When Reuben Foster writhed on the ground, then punched it with his left fist, the easy and inevitable thought was this: karma. Karma left Foster there furious and frustrated, and it looks as if he’s lost for the season with a torn left ACL. Karma bit the Washington Redskins, and they deserve every ounce of it. Hire a guy the rest of the league wouldn’t touch because he had just been arrested following a domestic violence incident — before you reasonably could know the specifics of the incident, before you could be sure the charge would be dropped — and, well, you reap what you sow.
Monday was supposed to be Washington’s first chance to see what it had here, voluntary organized team activities for the whole squad. For Foster, it lasted one play. There’s no relation between Foster collapsing to the turf and the chance Washington took on him. There can’t be, right?
And while obviously no one thinks a player deserves injury, the mind wanders. And wonders. Human nature.
There are two elements to all this. First, there’s what Washington wanted and expected out of Foster, a first-round talent with a second-rate past. And then there’s a broader question: Why is this football team constantly breaking down? Doesn’t matter the position on the field or the importance to the depth chart. These guys crumble — and invent new ways to do so.
Freak injuries or not, the featured attraction in Ashburn this offseason is Dwayne Haskins, the first-round quarterback from Ohio State. Nothing drives football chatter in May like a new quarterback. It’s intoxicating.
Yet it’s also inescapable that Haskins is here because the guy Washington traded for last offseason, Alex Smith, is still hobbling around Redskins Park in a boot, his leg shredded in the 10th game of 2018. Go through the roster — Derrius Guice, Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Quinton Dunbar, Montae Nicholson, Colt McCoy, etc. etc. etc. — and it’s hard to fathom how many people have been affected by how many maladies over the past however many years.
Now . . . this? Are they snakebit? Or are they somehow biting themselves? Are they bad because they’re injured? Or are they injured because they’re bad?
“I don’t know how to process it, really,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “We’ve had some bad luck over here for the last couple years, but this one here takes the cake because this was a noncontact drill and there was really no contact involved in it. He just landed funny.”
It’s hard to consider the football aspect of this before we had even had the chance to hear from Foster on his path here, which includes the Nov. 24 incident that cost him his job with the San Francisco 49ers. The charges that night involved Foster’s ex-girlfriend in Tampa, and they were serious enough that the 49ers dismissed him immediately. Foster also had had misdemeanor marijuana and gun charges against him while with San Francisco. Each is a piece of the whole package. That only Washington was willing to take the flier on him is telling.
Much of the trepidation around the league had to be moral, didn’t it? Sure. But it’s also easy for an NFL team to play the holier-than-thou card now. Some of the evaluation could have been physical, too. Foster had shoulder surgery after his career at Alabama and couldn’t participate in his first offseason workouts as a pro. Eleven snaps into the season opener, he suffered a high-ankle sprain and missed five games. When he returned, he hurt a rib. All told, between suspensions and injuries, Foster has played 16 NFL games over two seasons.
“Obviously, he’s been through a lot as a young football player off the field and on the field,” Gruden said.
Let’s clarify a bit: He has been through a lot on the field. He has put himself through a lot off the field.
With all of that, be sure of this: Washington was willing to absorb whatever PR hit came its way — and it was significant, worsened because this organization has made itself such an easy target for two decades — because it believed Foster was going to unearth his significant talents here. He could be a superstar, still just 25 and on a rookie contract. If that were true, people would emphasize that charges had been dropped, not that they existed in the first place. If that were true, they would commend them for the second chance they offered, not condemn them for being callous opportunists just days after his arrest.
Now, we don’t even get to process all that, to take a measure of the man who stood in front of us. Because before he stood, he was on the ground. And then what appeared to be the entirety of the team’s athletic training staff gathered around him. Gruden came over. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky came over. And there was team president Bruce Allen, whose risk Foster was, standing above him, too.
At 11:55 a.m. Monday, Reuben Foster was hoisted onto a cart, his left leg immobilized, and sped up the hill from the practice field into the team’s headquarters. Allen ran after the cart. They can hope for the best. It felt like the worst.
“He’s going to work his ass off to recover and get back to help this team,” said defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, who played four years with Foster at Alabama. “He just wants to win.”
There are people in that building, that’s all they care about, Allen among them. For them, it’s too bad, whatever the reasons.
Maybe it’s not karma. Maybe it’s bad luck. Rotten, no-good, out-of-left-field, dumb luck. It’s only May, two months before training camp, more than three months till the opener. And when Reuben Foster got hurt Monday, he provided a heavy thought to while away the dead space between now and then: Do events randomly conspire against the Redskins? Or do the Redskins get precisely what they have coming to them?
For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.
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