London Fletcher finished the season as the NFL’s leading tackler. But through six games — more than one-third of the way through the season — he wasn’t even leading the Redskins. Fellow inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh was. Yet now, less than three months later, McIntosh’s future in Washington appears to be in doubt.
McIntosh was benched midway through the season and wasn’t even active for the season finale at Philadelphia.
After six seasons in Washington, McIntosh will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and seems aware that a change of scenery might be inevitable.
“Whatever team I’m on, I just want to make sure they have a commitment to me, they believe in me,” McIntosh said. “No more of these silly games — ‘This guy is playing, this guy’s not performing.’ Six years here, you can go back to all the linebackers here, I think my stats are either close or beyond them, whether they’ve been here the same period or not. I got 100 tackles each year, I’ve made interceptions, I played special teams, blah blah blah. But still, I get little articles every now and then, ‘Rocky’s struggling.’ It’s just really funny to me.”
McIntosh was replaced with Perry Riley following the team’s loss to San Francisco on Nov. 6. In that game, McIntosh was beat for a 30-yard touchdown catch by Bruce Miller late in the first half. For the remainder of the season, most of his playing time came on special teams.
“Four or five games I was out there balling. One game — one play — I mess up,” he said. “It’s just like Carlos [Rogers] said, everything gets out of whack if you mess up once around here.
“When a lot of guys leave here and they start saying things, most of it’s pretty true,” McIntosh continued. “But as far as me, I don’t do unto others like they do to me. I’m just always going to be a part of the team. I always do what I need to to help my team succeed because that’s what’s going to work. I’m never going to go out there and blast you in the newspaper or do anything like that. I think that just breaks up the team.”
McIntosh wasn’t active in Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia. According to an ESPN 980 report citing unnamed sources, McIntosh missed curfew the night before the game. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said, “I’m not saying it’s true or not true.”
“I don’t go through that,” he said, “but obviously, Rocky didn’t dress for the game and there was a reason for it. But I don’t go through why.”
McIntosh was interviewed for this story prior to the radio report and was not available to comment on the allegation.
Regardless of whether the Redskins want him back, McIntosh will be able to test the market. The way McIntosh views it, he was twice a victim of last year’s labor strife. The first year he was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent — following the 2009 season — terms of the expired collective bargaining agreement instead kept him restricted. And last season, he said many teams opted to sign their own players rather than add free agents who might not have enough time to learn new systems. Last summer McIntosh signed a one-year contract with Washington for $1.25 million in addition to $1.75 million in bonus money.
“You only get a small window. You only can play football for so long,” he said. “You just got to try to make the best of your opportunities. That’s all I’m looking for next year.”
McIntosh was the Redskins’ second-round draft pick in 2006. Since then, he started 69 games for the Redskins, lining up alongside Fletcher. He played under three defensive coordinators and three head coaches and said he’ll reflect on the past two years with “mixed feelings.”
“Switching to another system, switching to another coaching staff — stuff like that, whether I’ve been in or out, it’s kind of been the same records and stuff,” he said. “It’s kind of hard. But as a teammate of this team, I’m always willing to do what I need to do. I don’t question the higher-ups usually, just try to go out there and give my best effort.”