason. The
 second-year  quarterback  made  a  quick  recovery  from  major  knee  surgery
 performed  last  January, but has struggled  for most of the 2013 campaign and
 Shanahan said Wednesday the quarterback has taken far too many hits recently.
 After  conferring  with owner  Daniel Snyder and  general manager Bruce Allen,
 Shanahan  said Wednesday  the decision  to sit  Griffin was  made in  the best
 interests of the player.
 "At the end of the day we felt the best thing to do for Robert was to not play
 him, so he can go into an offseason healthy," said Shanahan on Wednesday. "Any
 time  you miss time in the offseason, it sets you back. A quarterback needs an
 offseason program, it's important to him."
 Griffin  appeared  disappointed by the move,  but said the decision was out of
 his hands.
 "Coach  decided to  shut me  down for  the rest  of the  season," said  a dour
 Griffin  on  Wednesday. "I expressed  my desire to  play, but he explained his
 reasoning and I have to do whatever I can to help Kirk and the team.
 "(Shanahan)  just wanted to make sure I got to the offseason free of injury so
 I could have a really good offseason."
 The Redskins have followed a surprising division title from 2012 with a likely
 last-place  finish  this year. They've  lost five  straight games and are just
 3-10 heading down the stretch.
 Griffin  was  the NFL's top  offensive rookie last  year when the Redskins won
 their  final  seven games and  captured the NFC East  title, but he suffered a
 significant  knee injury during the team's first-round playoff loss to Seattle
 in January.
 The  former Heisman Trophy winner's rehab process during the offseason was the
 biggest  story  for the  Redskins heading  into training  camp. There had been
 speculation  that he may have come back too soon, but all indications are that
 he is now healthy with three games left.
 "Every  player wants to play," Griffin added. "Any quarterback wants to finish
 out  the season  with his team. It's  coach's decision and you have to respect
 that  authority. In this instance, he's telling me to shut it down and I can't
 fight that."
 Griffin  has completed  60.1 percent  of his  passes for  3,230 yards  with 16
 touchdowns  and  12  interceptions  this  season.  His  rushing  numbers  have
 plummeted  greatly from a  year ago, with just 489 this season compared to 815
 in 2012.
 "I  think  it was  tough enough,  coming off  (the injuries)," Shanahan added,
 emphasizing  that he had  the support of Snyder and Allen in the decision. "At
 the  end  of the day,  if you  miss the whole  offseason again, the chances of
 coming  back again  would be very, very tough  and I didn't want to put him in
 that   situation   again.  I  don't  think   it's  worth  the  risk  for  this
 Cousins,  a fourth-round pick  by the Redskins a year ago, made one start last
 season in place of an injured Griffin and this year has appeared in two games.
 He  has completed  12-of-25 passes for 107 yards with two interceptions in his
 limited action this season.
 "I  think it's a  great opportunity to show what I'm capable of," said Cousins
 on  Wednesday.  "Football's a  team game and  you're only as  good as the guys
 around  you. The  guys are going to help  me and I'm going to help them. We're
 going to do our best to get a win against the Atlanta Falcons."
 Cousins  said  he doesn't believe he  is auditioning to be the quarterback for
 next season.
 "Even  as I  start this week, I  believe this is Robert's team," Cousins said.
 "He is the franchise quarterback."
 Griffin  will be the  third quarterback on Sunday and Rex Grossman will be the
 backup to Cousins.
 The  Redskins,  following Sunday's tilt,  will close the year against division
 rivals Dallas and the New York Giants.
 12/11 14:24:03 ET