- - Thursday, August 8, 2019


I doubt if Redskins fans will share stories someday about the time Trent Williams refused to report to training camp.

This holdout is far uglier than what the franchise has been through in the past. It’s not God talking to Sean Gilbert, or John Riggins going back to Kansas.

No, this one is about arguably the team’s most important player refusing to play another down for this franchise because he doesn’t trust management — in particular the owner’s medical staff, according to a variety of reports, none of which have been shot down by Williams, his agent, or the Redskins, for that matter.

Williams has been silent since the initial Jason LaCanfora CBS Sports report that first revealed the left tackle’s refusal to play for the Redskins again, after nine seasons, because of the team’s medical staff’s mishandling of a cancer scare that proved to be benign.

But others have spoken for him, including former Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who told the NFL Network last week that “it’s not a contract thing … it’s not about money … we’ve never had a player say ‘Get that training staff out of here or I’m not coming back.’”

That cuts right to the bone — irreparable damage. There is no coming back from that. I doubt that a year from now, Trent Williams is going to show up at Redskins Park and declare, “I’m bored, I’m broke and I’m back.”

It felt a little like that, at first, when the legendary Riggins held out in 1980. No ambiguity.

After a 1979 season where the Redskins went 10-6 but lost their chance for the playoffs in a last-minute 35-34 comeback win by the Dallas Cowboys, Riggins, who came to Washington as a rare free agent in 1976, signing a five-year, $1.5 million contract with the Redskins. But after a career year in 1979 when he rushed for 1,153 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, Riggins wanted a new contract, and the Redskins said ‘no.’

Former teammate Diron Talbert remembered Riggins’ holdout for my book, “Hail Victory” about how Riggins left training camp in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1980.

“It was four in the morning and Riggins was banging on my door. He wanted to get in. He was yelling, ‘Talbe, let me in. These guys ain’t giving me no money.,’” Talbert said. “He beat on the door and huffed and puffed, so I let him in and we talked for a while. He comes to the conclusion, ‘Talbe, they’re not going to give me the money I want. I’m going home.’ I said, ‘Well, get on out of here and go home.’ So he left.

“The next morning I went to practice and someone asked me, ‘Did you hear about Riggo? He’s in Washington at the Dulles Marriott and is fixing to get on a plane to go home.’ He had driven back to Washington after he left my room. The next time I talked to him was two weeks later, and he was in Kansas. He said, ‘I told you I was going home. They ain’t paying me.’”

Riggins came back when new coach Joe Gibbs went to Kansas to visit with him and the two would both gon on to Hall of Fame careers with the Redskins.

Sean Gilbert’s 1997 holdout was not nearly so colorful. The defensive tackle had come to Washington in a 1996 deal where the Redskins gave up their first-round pick to the St. Louis Rams. He was entering the last year of his contract and talks during the season failed to reach a new deal. Washington put the franchise tag on Gilbert, who refused to report and wanted a contract based on the numbers that came to him in a “revelation from God.”

Gilbert was done in Washington. After an arbitration hearing, Gilbert signed as a free agent with Carolina in 1998. The Redskins were awarded two first-round picks.

There have been other holdout threats that never saw the light of day once the regular season began. After their third Super Bowl championship in 1991, the Redskins had four holdouts — quarterback Mark Rypien, tackle Jim Lachey, cornerback Darrell Green and first-round draft pick Desmond Howard.

Rypien signed as the team was about to get on a plane to play a preseason game in London in mid-August. The rest signed deals two weeks later.

None of them had reportedly refused to play for the Washington Redskins again.

“As a player you really don’t have any leverage,” Lachey told reporters when he came back. “If they say that’s all you’re going to get, that’s all you’re going to get. You can’t squeeze any more water out of the rock.”

Blood, though — that’s a different story. With reported claims that the Redskins medical staff can’t be trusted, Trent Williams has already made this team bleed.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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