Because both players have been identified as repeated violators of the drug policy — in order to be suspended, each had to fail a drug test during the season — they are subject to one-year suspensions should they test positive again. That could particularly affect Davis, the fourth-year tight end who had been enjoying a breakthrough season and will be a free agent prior to 2012.
“We’ll take that [as] part of the evaluation process,” Shanahan said. “We’ll see what direction Fred’s going. . . . I can’t get into a lot of detail, but any contract that anybody would sign somebody to, knowing that with one failed test they could be gone — just like that — they’re going to protect themselves in the contract. It’ll be based on performance and based on going down the straight-and-narrow.”
The loss of Davis and Williams, who was the first draft choice of Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen, hurts the entire organization, the two Redskins officials said.
“This is disappointing on so many fronts,” Allen said in a telephone interview. “You hope they learned a lesson. But it’s more than that. They are [supposed to be] role models. What does this do to how they are seen? It’s just awful, so sad – all the ramifications.”
With the Redskins holding their first practice in preparation for hosting the New England Patriots, the suspensions — and how they came about — dominated Wednesday at Redskins Park. Shanahan said the club was notified during training camp that both players were in danger of suspension with another failed test. He met with both then, an attempt to relay the gravity of the situation. “But you’re not with them 24 hours a day,” Shanahan said.
Even with his obvious disappointment, Shanahan called both players “good people,” and was encouraged that they asked to speak to the team as a whole. Though some players dismissed the speeches as unnecessary — “I feel like what they done to themselves, they [needed to] apologize to themselves before they apologize to me,” offensive captain Santana Moss said — Shanahan believed they were a way for Davis and Williams to show their remorse.
“It was extremely genuine,” quarterback Rex Grossman said. “You can tell they’re both not exactly in the best mood right now. As a team, it was nice to hear.”
According to one player, Davis told his teammates he needed help. The terms of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy call for players to enter counseling after their first failed test.
“Just to hear from those guys, address the team, obviously is a good sign,” defensive captain DeAngelo Hall said. “They want to be here. They want us to kind of understand. But at the same time, it’s difficult. It’s difficult not having those guys out there for the wrong reason. It’s not like something happened . . . with an injury or something, something that you couldn’t control. This was something that they could control.”
Shanahan met with Williams and Davis on Wednesday. An NFL spokesman said that because they had been suspended for less than a year, both players will be allowed to attend team meetings, receive treatment and work out at the club’s facilities. They will not be allowed at practices. Shanahan said he was unclear on exactly what was permissible but wanted Williams and Davis around.
There is, too, the matter of the final four games of the season. Shanahan said two players will compete for Williams’s spot at left tackle: veteran Sean Locklear, who started twice when Williams was out with a sprained ankle; and undrafted rookie Willie Smith, who has not yet appeared in a regular season game. With veteran Chris Cooley already lost for the season because of injury, Logan Paulsen, better known for his blocking, becomes the starting tight end.
Shanahan, it seemed, considered the biggest question what happens with Davis and Williams going forward. At this point, he believes, it is unanswerable.
“They’ve got to prove themselves,” Shanahan said. “I can’t say one way or the other. What are they going to do for the future? Time will tell. . . . Are they smart enough to go down the right path? I’m hoping they do. They’ve both got a lot at stake.”
Staff writers Thomas Boswell and Mike Wise contributed to this report.