Irrelevant: Not connected with or relevant to something.
For Curtis Samuel’s first season in Washington, it couldn’t be more true. A former wideout for Ron Rivera during his time in Carolina, Samuel made his way to Washington following a three-year, $34.5M deal this spring. And while optimism surrounded his potential alongside Terry McLaurin, the college teammate of the burgundy and gold’s WR1 has been nothing more than a clipboard holder through eight games.
It’s been a constant in Washington when it comes to free-agent signings, no matter who’s pressing the buttons. Whether it’s Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan, Jay Gruden, and now, Rivera, free-agent acquisitions just haven’t lived up to face value when asked to strap up and attempt to replicate performances at prior stops. And while Rivera hasn’t whiffed on the Albert Haynesworths and the Adam Archuletas of the world, Samuel’s failure to do anything but show up in street clothes has patience running thin in the nation’s capital.
Appearing in at least 13 games the last three seasons, despite his relative health, Samuel carried a laundry list of injury history into Washington. However, with no prior documented groin issues, when Samuel went down with what was labeled a “inguinal groin strain” back in the spring, his absence looked to be precautionary. A small inconvenience at the time, the injury “lingered” and Samuel missed all of mandatory minicamp, the majority training camp, dealt with COVID-19 in August, and was eventually placed on injured reserve to start the season.
Let’s peel back the layers here, because we weren’t born yesterday, folks. Ron Rivera, I’m calling your bluff.
As it stands today, Nov. 3, Samuel is not on injured reserve. He’s an “active” member of the 53-man roster, yet he’s appeared in two games, most recently in a Week 5 matchup against the New Orleans Saints nearly a month ago. He’s totaled four catches for 19 yards in 30 total snaps, and hasn’t returned to the field since. He’s also barely practiced, and with little to zero production on the boundary outside of McLaurin, an explanation to why No. 10 hasn’t been active remains to be heard.
Each of Washington’s last four losses have been winnable ball games. And while the defensive side of the ball has been the barren of blame early this fall, the last month has seen the finger turned on the offense, where the complete ineptitude of production outside of No. 17 has been paramount to the lack of success on offense. Which again, brings me back to Samuel.
Now, I’m no doctor, but I do know a groin injury does not take nearly five months to heal; especially considering Samuel has yet to go under the needle, which would resolve any questions. So, why isn’t Samuel practicing? Why isn’t he active on gameday? And most importantly, why did Washington offer him $34.5M?
As much as politics try to hide themselves in sports, they often find their way to the showcase window in due time. A playmaking wideout with Rivera during his time with the Panthers, the ties to Samuel and D.C. were apparent before the free agency period ever opened. And while Washington has often been referred to as “Carolina North” due to the extent of individuals from the front office to the locker room with prior ties to Rivera, Samuel’s “lingering” groin issue presents an awfully intriguing dynamic after what has been months of frustration surrounding his lack of availability. With offers around football for less money during the spring window, it isn’t hard to identify that Samuel viewed Washington as the clear route to meet his desired positional value in the free-agent market, whether he actually wanted to play in D.C. or not. And now, as Rivera’s unit sits 2-6 as they enter their bye week, the onus for a resolution surrounding Samuel’s impact moving forward has become the elephant in a room for a franchise once again searching for answers.