Update: The Washington Redskins placed safety Su’a Cravens on the reserve/left squad list September 18, 2017, meaning he officially will not return for the rest of the season. The 22-year-old Cravens informed the team earlier this month that he was considering retirement.
The move comes as a surprise after NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that Cravens was expected to report to the team this week. ProFootballTalk reports that the Redskins placed Cravens on the list today even though they were aware he could come back. Cravens is eligible to return to the field after this season if he wants to continue playing football.
Su’a Cravens was supposed to return to practice this week. Instead, he doesn’t want to return at all.
Cravens, Washington's promising yet injury-prone second-year strong safety and former USC standout, informed the Redskins he wants to retire, according to The Washington Post. On Saturday night, the 22-year-old reportedly told his fellow defensive backs that he planned on retiring through a group text, which he subsequently removed himself from. On Sunday morning, Cravens informed Redskins president Bruce Allen of his plan, but Allen convinced him to postpone his decision. Cravens was placed on the non-football exempt list, and he and the Redskins will have a month to decide his future.
Cravens has considered leaving football before. At USC, Cravens sustained an unknown injury and went missing for three days while contemplating quitting. He went AWOL with Washington after a biceps injury in Week 14 last season, also for three days. Cravens returned to the team but not the field after last season’s incident. He’s been discussing retirement for the past month with coaches, according to the Post.
Before the 2016 draft, in which he was selected with the 53rd overall pick, in the second round, Cravens was considered undersized for a linebacker but too slow for safety. A decade ago he may have been cast off as a tweener despite his outstanding college career, but then-general manager Scot McCloughan envisioned Cravens as a hybrid defender who could play multiple positions, someone who could anchor the Redskins’ defensive scheme. Then-Washington defensive coordinator Joe Barry trained Cravens as a linebacker in his rookie season. Redskins brass were enamored with Cravens, who exhibited great instincts and a nose for the ball, traits that immediately transferred to the NFL level with a crucial interception of Eli Manning in a Week 3 tilt against the Giants.
The following week he sustained a concussion in a win against Cleveland, beginning a bizarre stretch for the then-rookie. Cravens posted a Snapchat story that week in which, sporting new glasses, he said: "Due to my concussion, my eyes have lost the memory to keep track of moving objects, so I have to wear these for the rest of my life.” That dire diagnosis didn't turn out to be accurate, and Cravens later said he didn't sustain any permanent damage from the concussion. He returned to the field after missing two games, but seven weeks later he sustained the biceps injury and was once again contemplating retirement. Nevertheless, heading into the 2017 season, Cravens appeared ready to assume a starting role in the Washington secondary. Earlier this month, Cravens had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, which cost him three weeks of practice time.
Cravens has been questioned for valuing pride over pack before. The biceps injury from last season was initially believed to have been a tear, but when it was revealed to be a bruise, the team wanted Cravens to have the fluid in his arm drained and play. Cravens no-showed the medical procedure, prompting a phone call from McCloughan. Cravens didn’t play the rest of the season. At USC, Cravens also heard rumblings from his teammates for not playing through an injury, and it was speculated at the time that he was unhappy about playing more at linebacker as opposed to safety—something his Redskins teammates also sensed when Cravens played inside ’backer in Washington his rookie season, according to the Post.
During this offseason, Cravens sometimes looked disinterested during practice, prompting teammates to call him out. "I haven't felt it from you,” middle linebacker Will Compton told Cravens while mic’d up. “The last two [practices], you haven't gave me anything." Later, Cravens responded with a telling line: “I can’t fake it, though.”
Cravens isn’t the first promising young defensive player to walk away from the game in recent years. In 2015, San Francisco’s Chris Borland retired at age 24 after determining the long-term effects of head injuries were too big of a risk to continue playing. Before he was drafted, Cravens said he wasn't afraid of CTE or the long-term effects of concussions: “I know I’m going to the game where I’m going to hit and sometimes you’re going to use your head to hit and you might get a concussion. That’s what we sign up for.”
But for one reason or another, it appears Cravens is ready to hang up his cleats. “It’s shocking, but it is what it is,” Redskins free safety D.J. Swearinger told the Post. “He’s got to handle what he needs to handle, whether it’s mental, whether it’s family. We’re here to support him, but that’s something tough. I’m not in those shoes so I can’t speak on it. I’m praying for him and hope he’ll be back.”