Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is out with a dislocated left ankle, throws during workout drills. The Redskins had a delicate balancing act deciding how many reps to give Griffin vs. Colt McCoy, who is expected to start against theCowboys.

ASHBURN, Va. — Rookie NFL head coach Jay Gruden pulled a veteran move Thursday, saying he won’t absolutely, positively rule out Robert Griffin III’s return for the Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys until just before kickoff.

Gruden nevertheless gave every indication that McCoy will make a first start in nearly three years. The coach said he was “tinkering on thin ice” at practice to give both quarterbacks sufficient first-team snaps so that McCoy will be ready to play and so that Griffin can back in the flow after idle weeks recovering from a dislocated left ankle.

“Colt’s the starter. We’re preparing for Colt to be the starter,” Gruden said. “But we’re trying to get Robert some reps, get him ready. But right now it looks like odds are Colt will be the starter, but we’re trying to work Robert into the lineup and trying to get him reps to get him ready to go because ultimately, when it’s all said and done, when Robert’s healthy, Robert’s the starter.

“We just don’t know when that ‘healthy’ will be.”

Gruden previously said he wanted to declare a starter by end of Thursday’s practice, but maintaining the suspense of even a remote chance of a Griffin return is a classic move to keep the opponent guessing. The Cowboys, at least nominally, will have to prepare for two very different quarterbacks.

“We will try to keep an eye on what they are doing throughout the week,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “But we certainly have to be ready for both of them.”

Griffin was again listed as “limited” in practice Thursday and “has been cleared to do just about everything” by the trainers, according to Gruden. McCoy, however, needs all the work he can get because he began the season as the third-stringer and has practiced very little with the starters. Center Kory Lichtensteiger, for example, said he had made “probably zero” snaps to McCoy in any sort of 11-on-11 practice drill until this week.

“We’re really tinkering here on thin ice, you know, as far as who we’re giving the reps to,” Gruden said. “Every time we take Colt out of the game getting ready for Monday night, we’re taking away from his progression. We have to give Colt the reps right now, but we also have to make sure that we’re bringing Robert along at a good rate so that when he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”

The Redskins again declined to make Griffin available to reporters. He is scheduled to make a statement Friday but is not expected to take questions.

McCoy’s last start came on Dec. 8, 2011, with the Cleveland Browns.

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