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Exclusive: Demasio Talks

Exclusive: Demasio Talks

Washington Post Redskins beat reporter Nunyo Demasio found himself in the center of a storm today after his story that the Redskins were on the verge of releasing receiver Laveranues Coles was published in the paper and widely reported around the nation. Joe Gibbs issued a flat denial of the story later in the day. In an exclusive interview with The Blog, he told us how the story developed:
“It started late last season. I heard from a player that Coles had asked to be traded during the season. And then, as the season came to an end, Gibbs let it be known that anyone who did not want to be a Redskin next season should come and talk to him and he would do his best to accommodate the request. Coles and (Rod) Gardner were the only ones to take him up on that.”In the past several weeks, Demasio also called several players, all of whom confirmed that Coles was unhappy with Gibbs’ offense. In fact, some of them even brought up the topic of Coles’ discontent without being asked by the writer.

As it became clear that there was a story here, Demasio spoke to Gibbs last Wednesday as he was on his way out of Redskins Park to go to Daytona to see his NASCAR team compete. At the time, the reporter did not yet have the release story, only one that Coles was unhappy and might not want to come back. It was then that Gibbs said, “We (Coles and Gibbs) had a couple of good talks. That's the only statement I want to make. Me and Laveranues talked, and we have a good understanding.”At the time, Demasio did not realize that the story was going to progress. Over the weekend, however, he “called a whole lot of people”, multiple sources from “inside the building (Redskins Park), people who know me and trust me and know that I’m a fair reporter” told Demasio that Coles would be released. In order to make this work, according to one of Demasio’s sources, Coles would pay back some of the $13 million singing bonus the Redskins paid him in 2003. Sources from people with Coles’ camp had essentially the same story, so the Post decided to go with the report.

“If I was just trying to stir up controversy,” Demasio said, “I could have written in the middle of last season that Coles was so unhappy with the offense that he had requested a trade. That was true and it would have been a big story, but I didn’t want to stir things up just for the sake of doing so.”

Demasio said that while he was developing this report over the past few days he tried to call Coles agent “100 times. After not getting a call back I talked to him today after the story came out. He was quite irate that this had gotten out, but he didn’t deny it. After I said that the story was accurate, he said ‘That’s not the point!’ and hung up on me.

At one point in the past few days, Demasio was considering going with a more generic story that Coles was unhappy and that it was unlikely that he would be back with the team next season. It was then that the sources both inside and outside of Redskins Park started to confirm the story of Coles’ pending release and bonus payback agreement. Demasio and his editor decided to go with the story that appeared Monday morning.

Demasio said that it now seems possible that the Redskins would trade Coles rather than release him (as he wrote in a Post article that will appear Tuesday). The scenario would be to get Coles to agree to a restructured contract with a new team and repay some of his signing bonus with the proceeds of the new deal. That gets into some very muddled territory as far as the cap goes. Demasio talked to an NFL general manager today and even he did not know what the cap rules where when it came to situations such as that one.

Such a scenario may render the “semantics of my story” incorrect, said Demasio, but “the bottom line is the Coles will not be a Redskin in 2005. I’m comfortable with what I wrote. I’m a skeptical reporter and I checked this one out as thoroughly as I’ve ever checked anything out.”

In regards to Gibbs’ denial today, Demasio said that Gibbs “is an honorable man” and he had no problem with the coach saying what he did today nor did Gibbs have a problem personally with the reporter for going with the story.

In answer to a final question, Demasio reiterated that his sources for this story included multiple people who work at Redskins Park who knew him and trusted that he would write a fair story. When asked to give some hint as to who they were, the reporter refused, saying that “These are people who would be fired if the team knew that they were talking to me.” He also added that these multiple sources all said the same thing, that Coles would be released.

There it is from the reporter. To steal a line from another news organization, you decide.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!