On the day of final cuts, Mike Shanahan’s toughest calls — or, perhaps, the most notable ones — involved running back Tim Hightower, returner Brandon Banks and the final receiving spot. He also had to deal with Tanard Jackson’s indefinite suspension for another positive drug test.
The Redskins also added another player, cornerback Crezdon Butler, to the 53-man roster. Butler, a fifth-round pick in 2010 by Pittsburgh, was cut by Arizona on Friday. The Cardinals had signed him after Pittsburgh cut him in 2011. Butler dislocated his ankle in the 2011 season opener and was placed on injured reserve.
Here’s what Shanahan had to say on those topics during his press conference Saturday:
Tanard Jackson’s suspension: “I was disappointed because I really like the guy. I like who he is. I like the way he worked. The guy’s never been arrested in his life. I’m just really disappointed for him. He’s out for a year. Obviously he’s made some mistakes, but I’m just disappointed for the guy. I really do like him and I’m disappointed he’s going to be out… He’s a good football player, a great guy. He’s made a couple of mistakes, but, you know, I just like what he stood for.”
When they learned about the suspension (keep in mind that one NFL source said they were aware for a while of the possibility): We just found out yesterday. One guy is going to make your football team and obviously he’s not and he’s off the roster and you’ve got another spot, so you adjust.”
Hightower’s release: “Again, it’s always tough to make those final decisions on your top 53. A guy like Tim, who I think the world of, he might be back sometime this year. But you’ve got to cut down. You’ve got to make the decision that you think is best for your football team and we went with three running backs and a fullback. But it was a tough decision.”
Hightower returning at some point: “He could come back here. I thought when he did play he played well.”
If they should have put Hightower on the PUP list before camp opened: “You could have kept him on the PUP list, but you’ve got to do football-related drills. And the only thing he could keep on doing on the PUP list was doing what he’d been doing for the last two months. In order for him to make progress – which he did, a tremendous amount of progress when he got a chance to play… You’ve got to make tough decisions based on what’s best for your organization and your football team when you cut down to 53.”
Brandon Banks: “He’s done a good job throughout training camp. He proved that he can play at the wide receiver position. And the one thing about Brandon, he can make plays. Like we ran him around on a reverse and not many people can make a corner miss like that and get a forty-something yard gain. And if you have to put him in the backfield, you can run him as a tailback because he has such great quickness. He’s a guy that’s a playmaker, and he’s proved that since he’s been here. And we’re going to find ways to get him the football.”
If Banks made it as a returner or all-around playmaker: “Now remember, as a punt returner or a kickoff returner, you don’t have to punt to a returner. With these kicks from the 35-yard line, they don’t get a whole lot of reps. So if a guy’s going to make your football team, he’s going to make your football team because he’s a playmaker. And like I said, if he’s a wide receiver [and] if he’s catching a bubble [screen] or a reverse, he’s got a chance to make plays. So he made our football team because he’s a football player, and I think he can add to winning games for us in the future.”
Keeping wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe over Anthony Armstrong: “It’s always a tough decision because you’ve got two excellent football players where you’re much deeper at the wide receiver position. Then you also look at who you’re going to dress on which game. How many receivers can be up? Who’s going to be on special teams? Who’s going to be backup X, backup Z? At the end of the day, we decided to go in that direction. You know, Briscoe is a little bit bigger guy. 6-2, 220 range. A very physical receiver, whereas Anthony’s more of that X guy where he’s got that great speed, very similar to [Pierre] Garçon and [Aldrick] Robinson and even [Brandon] Banks. So we thought we were a little deeper at that X position than we were that Z position, so that’s why we went that direction.”
Briscoe’s ability to play special teams: “First of all, if you’re going to play special teams, you’ve got to be part of the top five receivers. If you’re not, you don’t play special teams. When you do start getting some depth at the wide receiver position, who’s able to play special teams? Who’s that fifth receiver? Who’s that fourth receiver? Armstrong probably was not going to dress when you take a look at a guy like Aldrick Robinson and Pierre Garçon. And if you do take a guy like Banks, there’s a lot of different scenarios you can have. But I loved Anthony because I loved the guy. He’s a great guy. Very smart – knew all three positions. And it really was a tough decision to pick one of those guys. But we’re going to make decisions which we think is best for our football team, and I think you guys will like Briscoe in the future.”