ASHBURN, Va. (CBSDC) — Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins will take the majority of the snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s when the fight against human nature begins.

Cousins won’t be the starter when Washington opens its season on Sept. 7 at Houston. As of Monday afternoon, he said representatives from the St. Louis Rams, in need of another quarterback after starter Sam Bradford was lost for the season to a torn ACL, had not contacted Cousins’ agent or the Redskins about a possible trade.

And so Cousins is where he has always been during his time with Washington: Stuck watching Robert Griffin III run the offense. After Thursday, he is not guaranteed another snap in 2014. That’s an impulse Cousins must fight every day.

“If my mindset was that Thursday’s going to be probably my last opportunity for a while then I’m in trouble and I’m never going to be the quarterback I want to be someday in this league,” Cousins said. “My mindset has to be that when I walk off the field against Tampa, that it is not the end for me this year.”

That’s easier said than done. But Cousins is also used to it at this point. When a potential move to the Cleveland Browns fell through this offseason – and a reunion with former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan – Cousins took it in stride. Until he can decide his own future, his role on the field is up to the Redskins. Despite an uneven preseason from Griffin, that hasn’t changed.

“That’s the challenge, right? We as humans are going to naturally relax when we don’t think we’re the guy,” Cousins said. “That’s the challenge. That’s where the character gets tested. And that’s why not everybody can do this and not everybody lasts and not everybody can play 12 years because it is challenging. We’re going to try and withstand the test of time and see what happens.”

Cousins has played primarily against reserve players in three preseason games and he has had his own struggles during training camp and in practices once the team returned from Richmond. But he also completed 14 of 20 passes in Saturday’s 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He threw two touchdown passes. There are signs of progression entering his third year in the NFL

“I do feel like I’ve taken steps,” Cousins said. “A lot of these preseason games my attitude has been ‘I’m really close to being pretty good.’ I’m not there yet, but I’m close.”

That means Cousins feels better about his command of the offense, understanding what coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay want from him, his execution of their system. But this was never an open quarterback competition and Cousins knew that from the start. The Redskins have too much invested in Griffin to change course now. That leaves Cousins once more waiting his turn. It will come at some point – in Washington or with another organization. His job now, however, is clear.

“I have aspirations to someday be a starter and I can’t do that until I do my job as a backup,” Cousins said. “I can’t look down the road too far, I need to be ready as a backup, which means…when called upon coming off the bench in the fourth quarter in December in a blizzard, I’ve got to be ready. And if I’m not, I’ll never be a starter. So one thing at a time and the next step is Thursday night.”

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter.


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