The Washington Post

Kerrigan mulls ending long run in Washington after season on the margins

- BY SAM FORTIER sam.fortier@washpost.com

Shortly after the Washington Football Team’s postgame circle in the locker room, defensive end Ryan Kerrigan walked back out to the field where he had been one of the few consistent bright spots over the past decade. He sat on the bench, staring at Fedex Field, wiping at his eyes with a towel.

“I’m looking at one end zone, and it’s where I scored a touchdown in my first game against the Giants,” he said. “I’m looking at the other end zone, and it’s a good memory from ’18 when I forced a fumble on Dak Prescott and Preston Smith picked it up to score a touchdown, and the crowd was as loud as I’ve ever heard it.”

In that moment and during his video news conference Sunday morning, Kerrigan looked and sounded like someone who knew the magical run was over. Washington drafted him out of Purdue with the 16th pick in 2011, and he spent the next decade cementing himself as one of the great players in a storied franchise, including setting the club sack record at 95.5.

But Kerrigan knows that now, with two other young, talented edge rushers on the roster, he doesn’t have the opportunit­y to play as big of a role with Washington as he believes he still can. He played 38 percent of the snaps this season, nearly half of his secondlowe­st, injury-free season.

“I definitely want to be a starter,” the 32-year-old said. “I mean, I think any player would say that. I don’t think anybody just wants to settle for being a role player or a reserve player.”

This desire first surfaced at the trade deadline, when Kerrigan reportedly requested that the team move him. Coach Ron Rivera did not because he thought Kerrigan was good for the locker room and the culture he was trying to build. In March, when Kerrigan becomes a free agent for the first time, he said he must balance wanting a bigger role with finding a complete team to contend for a championsh­ip.

“I’ve got to really be open-minded to several factors and openminded to all teams, and that’s kind of what I plan to do,” he said.

“I definitely feel like I’ve still got a lot of ball in me, a lot of good productive years ahead.”

Kerrigan said Washington is building something. The loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday felt different from the playoff games in the 2012 and 2015 seasons because “it didn’t really feel like we played great football” but Washington was still “that close to beating a team that’s pretty d--- good.” He believes in the scheme, that “it plays to a lot of guys’ strengths,” and that the “D-line is in good hands” with tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne and ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young.

In his first season, Young became the new face of the franchise. But teammates often noted Young sought advice from Kerrigan on everything from film study to rehab strategy to in-game adjustment­s.

“R.K. didn’t have to open his arms to me and help me throughout the whole season,” Young said. “. . . I always thank R.K. for doing that and always thank him for the type of man that he is.”

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