The decision came down to one factor: the Redskins didn't think Jon Jansen could play anymore. At least not for them. And they gave him the chance to retire or continue playing – elsewhere, that is.
Jansen wants to keep playing, so Washington released the 10-year veteran earlier Friday.
Thus ends an era, with Jansen the longest-tenured player and the only player who had been here the entire time Dan Snyder has owned the Redskins.
Over the past few years Jansen became a lightning rod of criticism as injuries took their toll on him. But enough people believed in him – line coach Joe Bugel, former head coach Joe Gibbs – that he was able to hold onto his job. His run-blocking still helped the Redskins, even into last season.
It's not a stretch to say that Jim Zorn wanted Jansen to regain his old form. That's why he hung onto him for so long this offseason. Washington could have released Jansen much earlier, but Zorn wanted to see the effects of Jansen's offseason training, freed for a change from having to rehab.
But Washington did not see enough change to warrant keeping him around. And the belief was that he would not provide enough help inside to justify a roster spot as a backup.
I've known Jansen since he joined the Redskins and have gotten to know him fairly well over the years. Reporters and players don't become friends, not of the sort who hang out together. Though=2 0it sometimes happens with TV types and players, it rarely if ever happens with players and reporters. At least not when they're playing.
But I liked Jansen's Midwestern work ethic (hailing from Cleveland, I understood what he was about).
That he attended Michigan should not be held against him. As an Ohio State guy, it's natural for me to think that. I remember after his first press conference here joking with him about how he had to marry someone from Ohio. But then his wife, Martha, pointed out to me that she opted for someone from Michigan.
Our little rivalry helped me get to know him better. Needless to say I've enjoyed discussing it for about, oh, the last seven years.
It also landed me in an ice tub one day (some of you may remember this story). Here it goes: During Steve Spurrier's first camp, the ice tubs became all the rage. One reporter, Joseph White from the AP, somehow coaxed Spurrier and a couple players, including Jansen, to give him money if he sat in the tub for a specified amount of time.
A crowd gathered and White sat in the tub. I stood by the door and whispered to another reporter: ‘'I'm staying over here because if I say something I know he'll come get me.'' About a minute later Brandon Noble pointed to me and said to Jansen, ‘'Isn't that the guy from Ohio State?'' Next thing I knew I was dropped in the tub.
The only problem: my cell phone was in my pocket. And now it was dead.
No worries: Jansen paid for a new one – and I got an upgrade.
Jansen was a strong presence, partly because of his size and also because of his personality. He and Casey Rabach were considered the biggest practical jokers on the team and guys nobody else wanted to mess with.
He was a rock in his first five seasons, never leaving the lineup until injuries mounted. He even played one season with broken thumbs. But the injuries to the ankle and his Achilles robbed him of his ability to move quicker laterally.
The sad part is that I know how important it was for him to be a Redskin. He treasured the tradition of the franchise and wanted to play in one place. When he nearly became a free agent after the 2002 season, Jansen was not happy. Heck, the night before he signed that deal Rick Snider and I were talking to him in the lobby and he was very down about the prospect of leaving the Redskins.
The Redskins understood this and also his importance over the past decade. It's why Dan Snyder flew him in from Michigan so coach Jim Zorn could talk to Jansen in person. He did not want to do this over the phone and for that they deserve credit. Zorn knows what it's like to be told you're no longer wanted.
Players come and go all the time in this business. Everyone involved understands that and gets used to it.
But when some leave a void is created. And that's what happ ened today. It's not about whether or not Jansen can still play, it's about what he tried to do for the franchise. Other guys came here because they received a lot of money, but they were, more or less, mercenaries. Jansen was a home grown product. It meant something for him to be here.
But Friday was a reminder that this was a business. And if he's going to play again, it'll be in a different uniform. It might be sad, but it's also reality.
John Keim covers the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and is a contributing editor for Warpathinsiders.com. He has covered the team since 1994. Some of his other stories can be found at dcexaminer.com
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Jon Jansen Released, Will Be Missed
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