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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