BEREA, Ohio — Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III has cleared the final medical hurdle on his comeback trail.
Now coach Hue Jackson will decide whether to reinsert him into the starting lineup.
All signs are pointing in that direction.
“Beyond blessed to have an opportunity to get back on the field with my brothers,” said Griffin, who didn’t speak to reporters Tuesday but made the statement through a team spokesman. “I promise my teammates and coaches to give them everything I have as we work to finish the season strong.”
With the Browns 0-12 and Jackson hoping to avoid a winless season, it would presumably be a no-brainer for him to test whether Griffin can breathe life into an inept offense that’s produced just 39 points in the past four games.
“Going into the season, Robert obviously was the starting quarterback,” nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “He won the job going into the season, and he didn’t really get a whole heck of a lot of opportunities to prove what type of quarterback he can be in this system, so I think there’s a lot of guys that are eager to see what he can do.
“I think he can bring something different to the table, too. Obviously, he has a unique skill set with the way he can run and the type of athlete that he is, so it can make preparing for our offense more difficult when you have a quarterback that is a weapon to run the football.”
Jackson said Griffin had been cleared for contact late Monday night, meaning he passed a test that showed the coracoid bone in his left (non-throwing) shoulder has healed. Griffin suffered a fracture in the bone Sept. 11 during the regular-season opener and has missed the past 11 games.
“Robert is cleared, and he is ready to go, and I will make a decision about which way we are going as we go through the week,” Jackson said. “Just because he is cleared does not mean we are just going to walk back out there and play. There is still practice and there are still things we need to do and see before I decide to stick him back out there.”
The Browns have a bye Sunday, so they won’t play again until they host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) on Dec. 11. In other words, the coaches have more time than usual to prepare Griffin.
“It does work out in our favor in that situation,” Jackson said.
Rookie Cody Kessler and Josh McCown are the other viable options to start at quarterback. Kessler is 0-8 as a starter this season, and McCown is 0-3.
Kessler practiced Monday and Tuesday after being cleared to return from his second concussion suffered in a span of 29 days. Yet Jackson has said he’ll consult the team’s medical staff about whether Kessler should play soon.
Kessler said he feels good and wants to return, but he’ll understand if Griffin gets a shot.
“That’s obviously coach’s decision, but I know that I just went out there and did everything I could and played as hard as I could and put everything I had out on the field,” Kessler said. “And as a competitor, you want to be out there every chance you get. But whatever coach decides, if it is that way, then I’m going to be a great teammate and stay locked in and stay prepared all week and continue to prepare as I have.”
McCown sat out practice Tuesday because he’s sore, Jackson said. McCown started for Kessler in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the New York Giants and has committed 10 turnovers (six interceptions and four lost fumbles) in 15 quarters of action this season.
Still, Jackson said he needs to see Griffin practice more before choosing a starting quarterback.
“It is not a competition,” Jackson said. “If we put him out there, it is because we want to. It is no different than any other player that we put out there. We want to see what they can do for our organization, for our football team, so we get an honest evaluation on a player.”
Asked if Griffin would be assessed with next season in mind if he were to return this year, Jackson said, “I am always looking to see who is going to be on the team as we move forward.”
Griffin returned to practice Nov. 23 after the Browns designated him to return from injured reserve. He spent last week doing non-contact drills but can now fully participate. The Browns will take a vacation during the bye and resume practice Monday.
Jackson said Griffin’s throwing hasn’t been affected by the injury and there have been no issues with his velocity or accuracy.