“I’m looking at one end zone, and it’s where I scored a touchdown in my first game against the Giants,” he said. “I’m looking at the other end zone, and it’s a good memory from ’18 when I forced a fumble on Dak Prescott and Preston Smith picked it up to score a touchdown, and the crowd was as loud as I’ve ever heard it.”
In that moment and during his video news conference Sunday morning, Kerrigan looked and sounded like someone who knew the magical run was over. Washington drafted him out of Purdue with the 16th pick in 2011, and he spent the next decade cementing himself as one of the great players in a storied franchise, including setting the club sack record at 95.5.
But Kerrigan knows that now, with two other young, talented edge rushers on the roster, he doesn’t have the opportunity to play as big of a role with Washington as he believes he still can. He played 38 percent of the snaps this season, nearly half of his second-lowest, injury-free season.
“I definitely want to be a starter,” the 32-year-old said. “I mean, I think any player would say that. I don’t think anybody just wants to settle for being a role player or a reserve player.”
This desire first surfaced at the trade deadline, when Kerrigan reportedly requested that the team move him. Coach Ron Rivera did not because he thought Kerrigan was good for the locker room and the culture he was trying to build. In March, when Kerrigan becomes a free agent for the first time, he said he must balance wanting a bigger role with finding a complete team to contend for a championship.
“I’ve got to really be open-minded to several factors and open-minded to all teams, and that’s kind of what I plan to do,” he said. “I definitely feel like I’ve still got a lot of ball in me, a lot of good productive years ahead.”
Kerrigan said he believes Washington is building something. The loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday felt different from the playoff games in the 2012 and 2015 seasons because “it didn’t really feel like we played great football” but Washington was still “that close to beating a team that’s pretty damn good.” He believes in the scheme, that “it plays to a lot of guys’ strengths,” and that the “D-line is in good hands” with tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne and ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young.
In his first season, Young became the new face of the franchise. But teammates often noted Young sought advice from Kerrigan on everything from film study to rehab strategy to in-game adjustments.
“R.K. didn’t have to open his arms to me and help me throughout the whole season,” Young said. “You hear them stories where that doesn’t happen all the time. I always thank R.K. for doing that and always thank him for the type of man that he is. Just welcoming me with open arms and teaching me the game. R.K. knows it’s all love. We’re going to have this relationship forever. That’s big bro.”
Kerrigan thought the moment after the game Saturday was healthy. He liked feeling those emotions and remembering setting the sack record. He thought it was “pretty damn cool” because it’s impossible to know how your career will play out. He said “it’s not something I take for granted,” that he’ll reflect on the moment “in the years to come.” But he acknowledged there was, perhaps, a positive to come from this season unlike any other.
“I still feel really good,” he said. “Maybe one of the silver linings with playing a lot less snaps this year was my body doesn’t really feel too beat up right now. So, hopefully that’ll help me maybe add a year or two here on the back end of my career.”