RICHMOND — Preston Smith had blurted out his question quickly, hoping to glean some intel from Ryan Kerrigan before the next play. But an answer never came. Instead, all Smith received from his fellow outside linebacker was silence, and after a few seconds, a blank stare.
“I was talking to him one time, standing on his left, and I was trying to get insight on the play,” Smith explained Saturday, regarding his pass-rushing partner on the Washington Redskins. “And then he turned so he could hear. And I was like, ‘Man, I’ve been talking this whole time and you didn’t hear me.’ But I didn’t know.”
A few minutes earlier, Kerrigan had talked about what had clearly been unknown to Smith: He’s all but deaf in his left ear.
“It’s not completely [gone],” Kerrigan said. “But if I put a headphone in there and turn it up, like, super-freaking loud I can hear.”
He realized in kindergarten there was an issue, “so this is normal hearing to me.”
The veteran outside linebacker casually joked about his hearing loss while responding to a question about the intense passion safety D.J. Swearinger displays on the practice field. When a reporter asked if he can hear the fiery defensive back “yelling and screaming” behind him on the field, Kerrigan playfully responded: “I don’t think you have a choice. He’s pretty loud. Even a guy with one functional ear like me can hear him. He’s our spark plug, and he’s always bringing the juice.”
The news took some media members by surprise — just as it did Smith. But Kerrigan’s lack of auditory function hasn’t hindered his NFL production. He’s been a standout pass rusher for the Redskins since he was drafted 16th overall in 2011, tallying 71.5 sacks in seven years, including team-high totals of 13 and 11 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
“It doesn’t stop him from being a great player,” Smith said.
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