- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said safety Su’a Cravens has to sort out some personal issues before returning to Washington and defended the way the 22-year-old approached the team about contemplating retirement.

Gruden spoke to reporters for the first time Tuesday after Cravens was placed on the Exempt/Left Squad list on Sunday.

“I think he’s got four weeks really to try to get his life in order on and off the field and figure out where his priorities are and what he wants to do,” Gruden said. “You know, some people, football is not for them, but I know he has a strong passion for the game and wants to play, but there are some other things in his life that he needs to keep private — that we will keep private — that he has to take care of.”

Cravens has up to four weeks to be on the Exempt/Left Squad list before the Redskins need to make a decision.

After the four weeks, the Redskins will have to either activate him to the 53-man roster, release, trade or move Cravens to the season-ending Reserve/Left Squad list. Those options are also available to the Redskins at any time before those four weeks are up.

Gruden said the Redskins still want Cravens, noting that he’s a second-round pick, and that the team moved him from linebacker to safety to accommodate him.

“This is what he chose to do, so we’ll stand by him and hopefully he gets everything situated and maybe we’ll see him in a month,” Gruden said.

Gruden said he didn’t really know about Cravens mulling retirement until the safety approached him in his office and explained he had some personal issues going on, adding Cravens wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue playing football.

Asked if Cravens had ever brought up retirement before, Gruden answered, “no, not to this extent.”

The timing blindsided the Redskins, who open the season Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Gruden said Cravens was scheduled to practice Sunday for the first time since having his knee scoped days after the first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens and called the news “disappointing.”

But Gruden said Cravens went about telling the team in a professional manner.

“As far as owing things to us, he has given everything he has had since he has been here,” Gruden said. “We have taken some time try to get him ready for this first game, but I think sometimes your personal life is more important and in this case for him, it is.”

For now, the Redskins will prepare with Deshazor Everett as the starting strong safety. Everett, a 2015 undrafted free agent, made the switch from cornerback to safety last season and has been trying to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

Everett has been taking the starting reps since Cravens’ initial absence with a knee injury. Everett told reporters he won’t believe he’s the starter until he gets out on the field for the first snap.

The 25-year-old said he hasn’t reached out to Cravens because he wanted to give the safety his space and time to “find himself.” Everett said he understands the stress the NFL can bring.

“Being a player in the NFL, there’s a lot of issues you have to deal with,” Everett said. “So, I mean you just have to balance everything … it forces you to grow up or it eventually comes out. It can expose your weaknesses. Not just in the game, but off the field as well.”

Gruden said veteran safety DeAngelo Hall has taken the lead on keeping in touch with Cravens.

If Cravens does rejoin the Redskins, Gruden said he’d be welcomed back.

Cravens’ issues, Gruden said, weren’t about his passion for football.

“He’s made a lot of friends here since he’s been here …. He knows that we’re all here for him if he needs us, but I think he just needs some time for himself to figure out what he wants to do,” Gruden said.

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

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