Rather than address his team one final time, Shanahan instead allowed a small group of Navy SEALs and a Marine to lead the meeting. That meant that rather than recap how a 3-1 start imploded into a 2-10 finish, players learned how Marine Cpl. Todd Love, at the front of the room, had lost his legs.
“I thought it was 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 on 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!” (Locklear later deleted his tweet and apologized.)
By design, Shanahan said, there was a lot left unsaid Monday, as players packed up their lockers and went their separate ways. No one talked about how a team with aspirations for a division title instead sputtered to a 5-11 finish. They didn’t talk about how the Redskins turned the ball over 35 times in 16 games or how they struggled to run the ball for much of the year or the special teams gaffes that plagued the team down the stretch.
They certainly didn’t talk about the uncertainty at quarterback, the myriad holes the team must address this offseason or what Washington might do with key free agents, such as linebacker London Fletcher, tight end Fred Davis, safety LaRon Landry, running back Tim Hightower and defensive end Adam Carriker.
“I never address the team on the final day,” Shanahan explained later. “As we talked about before, I talked to the team after the game.”
So the troops instead talked about the themes that thread through both a military unit and an NFL locker room. When the players walked into the team’s auditorium at 10 a.m., they were by the unfamiliar sight at the front of the room of Love, 21 years old and three feet tall.
On the morning of Oct. 25, 2010, in Sangin, Afghanistan, Love was a point man on foot patrol for the First Reconnaissance Battalion, Bravo Company. He was about six weeks away from the end of a seven-month tour when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He lost both legs and half his left arm.