The Redskins chose to start Montae Nicholson at safety in Week 11 against the Jets, a game that took place just a few days after Nicholson's reported girlfriend, Julia Crabbe, died of an apparent drug overdose at his house early last Thursday morning.
On Monday, Bill Callahan was asked multiple times to justify that decision.
His first answer focused solely on the process of physically clearing Nicholson to play and didn't address Crabbe's death or how Nicholson was handling it emotionally. The defender had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of Washington's previous two contests.
"I don't think there was a huge decision relative to his health," Callahan said. "We had worked him out prior to the game and he was OK to go, and we monitor that pretty closely and felt pretty positive about inserting him and starting him in the game."
A follow-up was then posed in an effort to get an answer about Nicholson's mindset and ability to play football when he was still processing the recent death of his reported girlfriend.
Callahan explained he "didn't get into all of that" with Nicholson, but others within the franchise did.
"He spoke to a lot of other people in the organization relative to that situation," the interim coach told reporters. "From my perspective, in terms of playing him and the decision of playing him was strictly based on coaching gathered with all of the other information I had."
Callahan was then pressed one last time on the matter of how Nicholson was feeling mentally and whether he should've been allowed to suit up. According to the coach, the Redskins were content with letting Nicholson make the call.
"There was a discussion. He was prepared to play," Callahan said. "Those questions were put forth and it was ultimately his decision to play. That's why, when you work out a player before a game and you go out and you take him through any type of pregame conditioning, pregame test or standard drill for that matter, it's always a player's decision whether they're ready to play or not. He was physically ready to play and he wanted to play, so that was strictly his decision and he had the freedom to make that decision."
All in all, Callahan's comments felt callous, and his first answer — in which he acted as if the only thing to take into consideration was whether Nicholson's ankle was stable enough — bordered on preposterous.
A member of the Redskins public relations staff later came to the media to clarify that Callahan wasn't trying to gloss over the tragedy. All he was looking to do, per the official, was walk through the gameday process of getting a player ready to go.
Of course, this is a very difficult thing to talk about. A 21-year-old died and it's important that everyone discussing it keeps that in mind. Perhaps Callahan hoped his first response would suffice and he wouldn't have to delve into anything more. It didn't suffice, however, and neither did his other quotes.
Unfortunately, the overall justification to play Nicholson wasn't nearly enough, in what was another misstep for the Redskins in a season full of them.
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