Meriweather reached the Pro Bowl in his third and fourth NFL seasons. But the New England Patriots released him before the start of the 2011 regular season. The former University of Miami standout signed with the Chicago Bears, but proved a bad fit for their defensive scheme and was benched after four games.
Williams was among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL after signing a six-year, $33 million contract with Minnesota in 2008. But he didn’t live up to the Vikings’ expectations and was released after three seasons. He signed with San Francisco and started three of the 49ers’ first four games last season, but played sparingly the rest of the way.
Jackson, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, played two games in 2010 before he was suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy. He wasn’t re-instated to the NFL until Week 6 of the 2011 season, had shoulder surgery in January and was released in April when he failed a physical.
Now, all three find themselves on the same team, trying to revive their careers.
“We always joke with each other, saying we have a secondary full of misfits. We have guys that I feel like nobody else wanted in this league,” chuckled cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who four years ago found himself in a similar situation – signed by Washington after Oakland cut him midseason.
“We feel like this group of guys, we might look bad on paper, and guys might rank us bad, but . . . we’re ready to go, and we’re poised and ready to make plays,” Hall said.
Williams had a hardy laugh at Hall’s “misfits” take.
“I won’t call everybody a misfit, but everybody has their own story, as they should,” Williams said. “But hopefully we can all come together and form a story of our own this coming season, playing together.”
Meriweather is the favorite at strong safety. Williams has started at free safety during spring practices and training camp. His top competitor would be Jackson, but Jackson’s recovery from shoulder surgery caused him to miss all but one offseason practice and a calf injury forced him to open training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He intends to return to the practice field as early as Thursday.
Playing in Washington’s system and next to Williams, Meriweather believes he has once again found a scheme that suits his style and will bring out his best.
“It was hard, trying to find, is it me, or was the team just going in a different direction?” he recalled. “I’m trying to find out how to get back to that level. I think for me, personally, it was going back to the people I knew before; before I got to the league, before, when I was in college and playing at my best. I had to get back to the basics.
Six weeks after Meriweather signed, he was pulled over and arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The charge was later reduced to reckless driving and was resolved just before the start of training camp.