ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins placed Su'a Cravens on the exempt/left squad list Sunday, and his future is in doubt after teammates said the 22-year-old safety had to be talked out of retiring.
Cravens, penciled in as the starter at strong safety, has been out since Aug. 15 following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Cravens was expected to return to practice this week but instead is expected to now miss the first four weeks of the season.
He was absent Sunday as players were left to address the stunning news that he had considered retirement.
''It's shocking, but it is what it is,'' safety D.J. Swearinger said. ''(Cravens has) got to handle what he needs to handle, whether it's mental, whether it's family. Whatever he has to do, we're here to support him. That's something tough. I'm not in no shoes where I can really speak on it. Whatever he's dealing with I'm praying for him.''
According to rules clarified by NFL and NFLPA spokesmen, a team has four weeks to decide a course of action for a player with a non-football exemption. If the Redskins use all four weeks, it would mean Cravens will miss at least Washington's games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders and Kansas Chiefs.
The Redskins can choose to terminate Cravens' contract or request waivers, trade him, activate him to their 53-man roster, request a roster exemption from the commissioner or put him on the reserve/left squad list. The final option would rule him out for the season.
Coach Jay Gruden informed players of Cravens' situation after practice. Gruden was originally supposed to speak with reporters, but that news conference was canceled and moved until Tuesday.
While agent Fadde Mikhail did not respond to a message seeking comment, Cravens offered his thoughts on social media.
''Thank you to those who showed their true colors today,'' Cravens wrote on his verified Instagram account. ''Both positively in support and negatively in misunderstanding and frustration. Either way my response is the same to both groups, I love ya! and thank ya! God Bless.''
Deshazor Everett is expected to start at strong safety Sept. 10 against the Eagles. Cravens' uncertainty explains why Washington kept five safeties on its initial 53-man roster.
ESPN first reported Cravens considering retirement.
With the spot opened by putting Cravens on the exempt/left squad list, Washington claimed offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings.
Cravens, the organization's second-round pick in 2016 after a stellar career at Southern California, saw significant playing time as a reserve linebacker in his rookie season while missing five games with a concussion and an arm injury.
Desperate for safety help, the Redskins believed the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Cravens could effectively transition to strong safety. He practiced there throughout the offseason and training camp before being injured three snaps into an Aug. 10 preseason game at Baltimore.
''Everybody has their own stresses in life and things like that,'' linebacker Will Compton said. ''No matter what, you're in a stressful business, you're in a performance-based business every single day, and Su'a is going through some stuff right now. Again, we don't know a whole lot about (it), and that's kind of his personal business.''
After a biceps injury late in December turned out not to be a tear, there was hope Cravens would return, but he never did. In March, he lashed out on social media when Sports Illustrated reported that Cravens blew off medical treatment late in the season and drew a stern phone call from then-GM Scot McCloughan.
''Some people can play that way. Some people can play this game if they (don't),'' said Swearinger, who would have started at free safety next to Cravens. ''But over the long run you will get exposed if you don't love the game because through the ups and downs, times get tough. If you really love it you'll stick to it.''
NOTES: The Indianapolis Colts claimed former Redskins RB Matt Jones and WR Matt Hazel off waivers. ... The Philadelphia Eagles signed former Redskins QB Nate Sudfeld to their practice squad. ... Washington signed seven players to its practice squad: WRs Robert Davis and Maurice Harris, TE Manasseh Garner, G Kyle Kalis, DL Brandon Banks, LB Pete Robertson and S Fish Smithson.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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