Redskins

Column: Chiefs got past game, but still must heal

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Column: Chiefs got past game, but still must heal

They played a football game in Kansas City the other day.

Even as the headlines fade, the question remains.

Was it the right thing to do given the tragedy that happened 24 hours earlier?

There's no playbook for this sort of grieving. A Chiefs player killed his girlfriend - the mother of their infant child - then turned the gun on himself in front of the head coach and the general manager. The second half of the murder-suicide took place at the team's training complex, right next door to Arrowhead Stadium.

The next day, the Chiefs reported for work in that very stadium for a game against Carolina. Won it, too, for just their second victory of the season. Afterward, everyone talked about the cathartic effect of taking the field - as a team, as a family - in the face of such a heinous act.

But, really, was it proper to play on?

I was downright adamant on the day of the game. No way they should've kicked off. Even got into a spirited debate on social media with some friends.

Now, with a couple of days to reflect, time spent talking to several experts on grieving, I can see the value of playing what was a meaningless game in the standings between two teams going nowhere.

With one big caveat: Please recognize that lasting peace can't be found between the lines.

All those who felt it was necessary to play, from GM Scott Pioli to coach Romeo Crennel to the 53rd man on the roster, need to man up in a different way in the days, weeks and months to come. For the rest of their lives, really, because this is something that will remain with all of them to some degree until their time is up.

Be sure to address what are surely feelings of sadness and anger, maybe even a little guilt. Take time to deal with the questions running through your own mind about why Jovan Belcher did what he did, even if deep down you know the odds of uncovering a logical answer to a senseless crime are slim at best.

``It takes time,'' said Jay Wade, a psychology professor at Fordham University in New York, ``to deal with whatever feelings are associated with this major thing that happened. You can't just say, `Suck it up, go ahead and play the next game.' On the one hand, I think it's understandable they played the next day. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

``But,'' he added, ``later on down the line, if you don't take time to deal with that tragedy, that trauma you've experienced, it probably will affect you for a long time. No doubt.''

All athletes are taught to be strong, football players in particular. On every play, they are attempting to prove the guy across the line is weaker than they are.

But when it comes to dealing with Belcher's crime, a little vulnerability will go a long way for these large men.

``Our culture still creates the mentality that `big boys don't cry, big boys don't talk about sensitive things,''' said James Overholser, who teaches psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and has been doing research on suicides for 25 years. ``That's the real problem. That's what puts males at elevated risk of something like suicide.''

A couple of Atlanta Falcons players were asked Tuesday if they would've wanted to go ahead with the game under similar circumstances. There were no easy answers.

``That's a tough call,'' cornerback Dunta Robinson said. ``I can't even imagine that going on here and how I would respond as a player, but I think as players and as an organization, (the Chiefs) did what they thought was best for them. They went ahead and played the game. They won the football game, so hats off to them for the way they handled it.''

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan went through a double-tragedy during his previous job in Denver. Less than two months apart in 2007, cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting and Damien Nash collapsed and died during a charity basketball game.

``People say, `Hey, maybe you can occupy your mind for at least a few hours and kind of get away from that grieving process if you can,''' Shanahan said. ``But there's not an easy way to deal with it. I've dealt with it a couple of times, and it's as hard as it gets, especially when you're very close to somebody. But it's something you've got to work through, it's part of life. Nobody likes it, but sometimes I think it's therapeutic'' to go ahead and play the game.

But the shared experience of sport can't overshadow what the individual is going through. Todd Farchione, a research professor in the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, said it's easy to understand how everyone got on board with taking the field in Kansas City, even if that wasn't necessarily the way every one of them would've handled it.

``I can imagine being a fly on the wall in that meeting and hearing all the different perspectives,'' Farchione said. ``Some people, as the decision was being made, probably wanted to do what's best for the team. But people deal with grief in different ways. Some want to get back to work immediately and throw themselves into things they need to do. Others might want to go through a lengthier process, to deal with the loss immediately.''

After thinking this out, I realize my feelings on what was appropriate this past Sunday aren't so cut and dried.

Really, there's no right or wrong when it comes to grieving.

All I can say to the Chiefs is this: You won the game as a team, just don't forget to take care of yourself.

Talk about it. Cry about it. Grieve about it.

That doesn't make you weak.

That makes you a man.

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Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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AP Sports Writers Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., George Henry in Flowery Branch, Ga., and Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., contributed to this report.

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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler