ASHBURN, Va. — It takes quite the sales job to explain why a medically cleared Robert Griffin III won’t play for the rest of the season.

Redskins 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 Redskins’ 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 and would play to the end of the season.

“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 … 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. 

“I expressed my desire to play,” Griffin said. “Of course, I want to be out there and finish the season with my guys, see it through. He explained to me his reasoning, and at the end of the day, Coach’s decision is what we go with.”

Packers’ Rodgers practices with offense

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers took some first-team snaps in practice Wednesday, though the Packers’ franchise quarterback has not been cleared to play in a game.

If that stands through the rest of week, backup Matt Flynn would be back in for Rodgers when Green Bay visits the Cowboys on Sunday .

The Packers are 1-4-1 since Rodgers fractured his left collarbone Nov. 4.

Rodgers “looked real good today. It was good to see him out there, really working with the offense,” tight end Andrew Quarless said Wednesday. “He was out there before but wasn’t working as much with the offense, but

today he took some offensive reps.

Texans’ Johnson
pays $17K tab for toys

HOUSTON — Some speedy children in Houston have received more than $17,000 worth of toys and other Christmas gifts thanks to Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.

A dozen at-risk youngsters had 80 seconds Tuesday to dash through a toy store and grab what they could — to be paid for by Johnson. His jersey is No. 80.

Some of the NFL team’s cheerleaders helped the needy children push shopping baskets that quickly filled with dolls, electronic toys, iPads and other holiday treats. Each child also received an entertainment game system.

The tab topped $17,300.

Johnson, who for a seventh year hosted the charity event, says it’s fun for the children and for him, too.

Bears’ Cutler could return this weekend

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Bears coach Marc Trestman is optimistic quarterback Jay Cutler will be ready to return from an ankle injury this week against the Browns.

Cutler was to work with the receivers after Wednesday’s walkthrough, and Trestman says the Bears will know today if he’s ready to start.

Teammate Lance Briggs, a former Arizona Wildcats linebacker, will likely miss a seventh straight game with a broken shoulder.