- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

A curtain of political correctness hung this week between Washington Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and the two or three dozen Washington and Philadelphia reporters asking about Monday night's game against his old team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
From behind the curtain, Trotter tried to say there is nothing overly significant about the meeting. He claimed there isn't anything personal about the game even though the Eagles drafted him and nurtured him into a two-time Pro Bowl player and even though he left them acrimoniously last spring for a seven-year, $35.5million contract with their NFC East rivals.
"The only people making a big deal out of it is you guys," Trotter said. "We're just approaching it like another divisional game. We're not making a big deal out of it."
Yet an emotional battle seemed to rage inside him. Periodically, he would start to admit how much he wanted to dominate the Eagles, then pull back behind the conversational curtain.
Trotter's mentality on the field Monday night?
"Seek and destroy. Hit anything that moves," he said, adding, "Which is my philosophy every game. I guess just relax, play within the scheme, do my job and let the game come to me."
Would he be more pumped up for this game than any other in his career?
"I'd like to say I don't think so, but I'm pretty sure I will be," Trotter began. Then, "It's going to be hard to keep myself calm, but I kind of have to. I have to get everybody going in the right direction."
Those close to Trotter know what's happening behind the curtain. They say he wants desperately to show Philadelphia that it made a mistake in letting him go.
"He's trying to [play it cool], but in a way he's looking for that payback," said Redskins reserve center Wilbert Brown, who happens to be Trotter's best friend from tiny Hooks, Texas.
Brown added that Trotter has been "kind of edgy all week," an emotion to which defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis can relate. Lewis made a name as Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach in the early 1990s before defecting to the Baltimore Ravens within the old AFC Central. As Ravens coordinator, Lewis faced his old team in Week 2 of his first year and 12 more times over six years.
"It's nerves like you never could feel," Lewis said. "I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown that [first] week."
Trotter, in fact, has been prone to overexcitement in the past, something for which Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson benched him occasionally. And yesterday Lewis acknowledged that he thought about briefly sitting Trotter for freelancing in the Aug.18 preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, Lewis believes Trotter this week is handling the hype.
"It brings a focus to him that we need," Lewis said. "He's our leader. We'll just try to calm him and relax him. They've got to do something to unnerve him; hopefully he can rise above that."
Trotter's signing with Washington culminated lengthy efforts to secure his first big NFL payday. After dropping into the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft due to concerns about his surgically rebuilt knee and playing 2001 on a restricted tender offer, Trotter was looking to cash in finally on his status as one of the game's premier middle linebackers.
But Philadelphia figured it could restrict his movement with the franchise tag and then work out a long-term solution. Trotter never bought that plan, thinking the club intended for him to play out the one-year deal, and the sides did very little negotiating and grew bitter. The Eagles finally lifted the tag and allowed Trotter to become a free agent when they felt it was too difficult to sign or trade him, and that his situation was becoming a distraction.
Two key players in the breakdown were Trotter and Eagles coach Andy Reid. Trotter believed he had given Reid 100 percent on the field and should be rewarded, while Reid believed Trotter could be well compensated without (what he perceived) breaking the bank. This week Trotter said he would extend an olive branch Monday night.
"I've been thinking about it, contemplating trying to catch Andy and just tell him I appreciate everything he's done, him giving me a shot to play," Trotter said. "I thought we had a great relationship there to the end and even now, it's all business. I have no personal grudges against Andy. It was a business decision."
Said Reid, in limited comments on Trotter to the Washington media, "Jeremiah is a good football player. He's going to do a great job down there. For us, time will tell how well we [can replace him]."
Asked about why Trotter departed, Reid replied, "That's a long story that you and I aren't going to get into right now."
The last uncensored comments regarding the split seemed to come from Trotter in an interview last spring, about a month after he signed with the Redskins. That day he said he believed Philadelphia hadn't been up front with him.
"Either take care of him or let him go," Trotter said then. "You don't go around and try to downplay his character, downplay his ability, that type stuff. If you're going to sign a guy, sign him. If not, just say, 'Listen, we love you as a player. We just don't feel we need to invest this amount of money into a middle linebacker or a certain position.'"
He added that a coach handling a general manager's duties, as Reid does, isn't necessarily a good front office structure.
"It went beyond business and became personal," Trotter said. "It should never go to that, and I think a big reason is when you try to mix a GM relationship with a coach relationship. You're playing two ends of the stick that you may not be capable of handling. A lot of things get said in those meetings that you don't want to know, that your coach shouldn't know. You should leave your money situation up to the GM."
None of those feelings were on display this week, though. This week it's all about Trotter playing just another game against a team that happens to be his former employer.
"I don't have any grudges," Trotter said. "I don't have anything bad to say. I know y'all expect me to say something bad. I have nothing but good things to say about that organization. It was a first-class organization that gave me an opportunity to play, build my name and be very successful."


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