Offensive lineman Trent Williams’s holdout from Washington’s training camp doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon. But Williams’s issues with the Skins appear to date back much further than previously believed, and the relationship may indeed be broken beyond repair.
When Williams skipped the Skins’ mandatory minicamp in June, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Williams was unhappy with the way the team’s medical staff had handled an offseason procedure to remove what turned out to be a benign tumor on his scalp. La Canfora has since reported that the relationship between Williams and the team is “totally fractured,” which elicited an unequivocal denial from the team’s PR boss. Any guesses as to who was fibbing?
Now, a report out today from Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer suggests Williams’s disaffection in fact ends with the handling of the growth on his head. Things got to that point after a gradual, complex series of circumstances combined with poor communication. On Monday, the Skins signed 36-year-old Donald Penn as a replacement, after which team president Bruce Allen told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “But we still want Trent.”
Brewer describes Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle, as the Skins’ “most loyal” player, an intense competitor who frequently played through injuries out of a sense of duty. In 2017, Williams put off knee surgery to fix a ruptured patellar tendon until after the Skins were eliminated from playoff contention. Then last year, Washington drafted Geron Christian in the third round—a routine maneuver, even for a team that had established starters at both tackle spots as well as a capable backup, yet was in need of a left guard. Williams wasn’t so much afraid of the competition, but the pick did change his approach to his job. He was 30 and coming off knee surgery, so the selection of Christian, according to Brewer, caused Williams to think “about his mortality and disposability for the first time.” More from Brewer:
He finally acknowledged NFL reality: In a sport of attrition, loyalty is bad for business. While still committed, his mind-set shifted in a way that several people close to him hadn’t seen previously.
Williams played last season and made another Pro Bowl, but he missed three games with a thumb injury, and the Skins again missed the playoffs, a combination that added to his anxieties. He considered asking for a new contract, especially with no guarantees remaining on the deal he signed in 2015. Then came the growth on his head, which frightened him, and which he feels the team did not properly diagnose.
Brewer is clear that the Skins didn’t communicate to Williams what their plans were after they drafted Christian. At the same time, Williams never let on about anything until he bailed on minicamp back in June. That lack of communication resulted in a misunderstanding that generated a lack of trust. And now, Williams wants out.