BEREA, Ohio -- Robert Griffin III has been cleared by doctors to play again this season. RG3 still needs Browns coach Hue Jackson's blessing.
Griffin passed a final medical test on his injured left shoulder and can now take full contact, paving the way for the quarterback to play on Dec. 11 when the winless Browns return from a bye week against Cincinnati.
Griffin hasn't played since the season opener -- his debut for Cleveland -- when he broke a bone in his shoulder while scrambling in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Beyond blessed to have an opportunity to get back on the field with my brothers," Griffin said Tuesday. "I promise my teammates and coaches to give them everything I have as we work to finish the season strong."
It's been a long wait for Griffin, who signed with the Browns hoping to revive his career. Instead, he got hurt again, adding credence to the argument that he's not durable and opening the Browns to criticism for passing on a chance to get a top QB in the draft.
Griffin can change that narrative over Cleveland's final four games, but Jackson isn't quite ready to turn his offense back over to the 26-year-old.
"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."
Despite Jackson's stance, it appears Griffin will be back behind center against the Bengals and in Cleveland's other three games.
The Browns (0-12) want to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 and Griffin may give them the best chance to win.
Jackson's other choices are rookie Cody Kessler, who is 0-8 as a starter this season and just returned from his second concussion, or 37-year-old Josh McCown, who has been pounded behind a revamped offensive line, which just lost starting right guard John Greco with a foot injury.
Griffin, who recently returned to practice, was selected as the starter in training camp after the Browns signed him to a two-year, $15 million contract in March.
Although he got hurt and then lost his job in Washington, the Browns viewed Griffin as possibly their long-term solution at quarterback. His injury in the opener delayed the team's evaluation process, but the Browns may have a four-game window to see if Griffin can be their future.
"I am always looking to see who is going to be on the team as we move forward every game we play," Jackson said, adding the bye came at a good time to give Griffin more time.
"We are still evaluating our team, too, as we go through it at this point where we are. So yeah, we are looking. If he plays quarterback, yeah, we are evaluating him to see if he can be the quarterback. No different than Cody, Josh or (QB) Kevin (Hogan). All those guys, if they play, they are being evaluated."
Jackson said he'll consider several factors before choosing a quarterback, including Griffin's injury history.
"You have to throw everything in the pot and then make a decision," he said. "But the guy has played what amounts to four quarters, not even a whole four quarters for this football team in a regular-season game? If we put him back out there, there will be a chance for him to go back out there and play, and if we don't, we don't."
NOTES: Jackson has given his players off until Monday, but before they left, he reminded them to behave while they're away. "I am not going to put up with any foolishness when guys leave here," he said. To that end, the Browns invited former NBA star guard Chauncey Billups to speak before practice. Jackson said Billups delivered a positive message about perseverance.
Steelers' rookies finding success
PITTSBURGH -- The learning curve is starting to level off for Javon Hargrave, Artie Burns and Sean Davis. That hardly means it's flat. Not by a long shot. Still, the game is beginning to slow down for the three Pittsburgh Steelers rookies, all of whom have made significant plays on a defense that's picked it up during the team's modest turnaround.
"I get so excited when we in the huddle," said Davis, a safety. "I see us and there's not a drop off."
That's exactly what the Steelers (6-5) had in mind when they used each of their first three picks in the 2016 draft to give an underperforming unit a needed jolt of youth and talent, even if they didn't anticipate relying on them to become regulars quite so soon. Yet there was Burns, the 25th-overall pick last spring, picking up his second career interception against the Browns on Nov. 20. There was Hargrave, a third-rounder from South Carolina State, falling on a fumble in the end zone for a score in the same game. There was Davis, a second-round safety, making a touchdown-saving tackle against Indianapolis that set up one of Pittsburgh's two goal line stands in a 28-7 victory on Thanksgiving.
"You've got to go with what you got," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said last week. "It's not like you've got a lot of choices."
