ASHBURN — Some years ago, when the Washington Redskins were going through a bad streak — it’s hard to remember which one because they start to run together after a while — a woman called with insight into the situation.
“I can tell you why they’re losing,” she said. “When they cut John Riggins, I put a curse on the team. “
At the time, it seemed, well, unlikely.
The Redskins let Riggins go after the 1985 season. They’d had some success after that, including victories in Super Bowl XXII for the 1987 season and Super Bowl XXVI for the 1991 season.
Now ... who knows what is likely when it involves the Redskins, especially since no mention was made of when the curse would be removed.
Signs are, it’s still in effect.
Monday, on his first play in a Redskins’ uniform and the third play of the team’s initial 11-on-11 drill during organized team activities of the 2019 off-season, linebacker Reuben Foster ran through an opening in the offensive line. In the process, he stepped on the foot of offensive guard Tyler Catalina.
The next thing the Redskins knew, Foster was on the ground, apparently in agonizing pain, some physical, some probably mental and emotional.
Foster pounded the ground in frustration as the athletic training staff examined the injury. His left leg was stabilized, and he left the field on the back of a golf cart.
The young linebacker was a controversial addition to the Redskins locker room in late November last season. The Redskins claimed him off waivers after the San Francisco 49ers cut him loose. Foster had been charged with domestic violence for the second time, and even though the alleged victim recanted her claims and the charges were dropped in the first case, the 49ers had had enough.
Foster also had been suspended the first two weeks of the 2018 season for a weapons charge and a misdemeanor drug offense.
The Redskins received ample criticism for claiming Foster. And, given the sometimes strict discipline NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued in past cases, the Redskins didn’t know if Foster ever would play for them.
Earlier this year, the second domestic violence charge, involving the same woman from the first charge, was dismissed. Foster was cleared to play at the cost of two regular-season game checks.
The Redskins had a promising young linebacker.
Now, that promising young linebacker might not play this season.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com, citing unnamed sources, said Foster is “believed” to have a torn ACL, “plus additional damage.” Adam Schefter of ESPN, also citing sources, said Foster has a torn ACL.
“It’s football, and people get hurt playing the game,” said Mason Foster, slated to be Reuben Foster’s running mate at inside linebacker.
Bad things, sometimes ugly things, happen during football games. But OTA’s are non-contact. No one anticipates a player suffering a serious injury while moving at three-quarter speed during a non-contact drill.
“It’s always weird,” Mason Foster said. “This is my ninth year, and I’ve seen stuff like that happen.”
Every team suffers injuries through an NFL season. Few have suffered as many devastating injuries as the Redskins the past two seasons.
In 2017, three starting offensive linemen went on injured reserve, plus tight end Jordan Reed and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. Su’a Cravens, who was supposed to terrorize quarterbacks from the linebacker and strong safety spot, walked away from football for the year after several injuries, including a concussion, as a rookie.
In 2018, quarterback Alex Smith suffered a gruesome, broken leg, which could be a career-ending injury, in the 10th game of the season. Two games later, backup quarterback, and the starter in Smith’s absence, Colt McCoy suffered a similar injury, although not nearly as severe.
Long before those injuries, rookie Derrius Guice, expected to be a star running back, tore an ACL on his first carry in a 2018 preseason game. Reed spent the last three games of the regular season on injured reserve, and three starting offensive linemen again missed multiple games.
The Redskins were 6-3 when Smith was injured. They finished 7-9.
They thought what happened in 2017 was a “one-off” kind of year. They took multiple precautions to avoid a repeat, and things got worse.
“We’ve had some bad luck over here the last couple of years, but this one takes the cake,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “This was a non-contact drill.
“I don’t know how to process it, really.”
He might want to examine the process for adding Riggins to the roster. Unlike so many of the Redskins’ injuries, it couldn’t hurt.