Update: 3:48 p.m.: When asked about Locklear's tweet on the exit meeting, Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday: "Well, like I said, I talked to Sean after the game, and he must not have liked my speech. Obviously was disappointed in it. But I've only been doing it this way a number of years, and he must've been used to it a different way. I apologize, Sean. It will never happen again -- at least not with me."
The coach chuckled afterward and said, "C'mon, you gotta have a little fun every now and then."
Original post: Each NFL franchise handles its final team meeting of the year differently. The Buccaneers said good-bye to their head coach Monday. The Jets’ Rex Ryan broke into tears addressing his players. As for the Redskins, Coach Mike Shanahan apparently wasn’t even in the room for most of his team’s final meeting of the year.
Instead, Shanahan made the unusual decision to allow some Navy SEALs and a Marine to lead the team’s final meeting of the year Monday morning at Redskins Park. The meeting wasn’t focused on the team’s failures and successes, or what the offseason might look like. Instead, the troops talked about the themes that are common to a military unit and an NFL locker room.
“I thought it was a amazing,” said tight end Chris Cooley. “They did a fantastic job. It was very inspiring. It really puts into perspective what we do.”
Not everyone was impressed with the way the Redskins handled the players’ final day at the team facility. Tackle Sean Locklear was not available for an interview in the team’s locker room, but he took to Twitter Monday afternoon to say: “Worst exit meeting ever! No coaches, no front office, just physical’s and goodbye to teammates! We did just spend 5 mos together, WOW!”
When the players walked into the team’s auditorium Monday at 10 a.m., there were four men at the front of the room. One of them was 21-year old Todd Love, a RECON Marine who lost both his legs and half his left arm to an improvised explosive device (IED) on Oct. 25, 2010, in Fangin, Afghanistan.
“We talked about how similar NFL players are with warriors in our military,” Love said in an interview. “So we went into detail about that and how we prepare for things and how they prepare for things. They’re coming towards the end of their season, and how they’re coming to their vacation. We talked a lot about how important it is to train, to keep it up and remember what your mission is.”
The meeting was arranged with the help of the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports severely injured troops. Love said when he arrived at Redskins Park in the morning, he didn’t know he’d be addressing the entire team. “I thought I was going to go in today and just kind of watch,” he said.
Instead, he shared his story, fielded questions and met with players afterward.
“It was a great message,” said defensive end Stephen Bowen. “ I think a lot of guys took a lot from it, and hopefully they can put it into perspective in their lives. …His message wasn’t about the playoffs. It was just about being accountable for your teammates and putting it on the line, and you always have somebody depending on you to do your job, so you don’t want to let anybody down.”
Said defensive end Adam Carriker: “I respect those guys a lot. [One of the SEALs] said it best when he compared football and the SEALS, he said, ‘We’re both really competitive in what we do, but the difference is, we mess up, we lose a game. They mess up, somebody gets hurt.’ So to me, I have the ultimate respect for them.”
While players say Shanahan wasn’t in the room, Love said the head coach did briefly address the team before they were dismissed for the offseason.
“At the very end, he just said a very short thing, like, ‘Don’t do anything stupid while you’re gone,’” Love said.