In 2015, the Houston Texans cut D.J. Swearinger. And even in 2018, the Redskins safety hasn't forgotten it.
"It's fun going against my former teams, showing them what they missed out on," Swearinger said this week.
Houston selected Swearinger out of the University of South Carolina in the second round of the NFL Draft. For two years he played fairly well in Houston, but when the staff switched over from Gary Kubiak to Bill O'Brien, things went wrong according to Swearinger.
"Kubiak let me be myself, let me do whatever as long as I played ball," he said. "O'Brien was a control guy: 'You can't do this. You can't do that.'"
After his release in Houston, Swearinger played in Tampa for a brief period before a good landing place in Arizona. He played well with the Cardinals, and parlayed that experience into a three-year contract with the Redskins in the 2017 offseason.
Since he's been in Washington, Swearinger has been an ideal teammate and leader. He credits the hard times, stemming from being cut in Houston, to the role he plays now.
With four interceptions this season, Swearinger is tied for the No. 2 spot in the NFL and is a huge part of the Redskins 6-3 start. Playing Houston will mean a lot for the emotional defensive back, especially in a week where emotions seem to be running high.
Josh Norman and Swearinger voiced frustrations with Redskins fans for not packing FedEx Field for home games. The crowd has booed at times this season, and as Swearinger sees it, "the boos are dumb to me. Very dumb."
Whatever the crowd looks like on Sunday, it's a big opportunity for Swearinger to play against Houston, and against O'Brien. The Texans coach praised Swearinger's work in the years since his release.
"I think every player that comes into the league, no matter who you are, it is a tough transition from college to professional football and then on top of that you have a coaching change and things like that, that DJ had to deal with," O'Brien said. "I think a lot of players go through that and DJ has obviously done a great job of coming into Washington and really performing at a high level."
This season, Swearinger has played against two of his former teams in Arizona and Tampa. The Redskins won both, and as an outside observer, it seemed like the wins mattered greatly to the safety.
It's rare for a player as young as 27-year-old Swearinger to have already played on four teams. He gets that, and doesn't love it. Against Houston, he can get another win, and the most important one of his three former teams.
"It’s going to be exciting," Swearinger said. "It’s going to be my first time getting a fair chance to face the team that drafted me."
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