Late Wednesday afternoon, Redskins linebacker Zach Brown leaned his head back, closed his eyes and sighed.
The topic was yet another controversy on a team that seems to have one every day now. Someone had taken a private Instagram conversation between another Washington linebacker, Mason Foster, and a fan and made it public. Among the things Foster — one of the team’s captains — had allegedly said:
“[Expletive] this team and this fan base.” (The comment was followed by six “tears of joy” emoji.)
“I’m not [expletive] wit it or being a scape goat to make fans feel better about all these big money ppl who ain’t playin or getting dogged out.”
“Yeah I’ll try my chances and go to a winning team next year.”
There was so much Brown wanted to say, he said, but couldn’t. Like Foster, who did not enter the locker room during the time it was open to the media Wednesday, Brown was frustrated. Frustrated, he said, by a season that has fallen apart, by fans who constantly attack players on social media and about an uncertainty that he and Foster likely face long-term on a franchise that might not want them after this year, especially after he was benched in last Sunday’s loss to the Giants.
“I think they’re going to stick with [what] they stick with. I’m just taking it how it is,” he said in an apparent reference to the coaches and front-office officials. “I’m just sitting here just doing what I’m supposed to be doing til it’s time for me to leave.”
Brown has two years left on his contract.
When asked if this meant that he wouldn’t be back next year, Brown smiled.
“You see the writing on the wall,” he replied.
All of this comes with the Redskins still very much alive for a playoff spot, at least from a mathematical standpoint. Despite losing four games in a row and having gone through four quarterbacks in the last four games — the fourth of whom hadn’t played in a year until he was signed last week. On Wednesday, a few players tried to point out that, at 6-7, the team remains only a half game out of the final NFC wild-card spot.
But with Foster, a team captain, messaging his disgust for the team and its fans, and Brown, held up to be a veteran leader, planning his eventual exit, the mood was not one of a team ready to fight this weekend in Jacksonville.
Coach Jay Gruden seemed annoyed by questions about Foster’s messages, but his anger was less directed at Foster and more at the person who had released a private conversation.
“He broke a code there that I don’t agree with,” Gruden said.
“As far as Mason,” Gruden added, “I have nothing but respect for him as a person and a player.”
Foster did not address the team on Wednesday, but he talked to several teammates who asked him about his words. It didn’t seem to bring him any criticism in the locker room, where several players said they felt badly for him being exposed on social media. Some, including cornerback Josh Norman and safety D.J. Swearinger, have complained about a lack of support from the fans.
“I never questioned his effort on the field this year,” running back Adrian Peterson said.
Running back Chris Thompson went farther in his defense of Foster, saying that several players have been attacked by fans on social media and they have become increasingly annoyed at the shots that come even when they post pictures from charity events.
“You have a lot of people saying a lot of negative things about you, saying ‘you suck at your job’ and things like that, and they don’t understand how much work we really put in to go out there and try to perform your best,” he said. “You’re talking about somebody’s livelihood and things like that. How would you feel if somebody told you you’re bad at whatever it is you do and that ‘you suck.’ At some point you’re going to get upset. And I think he kind of got fed up.”
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