The truth shall set you free.
And in the case of D.J. Swearinger, it can send you packing on Christmas Eve.
In another dramatic twist in an already stunning Washington Redskins season, the veteran safety announced on D.C. radio Monday that he had been released by the team. Swearinger’s abrupt dismissal came only two days after he publicly ripped defensive coordinator Greg Manusky following the team’s 25-16 loss to the Blaine Gabbert-led Tennessee Titans.
This was the last straw for Washington.
This was the line head coach Jay Gruden felt compelled to draw in the sand.
Imagine that …
The Redskins, a franchise so determined to give Reuben Foster a second chance that they ignored his repeated run-ins with law enforcement — including domestic violence charges — and claimed him off waivers two days after San Francisco, determined Swearinger was a lost cause. Washington’s front office also wanted everyone to know that the Foster allegations were “small potatoes [compared to] a lot of things out there.”
… The Redskins, a franchise that accepted the apology of linebacker and team captain Mason Foster, who wrote “F- – – this team and this fan base” in a private Instagram message that was later leaked to the public. The message, which Foster accepted responsibility for, was followed by six laughing emojis.
… The Redskins, a franchise that currently employs safety Montae Nicholson, who was arrested in Virginia last week for misdemeanor assault and public intoxication. (Nicholson, who is on the non-football injury list, also was reportedly arrested for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania in 2017.)
And now, these same Redskins made it clear that Swearinger’s sin could no longer go ignored.
“We should have blew them out,” Swearinger said Saturday of the Titans, before teeing off on Manusky. “If I’m the D-coordinator I’m calling a zone every time on third down because you’ve got a backup quarterback. Make him beat us. Make him, ‘OK, a zone, go here.’ We’re going to pick you off. Man, three by one, you’re going back side every time. A kindergarten quarterback know that.”
Those comments were the final straw for a franchise that had long grown tired of the safety’s criticisms — no matter how accurate Swearinger’s truth-telling may have been.
It’s true that Swearinger’s inability to control his emotions is just one of the reasons he’s on his fourth team since being drafted in the second round by Houston in 2013.
It’s also true that Gruden has had multiple chats with the 27-year-old about his criticisms in the media, comments that often put the coaching staff in an awkward position.
However, a former Redskin defended Swearinger, saying Washington’s practices “were a joke” and “too laid back.” He then added: “That’s the reason for so many injuries. … Nobody practices hard.”
Asked about the safety’s comments regarding Gruden’s “laidback” approach in practices, one current Redskins player acknowledged in a text message that “a lot of things could have been different, but it’s always going to be, players play and coaches coach. And when you challenge that enough then parties have to go their separate ways.”
Several current Redskins took to social media to publicly voice their confusion and frustration over Swearinger’s release.
“Some sh- – is impossible to understand,” talented left tackle Trent Williams wrote in a caption of a picture with him and Swearinger. “4eva Family.”
“Forever My Brother, Sh- – crazy,” cornerback Quinton Dunbar wrote beneath a picture of him and Swearinger. The caption included a broken heart emoji.
The stunning move also left the Redskins’ most devoted fans lost for words.
Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — a fan of his beloved Redskins since 1982 — was clearly dumbfounded by Swearinger’s release.
“The optics on all this is crazy,” Earnhardt tweeted. “Claimed Reuben. Kept Mason. Released DJ….. on Christmas Eve??!?!?”
It didn’t matter that Washington still has one more game left on the schedule (against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles, no less), nor did the Redskins give a second thought to the remaining year left on Swearinger’s three-year deal. Nor did it seem to bother Gruden that he has no suitable replacement for the now-exiled defensive back. To the Redskins, those details were mere footnotes to the egregiousness of Swearinger’s actions.
Publicly criticize the coaching staff and you will be shown the door.
So, on Monday, Gruden called Swearinger — his veteran leader and the pulse of his depleted secondary — into his office and explained that this was the best solution for all parties involved.
But Washington knew the type of person Swearinger is when it signed him. The Redskins loved his emotion. They fed off his fiery nature. They tabbed him to be the vocal leader in the back end for a reason.
The Redskins loved Swearinger’s aggression and his mouth — that is, until the safety continued to highlight internal issues: issues that have been questioned by players, behind closed doors, for as long as Gruden (35-43-1) has been the head coach in Ashburn.
By removing Swearinger from the premises, Washington has rid itself of a nuisance of sorts. A player unafraid to call things as he sees them.
That brutal honesty, however, has a price. Especially when it’s done in a public forum, and the targets often are those wearing the same uniform.
But Swearinger, forever a free spirit, remained unfazed in the face of his sudden unemployment.
“I’m peaceful about it,” the safety, who was voted a Pro Bowl alternate only days ago, said in his radio interview. “I don’t regret nothing because I know I gave 100 percent from my heart.”
And there are people within that locker room who believe Swearinger is 100 percent right in his assessments too.
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