Reporting David Elfin
Sean Lockear was “a little shocked. I didn’t know this was coming.”
But Washington’s new starting left tackle has to be one of the few people around the Redskins who didn’t know that left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis were in jeopardy of being suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
After all reports about their failed drug tests had circulated before the Nov. 13 game at Miami and each player had been questioned about those in the postgame locker room. Coach Mike Shanahan had also been asked about the reports and surely the disciplinarian informed his players about what could happen and stressed the importance of no one joining Williams and Davis in stupidity.
Locklear is an eight-year veteran, but he’s only been in Washington for four months. Those who’ve been around the dysfunctional franchise had a different take.
“It’s just something else that’s kinda added to the Redskin drama,” said special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, who has been through plenty of that during his five seasons in Washington. “It’s hard. Those two guys are definitely big parts of what our offense is doing this year. It will definitely hurt us if they are suspended.”
Logan Paulsen, a 2010 undrafted rookie, has seven catches for 95 yards this season, one more catch and four fewer yards than leading receiver Davis (59 catches, 796 yards ) had in Sunday’s 34-19 loss to the New York Jets.
“I’d be lying if I said that was something I thought about,” Paulsen said when asked if he could have ever anticipated that he would displace two-time Pro Bowl pick Chris Cooley (injured reserve in Week 7) and 2008 second-round draft choice Davis. “But that’s why I’m on the team. I’m here to contribute in these types of situations. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Locklear, who has started 81 NFL games during his eight seasons, isn’t quite so excited.
“I practiced (at left tackle) pretty much the whole season, so I feel comfortable over there,” said Locklear, a right tackle for most of his career who started Weeks 7-8 when Williams was sidelined with a sprained ankle. “They signed me (in August) to be a backup. I’ve been playing a lot more than I expected, but … I will take advantage of the opportunity.”
Now Shanahan, who jettisoned the high-profile/ high-maintenance trio of Albert Haynesworth, Donovan McNabb and Clinton Portis after his disappointing Washington debut in 2010, faces the dilemma of what to do about Williams, the first player he drafted in Washington, and Davis, his offense’s top weapon.
Shanahan was very circumspect in his comments, citing “strict confidential protocol” in such matters as agreed to by the league and the NFLPA.
However, Shanahan praised the play of both Williams and Davis and while saying that character turns a talented playoff team into a champion and that “everything will be evaluated,” added “it doesn’t mean we’ll drop somebody who makes a mistake.”
Alexander and free safety Oshiomogo Atgowe agreed that there’s no question that Williams and Davis should return in 2012.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Atogwe said. “It doesn’t excuse it. We’ve all got to be accountable for our actions. There’s times that I make mistakes that affect the outcome of a game … and I just ask that they forgive me as well so we’re not going to hold anything against those guys. They’re big contributors. We need everybody. … We definitely want ‘em back. We’d love them to be here with us playing through this (tough) time, but they gotta face the consequences.”
But that’s for the meaningless final four weeks of this season. Alexander wants to see Williams and Davis, who dress in the same corner of the locker room as he does, back in their usual spots come the start of offseason workouts in the spring.
“I definitely want to reach out, give ‘em my support, any way I can help them with anything they’re having trouble with off the field,” Alexander said. “They’re both great guys. Obviously this is going to create a different perception of them. I know these guys intimately. Both guys I love dearly. (They’re) great teammates and go out and bust their butts every time they’re on the field.”
Atgowe, a committed Christian, has already forgiven his teammates’ transgressions.
“Everybody makes mistakes so I’m sure they’ve already confessed what they’ve done and atoned for their mistakes and I know they’ll learn from them,” Atgowe said. “We’re all fallible. Sometimes we don’t make the best decisions. It’s got nothing to do so much with your character as sometimes just a lapse of judgment. … We should receive grace instead of condemnation.”
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.