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Admit it or not, Trent Williams' holdout is a major distraction for the Redskins

Admit it or not, Trent Williams' holdout is a major distraction for the Redskins

The Redskins don't need a sideshow this offseason. This is a team that hasn't made the playoffs in three years, drafted a rookie quarterback with the 15th pick and has a coach that admitted his job is on the line this fall. 

Despite not needing a sideshow, the Redskins got one anyway. 

Trent Williams' holdout from minicamp has been the main storyline of the last two days in Ashburn, and whether head coach Jay Gruden wants it or not, there's a distraction in Washington.

"Trent’s our best player, one of our best players, and we want him back, but right now we have to cater to the guys that are here," Gruden said Wednesday. "We’ll handle Trent accordingly and hopefully we’ll get him back by training camp. But, we have so many good things going on right now. I’m not going to let one distraction hold us back and it’s really not a distraction for me right now."

The news with Williams has gone from bad to worse during the last 72 hours.

The seven-time Pro Bowler did not show up for minicamp on Tuesday, even though it's mandatory. Soon after news leaked out that Williams wanted a new contract. While he does have two years remaining on his deal, news of his desire for a new contract did not come as a shock to anyone.   Williams is an elite player and salaries for offensive linemen have skyrocketed in the last two offseasons.   Given Williams has dealt with significant injuries the last few years, and is looking at 2020 as a contract year that provides a lot a leverage on the team side, now perhaps is the ideal time for the left tackle to make a contract stand.

That part made sense, but on Wednesday, things took a much more serious tone.

A CBS report showed that Williams is furious with the Redskins organization over the handling of his offseason scalp procedure and that he "vowed" never to play again for the Redskins. 

When the word comes down that the best player on the team won't play for the team, that's when things become a full blown distraction. Outside of a small handful of injury related hypotheticals, there really could be no worse news for the 'Skins organization in early June. 

Where does that leave things going forward?

The Redskins did not make any front office or medical officials immediately available for comment, so it left Gruden trying to explain the situation. The truth is Gruden, a football coach, is not particularly equipped to answer the questions that need to be asked nor should that be the expectation.

"The contractual stuff is out of my hands. The medical things that you guys are talking about are really out of my hands as well. My job is to coach the players that are here and that is all I can do," the coach said. 

It is worth noting that Gruden, as well as Adrian Peterson, said they had not heard anything about Williams refusing to come back to the Redskins. Peterson and WIlliams are quite close and own a business together in Texas. If Williams was done with the organization, it does seem like Peterson would know. 

"I don’t know where that came from. I talk to Trent all the time and that’s not something I’ve heard come out his mouth," Peterson said. “There’s always going to be different reports out, you never know what to believe."

It's also easy to be upset about something like this in June, but for feelings to change by August.  If the holdout really is about money, and some team sources believe that is the most important factor, then maybe a reconciliation remains possible. 

Of course, the Redskins front office needs to decide if they're willing to pony up more cash for Williams.  Keep in mind, he will turn 31 next month, and has missed roughly 30 percent of the team's games the last three seasons. The flip side, however, is Williams is probably the Redskins best player, and certainly their most important offensive lineman.

Unfortunately for Washington though, the genie is out of the bottle. This thing will be a distraction right until it isn't.

What resolution is possible? A trade, a new deal or Williams just comes back and pretends like nothing ever happened. 

A trade seems unlikely, but not out of the picture. The 'Skins don't have much leverage to maximize their position on the trade market right now. And Williams does not seem like the type of person to just forget about a holdout, especially something that has become so public. 

So what about a new deal? 

The old saying goes that time heals all wounds. In the NFL, the more appropriate adage would be time and money can heal most wounds. 

Maybe the Redskins get Williams back sometime in August, or sooner. A bump in guaranteed cash might help, but nobody knows what will happen.

For Gruden, however, all he can do is work with the the players at training camp. 

"I have a lot of people I need to coach right now, and we’re doing a good job. We have a lot of good things going on here," the coach said. "Our rookies have come in and done a great job. The guys that we've signed free agency-wise have done a great job. The veterans we have coming back have bought in and are practicing really hard. That’s what I’m focused on."

Of course the coach is focused on the players currently at training camp. The Redskins will be playing their first game in less than 100 days, and Gruden still doesn't know his starting quarterback. The 2019 Redskins have a million questions to answer even without the Williams holdout. 

Still, there is a Williams holdout. Gruden can focus on all the players he has in Ashburn, but it's silly to think the entire organization isn't also thinking about the seven-time Pro Bowler that isn't there. 

