- - Tuesday, November 1, 2016


The aura of self-destruction that surrounds the Washington Redskins franchise has made its presence felt once again.

Just as the team had returned from London to savor its 27-27 tie against the Cincinnati Bengals and enjoy the time off of a bye week, the news broke late Tuesday night that perhaps the most important player on the team — perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams — would be out for the next four games.

A pulled hamstring? A twisted ankle?

No, no. That would be too random to feed the aura of self-destruction.

Williams will be out for the Redskins games against the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals — the toughest stretch of their 2016 schedule — because he was suspended without pay for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

This makes Williams, 28, at least a two-time loser that we know of. He had a similar suspension in 2011.

Following that, he declared lesson learned.

“You kind of take it for granted until everything is taken away from you and you see how much football is the biggest part of your life,” Williams told ESPN.com. “With that gone, the emptiness that you experience is like nothing else. It was a tough, tough couple of months for me. It was painful to watch the games, kind of like pouring salt into the wounds, but I had to watch. Just to let myself know what I got myself into.”

Since then, he has been named captain of the team five straight seasons. Last year, given the honor, Williams said he understood people in the locker room looked to him for leadership.

“I’ve kind of gotten used to that part, being a leader, being the guy a lot of people look up to,” Williams told reporters.

He went on to say that he took “extreme pride and honor in knowing that the guys vote me to be on the front lines, represent this team, this offensive unit. So it’s a huge privilege to me.”

And now this — a four-game self-induced suspension. Not a backup safety. Not a special teams player. The leader of the team and arguably their most valuable player.

This is the very definition of the aura of self destruction — an organization that will find a way to fail.

This happens in the NFL. Players get suspended across the league. But when you add it to the history of this organization — from Jeff George to Steve Spurrier to Jim Zorn to Albert Haynesworth to Robert Griffin III — it becomes a pattern, sometimes with no rhyme or reason, except it has come to be expected.

It is an emotional blow to a fan base that sadly but likely wondered when something would go wrong for the defending NFC East champions who are stumbling along with a 4-3-1 record this season.

The team issued this statement: “Today, Trent Williams was suspended by the NFL under the terms of the Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse for the next four games. We met with Trent today to discuss this unfortunate news. Per the terms of the Policy, Trent will be permitted to participate in team meetings and workout at the Redskins‘ facilities throughout this time. The Redskins are counting on Trent to help our team when he returns from suspension. Our focus will now turn to the Minnesota Vikings after our bye this upcoming weekend. Any questions related to this matter should be directed to the NFL or NFLPA.”

We don’t know the circumstances behind the suspension. The last time marijuana was reported to be the cause of the last suspension. The Washington Post reported this suspension resulted from a missed drug test.

You could make the case that the NFL is a few steps behind on the progress and recognition of marijuana as a substance of abuse. But those are the rules you have to report to work under, and for Williams — who broke those rules before — there would appear to be no legitimate excuse.

Not for someone who, in Williams’ own words, “people look up to.”

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