And every now and then I would be rewarded for holding on to a player for his loyalty and dedication, because Lorenzo Alexander would knock down walls for me when I compensated him the way he should be after a Pro Bowl season.
I wouldn’t use excuses if I didn’t have room for him, either; as hard as it might be, I’d just be honest and tell him he wasn’t in our plans.
“If they really wanted to get creative, they probably could,” said Alexander, who had been with the Redskins since 2006. “Obviously the cap was an issue. But after talking to some people, there were ways they could have pushed money to later years. My number isn’t a huge number in the grand scheme of things. I was never going to really keep them from going out and getting bigger free agents.
“Hey, they made their decision. They have good, young players that play my position they have confidence in. I’m an Arizona Cardinal. No hard feelings. Dan Snyder even called me and said I was his guy, that if things were different, I’d be back. He didn’t have to do that.”
Two weeks after he signed a contract with Arizona that guaranteed him a $2.8 million signing bonus and, with escalating clauses, could amount to $9.5 million, Alexander returned to Ashburn for closure.
He wasn’t sure if the team would let him through the security gate when he pulled his white Yukon Denali into the practice facility. But ’Zo had to say goodbye to the people who gave him his first real job in the NFL.
He cries at movies, especially the father-son genre because his own father didn’t become involved in his life until later. He cried when he was cut in Carolina.
“You should cry more; you’ll live longer and enjoy your family,” he once told me. “That’s why women live longer. They show their emotions.”
And though he wept when he learned he no longer played football in Washington, he kept it bottled up as much as he could when he visited Redskins Park two weeks ago.
“I was trying to make sure I didn’t cry in front of nobody; I didn’t want to make a scene,” he said. “I knew this was a business a long time ago. But it’s just leaving people you love. That was the hardest thing you have to come to grips with.”
He thanked Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan. He looked for Allen but couldn’t find him. The toughest goodbyes, he said, were reserved for the people who helped him be a modern-day gladiator each Sunday in their own little way.
He hugged Miss B.J., the front-office manager for life, and Miss Tammy, and he walked out to his truck and wept again.
“I said goodbye to some in the organization that people tend to not think about but are so important to the daily running of the ship,” he said. “They made us go. We wouldn’t have nothin’ without them.”
Figures, no? One role player was making sure the other role players knew of their value. ’Zo was really saying goodbye to himself that day, to a relationship with a former employer who once felt like family before it moved on without him.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.