D.J. Swearinger, released abruptly by the Washington Redskins this week after publicly criticizing the defensive coaching, didn’t need much time to find a landing place.
He’s back in Arizona with the Cardinals, where he played part of 2015 and all of the 2016 season.
Speaking in front of his new locker on Wednesday, Swearinger called it a “rocky Christmas” and acknowledged that he was wrong to speak out against Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and criticize the team’s strategy in a 25-16 loss to Tennessee.
Still, he was surprised, he said, that it led to his release from the team.
“Just living and learning,” Swearinger said, “understanding you know it wasn’t my role to call out the defensive coaches even though we had a relationship. Me and the coaches had a good relationship. But it’s just learning. I keep my mouth shut next time and just keep moving and play football, do what I do on the field.”
Swearinger acknowledged he’s emotional and that controlling himself is difficult in the minutes after the game.
“I’m a very passionate player,” Swearinger said. “I put my heart in this game. You put the camera in my face after we lose a game that we’re supposed to go to the playoffs, I may say some things that I shouldn’t’ say. That’s on me. I’ve got to control that and get better at that, but like I said, live and learn and keep moving forward. That’s life.”
After the Redskins practice Wednesday, coach Jay Gruden said this wasn’t the first time Swearinger had problems such as this.
“Yeah, repeat offenses. I’ve had many talks with him before,” Gruden said. “Obviously I didn’t get through to him. Again, that’s my responsibility. At the end of the day we decided as an organization to move on.”
Swearinger had made significant contributions to the Washington defense. He had four interceptions (matching a career high), 53 tackles, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate.
“D.J. did some great things here without a doubt,” Gruden said. “We wish nothing but the best but at the end of the day that’s something that this franchise or any franchise can’t afford to have. We’ve moved on.”
Swearinger said he got a nice welcome from Patrick Peterson and other players who were around three seasons ago. Swearinger played four games for Arizona in 2015 and was with the Cardinals the entire 2016 season, finishing with three interceptions, 64 tackles and two sacks. That success led to his three-year deal with Washington.
The Cardinals, with the NFL’s worst record at 3-12, were the first team that could claim Swearinger off waivers. He has one year left on the deal he signed with Washington.
Arizona’s first-year coach Steve Wilks said that claiming Swearinger was “a great move by us.”
“I don’t know him personally but I like his play,” Wilks said. “Scouting him, going against him, a very physical guy, tough, nasty, the DNA that we look for. Personality-wise talking to everybody in the locker room, everybody in the building, they love him.”
Wilks said he will talk to Swearinger about keeping any criticism in-house.
“I don’t stand in front of you guys and throw coaches or players underneath the bus, that’s not my style,” Wilks told reporters. “That’s what we would need to address. I don’t have a problem with his opinion, but we’re not going to have that opinion outside the building. He would quickly understand that.”
It’s uncertain whether Swearinger will play in Sunday’s season finale at Seattle or how much he figures in the Cardinals’ plans for next season.
“I can only control what I can control,” he said. “Tomorrow I’m going to come get ready for practice like I know how. If I play on Sunday, I’ll be more than ready to play. If I don’t, I’ll cheer my guys on and do whatever I need to do to help this team win. … I’m just happy to be back in Arizona.”
Wilks might not be the coach past this weekend, but Swearinger is planning to stay.
“I’m just ready to play, regardless of who the coach is, regardless of who the players are,” Swearinger said. “I’m ready to play and I’m ready to win.”
The Redskins’ Josh Norman said it’s just more of the same for his team.
“Every week’s been a circus for the last six weeks,” he said.
Notes: Arizona lost yet another offensive lineman when rookie tackle Korey Cunningham was placed on injured reserve. He’s the seventh offensive lineman placed on IR by Arizona this season.
Freelancer Bobby Bancroft contributed to this report.
Source: The Associated Press