That's a distraction. Plain and simple. 

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Redskins injury woes were league-wide issue in 2019

Redskins injury woes were league-wide issue in 2019

Injuries are a part of the game. In something as physically demanding and grueling as football, they are bound to happen. 

But for the Redskins, injuries have seemed like more of a definite than a possibility in recent seasons, and 2019 was no different. However, when looking at the trend from a league-wide perspective, they were not alone.

According to a report by the Associated Press, NFL teams lost over $500 million to either Week 1 starters who were injured or players who ended the season on injured reserve during the 2019 season.

Washington certainly contributed to that number, as the 3-13 season was filled with injuries. From the beginning to the end, the Redskins consistently had players end up on IR. By the end, the likes of Jordan Reed, Derrius Guice, Brandon Scherff and a plethora of others were all on the sideline come gameday.

The Redskins also fit the mold when it came to which type of players were suffering the most injuries. Associated Press reported that wide receivers were the most injured group in 2019, with cornerbacks and safeties coming right behind. Looking at Washington, the IR was littered with those skill position players. 

Paul Richardson Jr. and Trey Quinn were unable to stay healthy, leaving the Redskins with a thin receiving corps. As for the secondary, Quinton Dunbar, Jimmy Moreland, Deshazor Everett, Danny Johnson, Fabian Moreau and Montae Nicholson all finished the season not suiting up. By the final few weeks, Washington was pulling players off the street and inserting them into the game.

Yet, while the Redskins' list of injuries goes on and on, they were not alone. Per the report, the New York Jets racked up the most players on IR with 21, while the Philadelphia Eagles had the most money going toward players that were not active on the field.

There's no denying that the Redskins dealt with a large number of injuries in 2019, but it looks as if they were not unique. With a new training staff coming in for 2020, Washington will look to become an outlier on the injury trend rather than a big contributor.

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DeMaurice Smith: 2-year strike may be necessary leverage for NFLPA in CBA negotiations

DeMaurice Smith: 2-year strike may be necessary leverage for NFLPA in CBA negotiations

Super Bowl week includes a host of fanfare and festivities before Sunday's game. On Tuesday, Super Bowl week included discussions about the league's immediate future when NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith spoke at a rally in downtown Miami. 

Smith, who is currently engaged in negotiations with the NFL on the next collective bargaining agreement ahead of the current deal's expiration in March 2021, said Tuesday if players want to receive everything they're seeking, a two-year strike may be necessary. 

"People need to understand that it's really easy to call for a work stoppage; it's really hard to win one," Smith said at the rally. "So that's why I started notifying players four years ago about saving their checks, making changes to their debt structure, and the reality is that if we want to hold out and get everything we want, that's probably going to mean a two-year strike."

In the next CBA, the NFL and its owners are seeking the ability to expand the regular season to 17 games during the deal, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN. The option to expand playoffs is also being considered, and the league would shorten the preseason slate if the regular-season schedule receives an increase. Another obstacle in negotiations is what the appropriate increase in revenue share for the players — which is currently a 47% minimum — is to agree to a longer season. 

Over the course of an NFL season, Smith visits all 32 teams to give an overview of collective bargaining and what the players can do for leverage. Smith negotiated the current collective bargaining agreement, a 10-year deal agreed to in 2011, and he knows that there could be some concessions made throughout negotiations.

"Any collective bargaining deal is going to be a package of things," Smith said. "Is it going to be an agreement where you get 100% of everything you want? Probably not, and one of the reasons that we're in a position of bargaining right now is because the league didn't get everything they wanted in 2011."

Owners engaged discussions with the players early in 2019, hoping to reach an agreement on a new deal well ahead of the expiration of the current deal, according to Graziano's report. Several components of the new deal have already been agreed upon, including the league's drug and discipline policy and training camp rules, which would limit contact and duration of practices.

The leading issue still to be resolved is the aforementioned regular-season duration. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders — who played all 17 games in 2019 after a mid-season trade — recently spoke out against a 17-game season. With that key decision looming over the negotiations, Graziano said any optimism that a new deal can be agreed to this offseason has faded. 

Ultimately, the decision is up to the players, as Smith reiterated Tuesday. Players will have the chance to vote on any deal he and his committee formulate.

Smith will meet Thursday with player representatives from 30 of 32 teams — excluding the two Super Bowl teams as they prepare for Sunday's game — to discuss options going forward with no official vote expected, according to Graziano. The NFL hasn't had a strike since 1987, but in the coming months, the players could decide that it's the best course of action to take. 

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