After leaving the Redskins a week before the start of last year’s regular season to deal with personal and health-related issues and subsequently being placed on the reserve/left squad list by the team that selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft, Su’a Cravens couldn’t bring himself to watch an NFL game.
“I would watch college football because I had played it, and there was none of the guys that I had shed blood, sweat and tears with on the field,” Cravens, who was traded to the Denver Broncos for draft picks this week, told SiriusXM NFL Radio hosts Bruce Murray and Mark Dominik on Friday. “I could watch college and get into that competitive sport, but whenever the NFL would come on, it would really make my skin crawl. It would just burn me up on the inside, seeing guys that I competed against, seeing my teammates out there and I couldn’t be out there. It hurt me. It hurt me bad.”
Cravens, who spent a lot of time with family and did some fishing during his year away from football, said he also understood the frustration he saw directed toward him from certain Redskins fans on social media, as Washington struggled to a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs.
“For me, I was just as frustrated with myself as I was with the situation,” Cravens said. “It really ate me up inside. As soon as I got cleared, I was ready to put on a helmet and shoulder pads that day.”
Cravens’s former agent said in December that the 22-year-old safety was medically cleared to resume football activities after undergoing treatment for post-concussion syndrome. The NFL reinstated Cravens in February. On Friday, he said he never lost his competitive spirit or love for the game.
“A lot of people have the perception that I quit,” Cravens said. “I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as I took care of what I needed to do. My health is most important. Once I handled that, then I could come back. I didn’t really have the option to return, even when I did get cleared. I’m just ready to get back out on the field and play.”
After Cravens was reinstated, there were questions about whether he would be welcomed back in the Redskins’ locker room. While Mason Foster and Junior Galette said they would support a reunion, fellow safety D.J. Swearinger said he wanted to hear an explanation from Cravens first about why he left. Cravens denied the notion that the Redskins bringing him back would divide the team.
“I was talking to half the team during the season,” Cravens said. “I was talking to a lot of my teammates. Guys like Mason Foster, guys like Preston Smith, Anthony Lanier, Junior Galette. I was talking to them throughout the year and they were saying, ‘Oh, we wish you were here, we’re hoping that you’re healthy, we can’t wait to have you back.’ When it comes to my teammates, there was never a rift in the locker room, or a split where I wasn’t welcome. I’m not that kind of guy. But, when it comes to me wanting a fresh start, I just think for me and the Redskins, it was just better off to get a fresh start and just part our ways. I think the time that we spent, it was up, and it was just the best for both parties.”
Washington swapped fourth- and fifth-round draft picks in the upcoming draft with the Broncos and received an additional fifth-rounder in exchange for Cravens, the Redskins’ No. 53 overall pick out of Southern California in the 2016 draft. The Redskins would also get the Broncos’ sixth-round pick in 2020 if Cravens plays in one playoff game for Denver.
“Obviously, I know it’s a business, and they had to make a decision,” Cravens said of leaving Washington. “I had to make a decision that was best for me last year, so I completely understand it. As far as the locker room rumors, I want to put that to bed. None of those things were true. There was never conflict with me and my teammates.”
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