Washington Redskins players had Sunday night to digest several reports that two of the team's best offensive players, tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams, are facing four-game suspensions for repeatedly violating the NFL's substance abuse policy by using recreational drugs.
And when players reported to Redskins Park on Monday morning in the aftermath of their seventh loss in eight games, the situation only added to the misery of their 4-8 record.
"I wouldn't call it anger, but it's just disappointing because everybody is aware of the rules and how the NFL carries the drug policy," co-captain Lorenzo Alexander said. "More than just yourself is at stake if you happen to get caught, especially those two guys who play intricate roles on the success of whether we win or lose."
The league had not notified coach Mike Shanahan of the suspensions by the time he met with reporters at 3 p.m. Monday, Shanahan said. Because no disciplinary action had been finalized, Davis and Williams participated in business as usual at team headquarters. They broke down film of Sunday's 34-19 loss to the New York Jets, which could be their last game of the season.
Shanahan said he expects to hear from the NFL before Wednesday, when the Redskins begin practicing for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.
"Until something is said to me they will be here," Shanahan said.
Because the suspensions were not official, though, Shanahan danced around the 18 questions on the subject that began his news conference.
"It's something you have to deal with," he said. "It's reality. We've got a situation here that — two excellent football players, we'll find out here shortly what their status is."
The questions lasted eight minutes into his 23-minute meeting with reporters. With the team out of contention, Sunday's loss was an afterthought to this developing drama involving two of its top contributors.
Shanahan was careful not to speak as if the suspensions were official, but he did address broader issues such as the importance of players' character and commitment.
"It's paramount to me in putting a football team together," he said.
Shanahan's words resonated, considering Davis' contract expires at the end of the season.
"To win a Super Bowl, to be the top organization, you have to have character," he said. "We are always looking for not only the great athletes but great character. Some people will make mistakes; we understand that along the way. That doesn't mean we are just going to drop somebody because they make a mistake, but we are going to make sure they are made of the right stuff."
Players, meanwhile, braced to play the final quarter of the season without Davis and Williams.
Davis leads the Redskins with 59 receptions and 796 receiving yards. His three touchdowns are tied for most on the team. Williams, the fourth-overall pick in 2010, is an exceptionally athletic blocker who is coming off three consecutive quality performances.
Rookie running back Roy Helu called the two players "crucial" to the Redskins' run blocking.
"Trent is just an outstanding athlete and even more an offensive lineman," he said. "He can get the edges and hook them, and he's experienced. Also, Fred, too. He's more than just a pass threat. He's physical and strong on the edge, so it's a loss."
Alexander, whose stall is near Davis' and Williams' in the back right corner of the locker room, said he plans to offer both teammates his support.
"They're both great guys," he said. "Obviously, this is going to create a different perception of them off the field. I know these guys intimately being in here every day with them. Both guys I love dearly; great teammates and go out there and bust their butt every time they're on the field."
Across the room, veteran safety Reed Doughty lamented another blow in another lost season.
"When we sign on that dotted line to be a part of this NFL, it's a privilege to be a part of it," Doughty said. "We've got to act accordingly."
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