It will be an emotional game for safety D.J. Swearinger, who faces his former team, the Arizona Cardinals, for the first time since he signed with the Redskins this offseason.
This past April, when safety D.J. Swearinger, fresh off a new contract with the Washington Redskins, learned that he'd be facing his former team, the Arizona Cardinals, this season, he was excited for the immediate opportunity to show what they had passed on.
"You don't want to say payback. Everything happens for a reason," Swearinger said at the time. "They didn't sign me back for their reasons, and I'm just glad I get a chance to play them, see some of my old coaches, see some of the old players and, you know, really show them what they missed.
Swearinger is in his sixth season in the NFL playing for his fourth different team and has nearly matched every number from his career year in the desert in 2016. After playing four games for the Cardinals in 2015, he returned to play a full season and compiled 66 tackles, two sacks, eight passes defensed and three interceptions.
The Cardinals chose not to re-sign him and the Redskins swooped in. Through 13 games, the team's vocal leader has 60 tackles, a half sack, eight passes defensed and three interceptions. Arizona has only one more win than the Redskins and is likely on the outside of the playoff bubble, but this game still has significance for Swearinger.
On Instagram this week, he posted a photo in his Cardinals uniform with a long caption explaining that he didn't have hard feelings, but that as a competitor, he felt this game was personal.
"It means a lot, I can't wait to play these guys, they're my brothers, did a lot of hard work, won a lot of games with these guys. It was unfortunate that they let me go, but we'll handle that on Sunday," Swearinger said. "It's definitely extra. The business is the business, I have no hard feelings, but the competitor in me definitely has to have some get-back. I wouldn't be a competitor if I didn't want to get back at them. Just ready for Sunday."
A few lockers down, safety DeAngelo Hall shared his memories about facing off against a former opponent. Hall, who was drafted by the Falcons, played against them the year he joined the Raiders in 2008. Hall said that it's easy to get caught up emotionally and that teammates must do a good job of keeping the player, in this case Swearinger, focused.
"I know myself, my first time playing Atlanta, I was super excited, probably over-excited," Hall said. "We lost, I didn't play very well, the next time I played against them, I was a lot more calm and relaxed and played a good game. But, for us, we as teammates have to have his back, we can't let him get too caught up in that moment, you know what I mean? Because he's an emotional player, he's a passionate player, he's a fiery guy. I know, speaking from firsthand experience, if we just let him be him too much, it might take away from what we're trying to do. So, we've got to probably rein him in a little bit, but I think he'll be fine. He understands what – he's going to want to be perfect out there."
Hall, with the perspective of watching from afar and playing beside Swearinger this season, said the free safety has been impressive and that he embodies what you want from a football player.
"I knew he was a good player, but, yeah, I didn't quite understand how great of a player he can be," Hall said. "He's smart, cerebral, knows the defense. I mean, he's one of those guys that you don't consider just a safety or a free safety, strong safety. He's a football player. I mean, we could put him anywhere on the field and he'll find a way to be successful, he'll find a way to help us win the football game."
For Swearinger to do that, he'll bank on his time with the Cardinals, familiar with his former head coach in Bruce Arians and his penchant for the big play at any moment. That was a problem against the Chargers, and the Redskins want to be sure they clean up those mistakes.
"Watch the film, we know the deep shot's coming," Swearinger said. "That's something when I was there, he definitely wants to chuck the ball deep. He'll chuck the ball deep on third-and-one, second-and-one, so we definitely got to have our eyes ready for the deep ball, any chance, Larry Fitzgerald, we've got a chance to play against him, it's going to be a tremendous honor, I can't wait."