The Washington Redskins declined to make Keith Burns, their first-year special teams coach, available to speak to media members this week, and Coach Mike Shanahan was asked about the decision at the outset of his news conference Thursday.
“He’s not available any week,” Shanahan said. “We do that with all our assistant coaches unless there’s something that a guy that you want to highlight or something like that, which we’ve talked about through the years. Same thing I did with Danny [Smith, the Redskins’ former special teams coach]. Same thing I’ve done with all our assistant coaches…. We do that so people can concentrate on their job.”
The team’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, speak to reporters weekly. Other assistant coaches are not made available to the media regularly. All of the assistant coaches spoke to the media during the team’s bye week, as required by league rules.
Burns has been under scrutiny this week after the Redskins permitted a touchdown on an 86-yard punt return and allowed a 90-yard kickoff return to set up another touchdown during their loss Sunday night in Dallas. Burns also was penalized for making inadvertent contact with an official on the sideline during the punt-return touchdown. Niles Paul, a key special teams player, said this week he doesn’t think that “everybody is completely buying into certain aspects” of what Burns is teaching.
“You can ask me any of those questions,” Shanahan said Thursday. “That’s what I’m here for, to answer any question that you’d like. That’s why I have a press conference every day…. We’re gonna let them concentrate on their job and hopefully we can have a good game against Chicago. Now if we started out the year differently, then I would let Keith talk to you guys. But we made a decision. That’s the direction we’re gonna go. We’ve done that since I’ve been here. Same thing with Danny when he was here. You want to talk to Danny after a couple tough games. Danny didn’t talk to you then.”
Smith, however, was made available to be interviewed after the Redskins surrendered a blocked punt in each of their first two games last season. He left for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the offseason and was replaced by Burns, who formerly played and coached for Shanahan in Denver.
“The fancy schemes aren’t the ones that block the punts,” Smith said then. “It’s a mental error, a technique error on a player, usually, that causes it. And that’s what happened. Those two plays, they get magnified and ultimately that’s on me. Ultimately, I’m the coach. I’m responsible for it.”