Donald Penn may have some inside information on the Trent Williams saga, but he is not sharing.
The Washington Redskins’ newest tackle said he is good friends with Williams and talked with him before signing. The holdout of the seven-time Pro Bowl honoree has left the organization scrambling to shore up the left side of the line — hence the addition of Penn. But the former Oakland Raider and Tampa Bay Buccaneer said he selected the Redskins from a group of teams that showed interest because he could play on the left side and have the opportunity to start.
If Penn wanted a chance to start at left tackle, and he spoke to Williams, what does that indicate about Williams’s future with the team?
“We had a good conversation and we talked. We’re on the same page,” Penn said. “I’m not going to get into that too much. I mean, it was a personal conversation between me and Trent, though, but I’ll just leave it at that.”
With Williams not around, Penn seems likely to compete with 2018 third-round pick Geron Christian for first-team snaps during training camp. He has three Pro Bowls on his résumé and played in every game of his 12-year career before missing two in 2017 and 12 last season. A Lisfranc foot injury and a groin injury led to those missed games, and he believes he hurt the foot as a result of playing right tackle as opposed to his usual left tackle position, because it required a different plant foot.
“I remember at Tampa Bay, we stole him off of Minnesota’s practice squad,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “He came in and played pretty well for us for quite a number of years. He’s just a guy who is solid in technique. He played a couple games last year and they tried to move him to right tackle, probably was not ready for that so much. [He’s] more of a left tackle. He is just a good, solid veteran to have.”
It didn’t seem as if Penn would do much in his first practice Wednesday, but there he was in pads taking some team reps. He still has to learn the playbook, but Gruden expected him to pick it up quickly because he played for Jon Gruden, Jay’s brother, in Oakland, and the schemes are similar. Penn said he has the terminology and lingo down already. Jon Gruden even sent a text in the morning that read, “You can’t shake the Grudens.”
“I was surprised because when I got in there and met with them this morning,” Penn said, “I’m like, ‘Oh, I know this. Oh, I know that. Oh, I know that.’ They’re very similar, you know they’re brothers, they’re very similar. . . . I was really surprised with how fast I was picking up today.”
The bottom line question, however, remains: What happens if or when Williams returns?
Penn said that while he chose Washington for the chance to start at left tackle, he is open to being the backup swing tackle if Williams returns.
“I talked to Trent about that, too,” Penn said. “So, we’ll see what’s going to happen, but right now I’m going to be focusing at left tackle.”