- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2020

ASHBURN — Dwayne Haskins, whose future in Washington is on shaky ground after the quarterback was caught partying Sunday night without a mask, practiced with the team Wednesday and ran the first-team offense.

The quarterback’s night-out earned him a $40,000 fine for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols and cost the second-year man his captainship. The team chose not to suspend Haskins and instead worked with the NFL to receive clearance for the 23-year-old to practice.

While addressing reporters on Wednesday, Haskins expanded on an earlier apology posted to social media and admitted that he’d put coaches, teammates and staff members at risk by attending a birthday party with his girlfriend after Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Haskins said he was not at a strip club contrary to prior reports, though he did not address if strippers were present. ESPN reported the quarterback hired exotic dancers for a private event at a hotel suite. Pictures posted to social media captured Haskins and a woman throwing $1 bills around scantily-dressed women.

“Yeah, it’s a misconception,” Haskins said. “Regardless, I shouldn’t have been there. It was a birthday party for my girlfriend and her friends. We were more than 10 people and weren’t wearing masks and that’s a violation no matter where it was, but I did not attend a strip club.”

Haskins, though, said he needs to “step up to the plate” and can’t be selfish.

“I need to stop getting in my own way,” he said. “I’m putting things in motion as far as a plan for myself to be a better teammate and be more accountable and fix my issues that have brought me to this situation.”

Haskins’ punishment came as Washington tries to prepare for a pivotal game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers in which the team could clinch a playoff spot. 

Rivera said Wednesday that despite the incident, Haskins would play if veteran starter Alex Smith, still nursing an injured calf, isn’t healthy enough to go.

Smith was a limited participant in practice and told reporters that he “absolutely plans” to suit up. He said the calf injury has progressively gotten better and is doing “everything single thing” to be able to play.

For Haskins to be able to participate, the team had receive approval from the league. As part of the agreement, Haskins has to undergo coronavirus testing twice per day, must wear a mask under his helmet and social distance throughout practice. Rivera said Haskins could receive further punishment from the NFL, but wasn’t anticipating it.

Washington became aware on Monday of the social media posts the showed Haskins partying with a group of women. Rivera said he was “extremely disappointed” in Haskins, but added he appreciated the quarterback’s contrition regarding the situation. The two have had several conversations and Haskins offered a “genuine apology,” Rivera said.

Asked why Haskins didn’t face further punishment, Rivera said the team examined other situations around the league and determined the action taken was appropriate.

Haskins’ $40,000 fine, which factors in a previous violation from October, is believed to be the largest fine for a player related to breaking the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.

“There’s a lot of things I could have done,” Rivera said.

Seven minutes into his press conference, Rivera grew visibly agitated over the questions related to Haskins. He raised his voice as he declared that he was done with the subject and declared the focus should be on the Panthers. “If I don’t get any more Carolina questions, I’m done,” he said.

Still, there’s a scenario in which Washington’s playoff hopes very much depend on Haskins.

Haskins, whose maturity has been questioned periodically since being drafted 15th overall in 2019, said he was grateful to have a second chance with Washington. The former first-rounder, though, acknowledged this could be his last with the team if he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.

Prior to practice, Haskins apologized to the entire team.

“I felt like he was heartfelt and sincere in that,” Smith said. “As teammates, our job, as disappointed as we were, (is) also to help him and support him as a teammate through all this. … We realize that we are a team, and we go through things and make mistakes. We all have our own deals going on. No judgment there.”

Haskins told reporters that he’ll have to earn back people’s trust with his actions.

“It’s all self-provoked,” Haskins said. “I need to be man enough to overcome it and help this team win. That’s what my plans are.”

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