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The Redskins will likely soon rid themselves of a problematic former University of Miami All-American defender who, despite having been brought in last year with big fanfare and big bucks, has worked out on his own or not at all and stayed away from team gatherings.
No, not Sean Taylor. Unless the legal system says otherwise, Taylor isn’t going anywhere.
Mike Barrow is another story.
Unlike Taylor, a fellow alum of Football U. who’s in the headlines for an allegedly felonious episode involving ATVs and guns while AWOL from Ashburn, Barrow engages in the sort of off-field activities that are right in coach Joe Gibbs’ wheelhouse.
Barrow was at a high school in Flemington, N.J., on June 11, for an evening of spiritual music and testifying sponsored by Athletes in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, godly groups he’s been active with throughout his 12-year NFL career. Star 99.1, a radio station promoting the show, billed him as “NY Giant Michael Barrow.”
Taylor’s talent no doubt allows him to act as he pleases and remain a Redskin. It’s also probable that Barrow’s extracurricular behavior has swayed management to excuse his on-field performance. Because, well, there hasn’t been any on-field performance. Chronic tendinitis in his knee has prevented him from suiting up in a single game and essentially every practice. So it’s no wonder the folks in Jersey didn’t mention, or maybe didn’t even know, that Barrow’s a Redskin.
Along with Gibbs’ silly proclamations last year that Taylor was a “character guy” and “the most researched” player ever taken in the draft, Barrow’s tenure as a Redskin sure seems to be more proof of a personnel department as flawed as any in the league.
Barrow was signed in April 2004 to a six-year free-agent contract worth, depending on reports, somewhere between $11.6 million and $15.1 million, with a $2.5 million signing bonus. His arrival hastened the departure of Jeremiah Trotter, who went on to a Pro Bowl season with Philadelphia. And the money earmarked for Barrow might have kept last year’s defensive star, Antonio Pierce, from going to the Giants, the team that cast Barrow away.
In announcing Barrow’s signing, Gibbs tried to allay fears that the player was a little old to be brought in at all, let alone given such a long, moneyed deal.
“Some guys who are 34 are young,” Gibbs said.
For their money, the Redskins got a lot of weeks like the one before the opening game against Tampa Bay. Barrow showed up in the required midweek pregame injury report listed as “questionable” for that contest because of a knee problem. “Questionable” is sort of the Code Yellow of the NFL’s injury hierarchy. It’s the third-most-serious level of wounding, better than “out” and “doubtful” but worse than “probable.” Given the play-hurt-or-else mentality that exists in pro football, “questionable” generally means there’s a good chance a guy’s gonna suit up.
The relatively optimistic classification was a little strange in Barrow’s case, however, because not only had he not been in the lineup for any of the exhibition games, he also hadn’t gone through a single workout with the team since the first week of training camp.
And, as it turned out, Barrow wasn’t in uniform come game time against the Buccaneers.
And he wasn’t ready for practice the following Monday, either. But there he was, listed as questionable for the season’s second game, against his old team, the Giants. Again, he wasn’t in uniform at kickoff. The ritual played out again against Dallas. And again and again. In one of the most bizarre chapters in Redskins injury history, every week became Groundhog Week for Barrow and the team. He’d sit out all practices, be listed as questionable, and then be declared out on Sunday—a “game-day scratch” in league parlance. It was as if management was keeping a spot on the roster for Barrow in hopes that his knee would be cured by some miracle, à la the Rev. Reggie White and the torn hamstring that White always claimed was repaired through divine intervention.
The coach’s talks with Barrow must have gone something like this:
Gibbs: “Can you go this week, Mike?”
Barrow: “Not this week, Coach! Maybe next week!”
By the time the Redskins stopped the madness by putting him on the league’s injured reserve list, thereby ending his season, during Thanksgiving week, Barrow had as many scratches as Siegfried’s Roy.
Yet he’s still on the team. Even though he’s still not healthy: Barrow’s been excused from the Redskins recent organized team activities (OTAs), the allegedly voluntary workouts that every player must attend or face public ridicule, to seek help from a sports therapist in Arizona.
If the Barrow situation, colossal bust that it is, has remained under the radar, it’s only because of the comedy of other errors that has taken place at Redskins Park since his signing. The latest debacle involves the filming of those Barrowless, Taylorless OTAs by the team for narrowcasting on redskins.com, its official Web site. The videos are part of a project the team has dubbed “Redskins Unfiltered,” which aims to bypass traditional media and get the organization’s message out without being corrupted.
The Redskins scheme seems patterned after the White House’s propaganda efforts, in that both involve the hiring of media members (Westwood One exec and WJFK announcer Larry Michael is now on the Redskins payroll) and a whirlwind tour by the president (Gibbs’ other title) to refute reality (Gibbs, for example, went out to morning shows almost exclusively on Clear Channel– owned stations to deny stories in the Washington Post that were all later proved true).
Redskins Unfiltered has thus far been as unsuccessful as Bush’s Social Security push. A representative of the NFL Players Association saw the OTA videos online and complained to the league that the tapes, which were produced and voiced over by Larry Michael, proved the team violated the collective-bargaining prohibition against contact drills at the voluntary workouts.
And last week, the NFL agreed and punished the Redskins for those infractions, taking away the team’s right to hold any more voluntary workouts or meetings before this weekend’s mandatory minicamp.
Given his serial absences since becoming a Redskin, the cancellation of the workouts probably won’t affect Barrow’s practice schedule much. The team said earlier this month that his status for 2005 will be determined when he undergoes a physical prior to the minicamp.
Barrow’s agent, Marvin Demoff, did not return phone calls. One key to Barrow’s future may have come in April, when he attended a workshop sponsored by the NFL Players Association at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. The Redskins’ Web site described the seminar as being designed to give investment advice for “players transitioning from their football careers.”
And during his first official statements to the media on the day he was introduced as a Redskin, Barrow predicted how his tenure here would play out.
“I think I’ll get tired mentally before I get tired physically,” he said.