Maybe, but all three have found their legs following a shaky start, particularly Davis, who was forced to split time at safety and nickelback early in the season. By Davis' own admission, it was a bit much a bit too soon.
"You have to study watching the same film but it's two different aspects," Davis said. "I'm not running away from it, but it's hard. I'm trying to learn everything, trying to learn two different positions. It got a little tough so they backed up. I'm handling my job well. Maybe they'll be giving me a little bit more moving forward."
It seems Davis is already there. He was the only Steelers player to be on the field for every defensive snap against the Colts, a very tangible vote of confidence from Butler and head coach Mike Tomlin.
"They rewarded me and put me out there," Davis said. "I'm just going to continue to do what I'm doing, keep my head down, stay humble and continue to work."
Not that he has much choice in the matter, particularly for a club still trying to escape the rubble of a nightmarish four-game losing streak that threatened to derail a once promising season. Solid if hardly spectacular victories over the winless Browns and Andrew Luck-less Colts stopped the slide. The Steelers weren't exactly dominant but maybe that's a good thing. After spending most of the first five weeks winning with style, Pittsburgh opted for a more substantive approach in games they absolutely had to have.
The defense picked up 11 sacks over the two games -- nearly doubling the Steelers' season total -- and forced a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions against the Colts, the kind of "splash" plays Tomlin so dearly covets. A far more difficult task awaits on Sunday when Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and the red-hot New York Giants (8-3) visit Heinz Field. It's a measuring stick of sorts to see just how far the kids have come and if Pittsburgh's recent return to normalcy is for real.
Burns is trying to downplay the prospect of facing the explosive -- and occasionally overly emotive -- Beckham.
"I don't want to use it as a measurement because everybody's going to make plays here and there," Burns said. "I'm just going out there and competing and (if) you come out with a 'W,' that's what matters."
Still, there's little doubt that getting a shot at slowing down the New York star is one of the reasons the Steelers made Burns the first cornerback they've taken in the opening round of the draft in nearly 20 years. Tomlin describes Burns as "combative," particularly at the line of scrimmage where most plays are won and lost, though Burns has exceptional recovery speed and long arms to make up for the occasional mistake. He's made believers out of his teammates, including wide receiver Antonio Brown, who spent a portion of the spring and summer providing Burns with some pretty good on-the-job training.
Hargrave's progress has been more subtle, though he's clearly taken a step forward with defensive end Cam Heyward now out for the season. The player teammates call "J Wobble" appears decidedly sturdy, picking up the first two sacks of his career over the last two weeks and making a season-high four tackles against the Colts.
"It's really making me want more," Hargrave said. "I'm even hungry for more."
NOTES: WR Darrius Heyward Bey (foot) is likely out against the Giants. ... RB DeAngelo Williams (knee), TE Xavier Grimble (quadriceps) and Shamarko Thomas (groin) could play.
Manziel investigated yet again
AUSTIN, Texas -- Police say they are investigating an incident involving Johnny Manziel that led to a lawsuit from a man who claims the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback punched him and broke his nose in a bar in Austin, Texas.
The lawsuit was filed Monday, three days before the former Texas A&M star was due in court in Dallas for the potential dismissal of a domestic violence case against him. The alleged incident happened in September at a bar in the popular Sixth Street entertainment district in downtown Austin.
The plaintiff, Eric Newton, said Manziel was attending a private party when Newton turned down Manziel's request to prepare some drinks. Newton said he was later discussing his opinion of Manziel with another customer and that somebody in Manziel's group told the former Cleveland Browns quarterback about the conversation.
Newton claims that Manziel "came downstairs, ran behind the bar, cursed at Mr. Newton, and punched him in the face, breaking Mr. Newton's nose."
Austin police wouldn't release details of an incident report, saying it had been marked "private" by an investigator.
A spokeswoman for Manziel said his representatives were aware of the lawsuit but didn't comment further.