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By Kimberley A. Martin,
Standing behind the lectern, Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden delivered his directive. The team is done revisiting the embarrassing results of the past two weeks and instead is focused on salvaging what’s left of another disappointing season.
“We cannot — cannot — dwell on the past of the last two games. We can’t,” he stressed after Wednesday’s practice. “You’re going to wallow in it and you’re going to continue to suffer. We’ve got to move on and we will.”
Days after a defeated Gruden said he had regressed as a coach following Washington’s 30-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, he emerged Wednesday with a far more defiant, forceful spirit. With an assertive tone, he quelled the increasing talk of the Redskins’ supposed lack of preparedness — a complaint lodged by one of his own players, D.J. Swearinger, a veteran safety and team captain.
“Well, we didn’t spend all week last week playing checkers,” Gruden said, sarcastically. “I mean, we have a lot of meeting time, a lot of practice time, a lot of walkthroughs. They have iPads. . . . They have a weight room in here, plenty of water to drink. We just didn’t go out there and perform in a way we would like to have. . . . But as far as being prepared, I don’t really buy into all that.”
Gruden’s job status was immediately called into question in the wake of the loss to the Chargers. But Swearinger’s postgame comments about Washington’s “blah” practices and overall lack of game-week preparation raised even more questions about the direction of the team. But even with a 5-8 record and a two-game losing streak, Gruden insisted his team is mentally in a good place.
“After a game when you lose 30-13 or whatever it was, you feel like the world’s going to end,” he said. “But come Monday afternoon when you watch all the film, you move forward and you try to be positive. . . . We’re blessed with three games left and we’re going to coach the heck out of these guys and I know they’re going to play hard. It’s our job to make sure that everybody’s positive and moving on.”
The bottom line: The Redskins are on to Arizona.
But Swearinger’s comments didn’t sit well with everyone in the locker room.
Tight end Niles Paul, a special teams captain, came to Gruden’s defense, noting that the Redskins practiced in full pads last Wednesday — a rarity, he said, among NFL teams this late in the season.
“So to say we were unprepared, I think that’s just a cop-out as a player,” Paul said. “That’s no shot at [Swearinger]. He’s a hell of a player. But I think you need to hold yourself accountable. If you’re not playing well, if you didn’t do something right, man up to it. Don’t blame it on preparation. We’re professionals. The coaches can only lead us to the water. We’ve got to drink it.
“. . . I was prepared for that game. I know everybody in the tight end room was prepared for that game. Things just didn’t work out as planned.”
The Redskins see Sunday’s home game against the Cardinals (6-7) as an opportunity to reset and focus on finishing out the season on a positive note. Players remained upbeat Wednesday, dismissing any notion that their locker room is in danger of fracturing.
“It’s easy to keep things together because if you don’t, in this league, you’ll get embarrassed,” safety DeAngelo Hall said. “. . . You’ve got to play for pride at the end of the day. Because if anybody on the other side senses a weakness, they’ll exploit it.”
Even with the playoffs no longer a possibility, Paul agreed that the Redskins have plenty to play for. “I mean, I can’t speak for the defense. I don’t know what the defense has going on over there, but on [offense and special teams], we’re ready to keep playing, we want to win out,” he said. “That has been the goal. And we realize that this season, we haven’t accomplished everything we wanted to, but we’re still NFL players and we still have a job to do.”
Gruden said he didn’t talk to Swearinger about his recent comments because “I felt like everything that’s been said has been said already and we’re not going to hit the rewind button.”
A short time later, Swearinger made it clear that he still stands by his comments.
“It’s not frustration, it’s facts,” said Swearinger, a former Cardinals safety. “. . . A lot of stuff’s been said about what I’ve been saying. It’s not going to change what I’m saying. It’s the fact of it. Guys on this team have to practice better. And if we don’t practice better, we’re going to get the same results. Period.”
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