- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2017

ASHBURN — Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger stood at his locker wearing an Atlanta Falcons Deion Sanders jersey. Despite having two interceptions in the Redskins’ 38-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Swearinger was clearly frustrated.

Assessing his team’s play, Swearinger said he thought the Redskins “got too high” on themselves after a 17-14 win last week against the Seattle Seahawks.

He didn’t know why, but Sunday’s result spoke for itself.

Swearinger said he sensed the Redskins’ practice heading into the Vikings‘ game wasn’t good enough. He said he saw players getting “gashed” in practice and that coaches told them they had to be better.

“Our Friday practice has to be the best practice we have,” Swearinger said. “If we don’t start that culture here, that our Friday practice has got to be our best practice, your most mentally sharp practice, you’re going to keep losing.

“As a defense, we can’t give up [38] points. It starts in practice.”

Swearinger is willing to make sure others follow suit. After signing a three-year, $13.5 million contract in the offseason, Swearinger has become a vocal leader on the Redskins defense.

And as Washington fell to 4-5, Swearinger said it takes the whole defense — first and second string — to make sure they’re listening to the coaching staff.

“I put my heart into this [expletive,]” Swearinger said. “It’s not as a facade. I don’t do this [expletive] for show. I put my heart into this. I’ve got a loving passion for this game like no other. So I put in a lot of hard work day in and day out. I’m just going to keep working and getting my guys ready.”

Swearinger almost helped swing the game back in the Redskins’ favor. He had two interceptions on back-to-back Vikings drives.

On the first pick, Swearinger said he told safety Deshazor Everett to guard tight end Kyle Rudolph instead so he could be the free safety. While roaming, Swearinger read Vikings quarterback Case Keenum and picked off a jump ball intended for Rudolph.

The Redskins, though, couldn’t capitalize and turned it over on downs at Minnesota’s 32.

But two plays later, Swearinger picked off Keenum again — disguising his coverage and returning the interception to the 2-yard line. The pick marked the first multi-interception game of Swearinger’s career.

The Redskins then scored with a quarterback sneak from Kirk Cousins, cutting the Vikings‘ lead to 35-27.

“It was good to see [the defense] come out with a little more energy and see D.J. make those two plays and show the type of leader he is,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

But Swearinger wasn’t satisfied. He stressed the need to “lock in” and play better mentally. He said the Redskins have to start over in order to build consistency.

“We’ve got to do it together,” Swearinger said. “That’s the only way we can get it done.”

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