- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ASHBURN — Jay Gruden changed his mind about meeting with D.J. Swearinger over the safety’s comments about the Redskins’ lack of preparation. The Redskins coach said he didn’t want to “hit the rewind button” after two one-sided losses.

Gruden said he knows the feeling of being emotional after a loss, which can lead to saying things “you mean well, but they get taken out of context from time to time.”

That being said, Swearinger isn’t backing down on his original sentiments. There’s nothing to take out of context.

“It’s not frustration,” Swearinger said. “It’s facts. … A lot of stuff has been said about what I’ve been saying, [but] it’s not going to change what I’ve been saying. That’s the facts of it — guys on this team have to practice better.

“And if we don’t practice better, we’re going to get the same results. Period.”

Swearinger’s energy is what the Redskins signed up for when they agreed this offseason to sign him to a three-year, $13.5 million contract with $6 million guaranteed.

The Redskins wanted Swearinger’s talent and his leadership. Speaking his mind, according to Swearinger, is part of the package.

It’s a good thing, Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall said.

“I’ve followed him for a long time — I’ve loved his game — but [I] just didn’t know how impactful he could be or just how much of a student of the game he is,” Hall said. “To be in a room with him for a full season and watch how he works and how he demands everyone to work just as hard, man, he’s the kind of guy that you want in your locker room and want on your team.”

Swearinger wasn’t always seen that way.

The Redskins are Swearinger’s fourth team in five seasons. The Houston Texans originally drafted him in the second round in 2013, but cut ties after just two seasons, reportedly over his unwillingness to play special teams.

But Swearinger started to turn his career around in Arizona, the Redskins’ next opponent. With the Cardinals, Swearinger moved back to free safety rather than strong, and found the consistency his game had been missing.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called Swearinger, who left the team as a free agent, “a model citizen” Wednesday.

Swearinger said he’s had the Cardinals game circled on his calendar.

“It’s not that I want to show out in front of my old team, it’s that I want to make a lot of plays,” Swearinger said. “[I just need to do] what I’ve been doing, preparing, as well as I know how and let the plays come to me. Don’t try to force anything more than what I’m asked to do.”

On the field, Swearinger has had a positive effect on the Redskins. He has 66 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defended. At times, Swearinger’s committed his share of mistakes, notably in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers when he didn’t provide help in the middle of the field on a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

But he’s trying to hold his teammates accountable, even if it creates awkward moments for Gruden. This week, Gruden has carefully balanced downplaying Swearinger’s criticisms while also not being critical of his player.

Theoretically, the Redskins could easily move on from Swearinger after the offseason, if they choose. Cutting Swearinger would save $3.5 million in salary cap space for next season and $4 million for 2019.

Gruden, though, insisted Swearinger’s comments aren’t a big deal.

“I know that D.J. plays his heart out out there,” Gruden said. “He’s not perfect, nor am I, but I love his passion for the game.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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