Thursday, August 22, 2019

At the entrance to Redskins Park in Ashburn, Inova Sports Medicine recently installed a new display noting their “health and wellness” partnership with the football team.

Appropriately, it is a stone slab — one step removed from a tombstone.

I have no doubt that in July 2016, when the Redskins and Inova announced a partnership to “bring timely and relevant health and wellness information and programs to the community,” it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But right now, “health” and “wellness” are two words that are not remotely connected with this football team.

Redskins Park is known these days more as a house of health horrors than a place for health and wellness.

It’s a reputation driven by star left tackle Trent Williams, who has told friends he won’t play for the team again because of his lack of trust in the Redskins medical staff.

We have not heard from Williams, nor from his representatives. But CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora reported in June that the All-Pro lineman is upset about the misdiagnosis of a possible cancer tumor on his head — a story supported by others, including coach Jay Gruden, who acknowledged Williams had issues with the team’s medical care.

“Well, I know he’s frustrated,” Gruden told reporters. “Any time you have something done, the procedure like that of that magnitude, you want to find the reason. You wish something maybe could have been done differently or different timing. But our doctors are very good. I know they did the best they can.”

“Our doctors are very good.” Since then, we haven’t heard many testimonials like that.

If I were the Redskins, I’d trot out that 2018 Ed Block Courage Award they won as the NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year and treat it like a Super Bowl trophy. It would be up on that podium every time Gruden has to face questions about Williams and the level of medical care at Redskins Park — questions the Prince of Darkness, team president Bruce Allen, should be answering.

As soon as the news broke about Williams‘ holdout and his issues with the team’s medical staff, his friend and teammate, Morgan Moses, responded, “It’s about time someone like that stands up.”

Moses went on to qualify his comments, saying, “It’s not just a situation here; it happens throughout the league. To have one of our peers like Trent to stand up like that means a lot. His scare is one you never want to have, but you’ve got to take care of yourself.”

Well, sure, but isn’t that part of the medical staff’s job, too?

Former Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall also confirmed Williams‘ beef with the medical staff. “It’s not about money,” Hall said. “That’s what makes this so unorthodox and something we’ve never seen. We’ve never had a player say, ‘Hey, get that training staff out of here or I’m not coming back.’”

Another former Redskins with an ax to grind, safety Su’a Cravens, backed up Williams‘ narrative on social media — and talked about his own frustrations with the team.

Cravens said the Redskins accused him of inventing an injury and denied him insurance while he recovered from a concussion. He is still in a dispute with the team over his pay.

“2 years later and I’m still fighting the Skins on something they’ve continued to do countless time(s),” Cravens wrote. “Which is why the best tackle in the game refuses to play for them now. Same reason I left. Mishandled injuries and withheld info. All evidence points to them being guilty!”

And it doesn’t stop with Cravens and Williams.

There were the multiple surgeries for damaged quarterback Alex Smith following his broken leg last season due to infections. Same with Derrius Guice and his follow up infection procedures after surgery for torn knee ligaments he suffered more than a year ago.

Now there is Colt McCoy, Gruden’s favorite quarterback who broke his leg last December. McCoy has had multiple surgeries as well, and still is not ready to take the field to compete for the starting quarterback job.

Gruden told reporters this week that they mishandled McCoy’s recovery trying to get him ready to play again the final game of 2018. “He probably rushed back, we probably rushed him back a little bit too quick,” Gruden told reporters. “That was nobody’s fault; we just have to get it right first.”

It should be somebody’s fault.

Why would a major health provider like Inova want to be in business with these guys?

We don’t know the details of Williams‘ specific issues — including who exactly he holds accountable.

Is it head trainer Larry Hess and his staff? Or the team doctors?

When Inova announced its partnership with the Redskins in 2016, they listed three doctors as members of the medical team “helping to provide the highest quality health care.”

Are they implicated? We may never know — even though Allen claimed in June, after the Williams news broke, that he knew “the truth.”

I asked Inova officials if they had any second thoughts about their partnership with the Redskins.

Tracy Connell, a public relations and crisis communications officer, responded with this statement: “We are proud of our exceptional sports medicine program and the high quality care we provide to all our patients, including the Washington Redskins team. To meet its wide-ranging needs, the Redskins‘ medical team is comprised of premier providers from different practices and health care systems.”

Hey, it wouldn’t be easy to dig up that Inova slab at Redskins Park.

On July 24, the Inova newsroom published an interview with Brandon Bryant, an orthopedic surgeon at Inova identified as a Redskins team doctor, about what it is like working with the team.

“There’s an excitement, especially on game days,” Bryant said. “It can be stressful — the stakes are high as far as diagnosing injuries and treating them correctly. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes before, during and after the game. We’re working with players, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists and agents to make sure everybody is on the same page.”

The next day, Redskins training camp opened in Richmond. Trent Williams was not on the same page.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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