Coach Mike Shanahan addressed his Washington Redskins players Tuesday before they parted ways for the team’s bye week. Shanahan spent a second straight day delivering the message, this time to a different audience, that he hasn’t given up on the Redskins’ season.
“I kind of figured what he said today was what he actually meant,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said later Tuesday in the locker room at Redskins Park. “I know Coach Shanahan and he wouldn’t ever pack in a season, whether it was [with] a minute left in the last game of the season and we were 0-15. He’s a competitor. We all are competitors here. I knew he would never mean this season is lost because we’ve still got seven games left.”
After the Redskins’ record dropped to 3-6 with Sunday’s 21-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers at FedEx Field, Shanahan said during his postgame news conference that the remainder of the team’s season would be about seeing who “is going to be on your football team for years to come.” At his news conference Monday, the coach defended and clarified those remarks, saying they shouldn’t have been interpreted to mean he was abandoning hopes for a turnaround this season and he has no intention of playing younger players to prepare for the future.
Shanahan spoke to his players Tuesday and apparently delivered a similar message.
“He addressed us this morning,” defensive end Kedric Golston said. “I think the same leniency that you want to give players after the game—Coach was upset, get his thoughts together—I think should be applied in this situation as far as Coach Shanahan is concerned. This is the NFL. We’re always being evaluated, you know what I mean. You want guys that want to play. It’s easy to play when you’re winning and everything’s good. But you find out the true character of a man when things are down. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. So the fact of the matter is, it’s not what Coach Shanahan said. It’s about how we respond coming out of this bye when we play Philly.”
The Redskins next play on Nov. 18 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Golston said he had reserved judgment about Shanahan’s comments until hearing directly from Shanahan.
“I waited until I heard it come out of his mouth,” Golston said. “I heard his press conference [Monday] and what he meant to say. I know Coach Shanahan. I know he cares a lot about this organization, about this franchise. He’s going out there to win football games. We’ve still got seven games left and five divisional games. Is it a tough road ahead of us? Yes. Do we have a tall task to endure? We do. But that’s what we have. That’s the hole we’ve dug. And now we’ve got to figure out a way to get out of it.”
Said Kerrigan: “We could see how it might have been taken a little bit out of context. A coach would never say that, let alone Coach Shanahan. He would never say the season is over after nine games when we’ve got seven left. And even if someone did think that, we still would go out and play just as hard.”
Shanahan expressed displeasure to his players Tuesday with the media’s handling of the situation, Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said.
“He was not very pleased with the way it got handled in the media,” Cooley said. “He was very clear to us about that. We get that. We understand it. It’s happened to all of us and I think he’s handled it… very well.”
Said long snapper Nick Sundberg: “I think every athlete knows, as much as we deal with you guys [reporters], sometimes when you say things, everybody reads it a certain way. It’s not necessarily how you meant to say it but sometimes that’s how things are read. So we all understand that things like that happen sometimes.”
Redskins players are off for the remainder of the week. When they return to work next week, they’ll begin trying to put the pieces of their season back together.
“This is an opportunity, and that’s what Coach tried to point out the other day,” Cooley said. “We’re going to find out if this team is different. We’re going to find out what type of team it is. Any team that’s good finds out in November. Hopefully we have a chance to make games important in November and December. It’ll be good to take a week off. I’m sure it’ll be good for the guys around here, especially our young players, young quarterback [Robert Griffin III], to have a little bit of time to relax and get away from it, and then come back and really try to make a run. There’s a definite opportunity in the NFC. There’s an opportunity for the Redskins to win some games and put themselves right back in the hunt. No one’s discounting that.”
Said Golston: “You understand that when you’ve lost, when you’re 3-6 and things are going bad, that no matter what is said or done is going to be looked at in a negative way. But you’ve got to come here and figure out a way to fix it so that we’re not in this situation again. Nobody likes it…. We don’t like it. The coaches don’t like it. But we’ve got to figure a way out of it.”