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Sean McVay on Greg Robinson not working hard: 'I didn't sense that at all'

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Greg Robinson was supposed to be the next Orlando Pace. He came out of Auburn with so much hype, so much talent, that the Rams made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2014, with hopes that he would solidify left tackle for at least a half-decade. But Robinson, 24 and heading into his fourth NFL season, hasn't come close to fulfilling the lofty expectations that surrounded him. Along the way, many have questioned his passion for the game and his dedication to it.

Sean McVay was asked about that Thursday, hours after the Los Angeles Rams traded Robinson to the Detroit Lions for a 2018 sixth-round pick, and disputed it.

"I didn't sense that at all," McVay, the Rams' first-year head coach, said from the team facility. "I think he did what we asked. ... We felt like it was good for both sides. That was kind of really what went into that decision. But in terms of seeing a guy that didn't want to be great and wasn't working at it -- I didn't ever sense that."

The Rams, however, moved on from Robinson after watching him struggle thoroughly with penalties and inconsistencies over these last three years. They benched him twice amid a 4-12 season in 2016, then splurged on a free-agent left tackle in Andrew Whitworth, and opted against picking up the fifth-year option on Robinson's rookie contract. Robinson was moving to right tackle in 2017. But by the time the Rams' offseason program wrapped up Wednesday, Jamon Brown was taking all the first-team snaps at the position and Robinson was only involved with the scout team.

Robinson was informed of the trade Wednesday afternoon and took a red-eye flight out of LAX later that night.

McVay sold it as a reaction to how well the other tackles have performed -- namely Brown, Andrew Donnal and Pace Murphy -- and not an indictment on the promise Robinson clearly hasn't lived up to.

"We wish Greg nothing but the best," McVay said, "but we felt like it was going to be something that was best for our team and best for Greg."

The Lions traded for Robinson and signed Cyrus Kouandjio on the same day so that they could compete for their open left tackle position. Their fourth-year head coach, Jim Caldwell, sounded like he wanted to give Robinson a fresh start, saying: "I'm concerned about what he does for us here and now and this point forward. I don't look back much."

Robinson pretty much echoed those sentiments, albeit briefly. He called the trade "a big surprise," admitted that the last three years "haven't really went the way I would like" and spoke about how the change could benefit him. Later, he went to Twitter to show appreciation.

The trade frees the Rams of a little more than $3.3 million in salary-cap space, money that can help general manager Les Snead on extensions for defensive players like Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree, Lamarcus Joyner and, if they choose, Trumaine Johnson.

Robinson committed an NFL-leading 31 total penalties over the past two years and was graded 71st among 78 qualified tackles by Pro Football Focus this past season. He was one of eight players acquired, either via picks or subsequent trades, in the blockbuster trade that allowed Washington to draft Robert Griffin III in 2012. Now, only two players remain on the Rams' roster from that deal -- Ogletree, an inside linebacker, and Michael Brockers, a defensive tackle.

"Since we drafted Greg, he has been committed to our organization, his teammates and community outreach," Snead said in a statement. "We appreciate his decision and the effort he's put forth over the past three seasons. We wish him the best as he embarks on this new chapter."

Robinson is 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds with elite athleticism. But he came in raw from a college system that didn't require much from him and he hasn't really adapted to the NFL. Longtime offensive line coach Paul Boudreau spoke about Robinson's erratic play toward the end of last season. He said there are times when one could "make a training film" out of how well Robinson blocks, but then there are times when he's "all over the place with his feet, all over the place with his hands."

"He's consistently inconsistent," Boudreau said then. "He doesn't have a bad game; he has bad plays in games. And it comes in inopportune times. And when you're a left tackle, you're exposed."

It was clear by Wednesday afternoon that the Rams had no place on their roster for Robinson, who was barely even getting snaps in practice. McVay was asked what he wasn't seeing with Robinson and whether he still had a role on the team, but the rookie head coach remained vague and spoke only about staying open-minded about every position.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, Robinson spoke positively about the switch to right tackle and what he could make of it.

"Since the beginning," he added, "I've been trying my best."

It hasn't been good enough yet.