ASHBURN — Mason Foster told a fan “F—- this team and this fan base” in a private Instagram message that was leaked. Zach Brown told reporters he sees the “writing on the wall” for his future after being benched against the New York Giants.
The drama swirling around the Redskins’ defensive unit, one of the league’s worst over the last six weeks, hit a new high Wednesday.
Foster, a starting linebacker and a team captain, did not speak to reporters after the expletive-laced direct message conversation between him and a fan showed up online Tuesday night.
In a screenshot of the exchange, which also shows that Foster used laughing emojis in his message, the linebacker said he’s not going to be a scapegoat “to make fans feel better about all these big money [people] who ain’t playing or getting dogged out.”
With the Redskins in the midst of a four-game losing streak but still mathematically in the playoff hunt — and facing the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday — coach Jay Gruden downplayed the reports of turmoil.
Gruden said he discussed the issue with Foster and stood up for his linebacker.
“I know what Mason is, I know what he means to this football team, what he’s meant to this football team, and anything he said in a personal message was personal and I really don’t take anything from it,” Gruden said. “I do, however, disagree with that guy posting a private message out on social media. He broke a code there that I don’t agree with. As far as Mason, I have nothing but respect for him as a person and a player.”
Gruden said he didn’t care about the contents of Foster’s message since he didn’t know the intention, adding Foster could have been “messing around.”
This isn’t the first social media snafu involving Foster. Last season, the 29-year-old posted a series of angry tweets directed toward the front office for putting him on injured reserve following his shoulder surgery. He later apologized during a meeting with the team’s brass.
Despite the drama, the Redskins re-signed Foster to a two-year, $3.4 million deal in the offseason and named him a team captain in September.
Gruden said Foster’s message didn’t expose a bigger problem within the team. Recently, Brown and safety D.J. Swearinger voiced their frustrations with the coaching staff.
On Wednesday, Brown went a step further with his comments — indicating he’s unlikely to be back next season.
Brown was benched to start the Giants game for rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton. Brown said he thinks the same will occur Sunday, adding, “I’m just sitting here just doing what I’m supposed to be doing till it’s time for me to leave.”
Brown said his situation is very frustrating and didn’t understand the reason he was benched.
Gruden said Sunday that Hamilton got the start because Brown missed practice earlier in the week with an illness.
“If a guy’s sick, he’s sick,” Brown said. “It’s nothing that you could do about it. What, am I supposed to go out there and throw up for you? I had a stomach virus. There was nothing I could do. They could blame it on that, but last year I didn’t practice at all until Friday or Saturday when I had my knee injured, so it’s kind of contradicting what they’re saying.”
In 2017, Brown was seen as one of the Redskins’ most impactful defenders after joining the team in free agency on a one-year deal. He finished with 127 tackles in 13 games, leading the team to re-sign Brown to a three-year, $24 million deal in the offseason.
Washington, however, can cut Brown this offseason with only $3 million in dead money, saving $5.75 million in the process.
“I think they’re just going in a different direction towards everything,” said Brown, who has 80 tackles in 2018. “So for me if they’re going that direction, they’re going that direction. Hats off to ’em.”
Brown, like Foster, has also had a social media controversy this season. In November, he posted a tweet that said “own coaches hating and blaming me for Atl loss smh naw B check the film b4 blaming someone eye in the sky don’t lie” before quickly deleting it.
As for his teammate, Brown said he won’t reach out to Foster about the leaked message.
“If he did it, he did it,” Brown said. “Almost every player is going to have a social media snap or something … I mean, we’re human. We get frustrated, too.”
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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