D.J. Swearinger smirked and rolled his eyes at the subject of the Washington Redskins’ bye week. This year’s break isn’t exactly the much-anticipated week off players are typically eager to reach.
The Redskins are off this week, the earliest possible date this season, and return for “Monday Night Football” against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 8. That game will begin a marathon stretch of 13 consecutive weeks of football to close out the regular season.
Swearinger doesn’t see any benefits to such an early break.
“It’s about to be a long three quarters [of the season],” Swearinger said. “We didn’t even get to finish with one quarter. . . . It’s a big disadvantage. . . . You want to play at least four games before you even think about a bye. But it is what it is. We control what we can control.”
The Week 4 bye is the earliest for the Redskins since 2007, when they also had a bye that week. The team has had three Week 5 byes during that stretch and seven in Week 8 or later.
The thought process when it comes to byes is simple — later is typically better, as more players are banged up and weary from playing more than half a season. They look forward to the chance to heal, rest their legs, get away from football and spend time with family.
One month into the season isn’t exactly the optimal time for a mini-vacation.
“When it’s early, you really have to get off your feet and take advantage of it,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “Usually it’s later in the year, halfway point or something, you can go on a little trip with your family or relax and get away from football. But it being so early, you’re definitely going to spend most of your time getting your treatments and getting ready for this next little ride.
“You have to … really get a plan for the next 12 weeks and try to take advantage of it. Drink a bunch of water. Almost like you’re still playing, because you can’t really set yourself back by traveling a long way or being on a plane a long time. You really have to lay low and get your treatment and stuff. Pre-hab.”
Coach Jay Gruden had a different perspective than Foster and Swearinger, two defenders on a unit that has all 11 starters healthy. The offense is another story.
Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams had minor knee surgery Monday, and right tackle Morgan Moses is in the concussion protocol. Left guard Shawn Lauvao missed Sunday’s game with a calf injury, and running back Adrian Peterson was diagnosed with an ankle sprain.
“It’s good for us now,” Gruden said. “[Right guard] Brandon [Scherff] needs a bye week. Obviously Trent needs a bye week. Morgan needs a bye week. We’re a little beat up on the offensive line. Shawn Lauvao needs a bye week. Obviously AP needs a bye week.
“Offensively, it really came at a pretty good time. Defensively, we probably could have used it a little bit later.”
Coaches usually use the down time to do some self-evaluation. They look to pick up on any tendencies and scout their own team for team-wide and individual deficiencies. Gruden plans to do exactly that, but this year is a little different with just three games and not “a lot of data” to work with. The staff will start early preparation for the Saints and the Carolina Panthers, who come to Washington on Oct. 14.
Players, however, are still in flux about what to do with the time. There is some mandatory time off included in the collective bargaining agreement, but the team is still trending upward and improving, so there’s a hesitancy to fully get away from the game.
Swearinger said the Saints better switch things up in two weeks, because he’s doing extra homework to fill the time.
“It’s a crazy situation, but we’ve got to try to handle it the best way we can handle it,” Swearinger said. “Definitely not vacation time. Later in the year you would want to get away because it’s been eight long weeks. It’s three early weeks — we haven’t done anything. It is what it is.
“You’ve just got to keep working. You’ve just got to get ready for this long grind. As players, we’ve got to take more care of our bodies now during that stretch when we get back, because we won’t have a break at all. We’re about to have a whole college season without a break.”
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