In a league well-known for its contentious contract disputes, it’s hard to think of a player experiencing more hostility from his own team over the course of a year than the Washington Redskin’s Trent Williams debacle.
Pro Bowl players have held out from teams before, but the story of Williams refusing to suit up for the team he’s played for since 2010 after its doctors reportedly dismissed a growth on his head that turned out to be a rare form of cancer is truly unprecedented.
Williams ended up holding out until the absolute last day before the Redskins would have basically retained control over his contract for another year. The team, which had refused to trade him, responded to his return by placing him on the non-football injury list so it could avoid paying him his salary for the rest of the year, a new low for one of the NFL’s most obscenely mismanaged franchises.
As you can imagine Williams has plenty to say about the franchise as he waits for the end of a relationship that has gone beyond toxic, going in on the franchise in an extended interview with Les Carpenter of The Washington Post.
Williams’ No. 1 target was team president Bruce Allen, who could also be on the way out after another season of the team’s stadium being constantly invaded by opposing fans while their own supporters stay at home.
Trent Williams: Cancer could have penetrated his skull
After six years of reportedly being told by team doctors that his cancerous growth was a harmless cyst, Williams had the growth biopsied and says he was told there was a risk it had penetrated his skull because of its longevity. Before surgery, he says the doctor told him to get his “affairs in order.”
Fortunately, the cancer had not penetrated his skull, though it was reportedly found to indeed be heading toward his brain. Surgery fixed that, and then the Redskins responded by requesting an independent review of his medical records.
Williams has previously admitted that he was disappointed that Allen refused to either give him an extension or trade him during the offseason, but described the cancer situation as his “breaking point.”
Williams recalled another situation from last season to the Post in which he played through a thumb injury that team doctors said wasn’t serious enough to make him miss time. After his agent had him see a specialist, he learned the true damage:
“The specialist called and said: ‘You should have been in for surgery yesterday. Your ligament that holds your thumb in place … not only did it come out, but it wrapped around your thumb,’ ” Williams says.
Fast forward a year earlier, Williams was placed on the NFI list, and he says he’s convinced the roster move was made because Allen wanted to punish him for holding out and going public with his frustrations. Williams wasn’t able to practice due to helmet discomfort after surgery on his scalp, but he says the team used the opportunity to sideline him before a usable helmet arrived:
“It’s kind of a vindictive move, and it just showed their hand on how they wanted to operate,” he says. “I mean, I had until Tuesday and the new helmet Riddell was talking about was coming in on Monday, so for them to prematurely put me on the list without taking [time to see if the helmet would work] goes to show you that they didn’t really want me to play anyway.”
Why does Bruce Allen still have a job?
Through it all, Williams sets up Allen as his nemesis. Team owner Dan Snyder is more publicly maligned, but Williams said it wasn’t “Snyder’s f---up.” In one case, Williams said that Allen effectively ghosted him before the deadline to trick him into not reporting:
“He didn’t say anything because he wanted that 4 o’clock to pass by, because if I didn’t report by 4, of course, he could challenge to keep me for two years instead of one.”
“It just goes to show you how behind the times [Allen] is, and he still tries to use that money to hold it over black athletes,” Williams says.
Allen called Williams’ accusation “comical.”
Between this impasse and the Redskins’ enormous struggles this decade, Williams questioned why Allen is still employed by a team that has seen repeated failure on and off the field during his tenure:
“I just don’t understand,” he says. “In any business world, when the employer has someone who is underperforming, he finds another one. I don’t know in the last 10 years if there is a worse record [for] someone who has held their job for 10 years and performed the way they performed and still have a job. I don’t know. That would be good to look up and [see] just who else is in that company. I would be thrilled to find out.”
Williams isn’t alone in those thoughts, and he said he was ready to move on from the team even if it meant losing the money has taken from him through fines and the NFI move.
However, as he tries to exit, he thinks his treatment should be a warning to coaching candidates and free agents thinking of joining the franchise:
“Let’s say you are a coach candidate or you’re a free agent, what does it say to you?” he asks. “… It’s not like it’s something whispered. Everybody sees how they treated me. Free agents know for a better part of the last decade I’ve been one of the only guys in those Pro Bowl locker rooms with a Redskins symbol on my helmet. So then they see somebody like that get treated like that …”
His voice trails off.
“At the end of the day, money is money, so you might have to overpay just to get people in to overcome this,” he continues. “But I know if I was [a free agent] looking at it, I’d be looking at the situation closely.”
More from Yahoo Sports: