Su'a Cravens discusses 'frustrating' situation, hopes to return next year

Cravens hoping to return next year (0:59)

After being placed on the reserve/exempt list, Redskins safety Su'a Cravens says it's tough to sit out a full season and he hopes to be back on the field in 2018. (0:59)

DULLES, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Su'a Cravens, who told the team in early September that he wanted to retire, left the door ajar for a possible return next season.

Cravens, speaking to reporters about his future for the first time, declined on Saturday to provide insight into why he opted to step away.

"I would just say God has a plan for everybody and right now he's putting me through something he knows I can handle," he said. "It will make me stronger. Hopefully, around this time next year I'll be back on that field."

Cravens had just finished handing out approximately 100 of his old No. 36 jerseys outside a sporting goods store less than 10 minutes from the Redskins' facility. Cravens, a second-round pick out of Southern California in 2016, had changed his number to 30 for this season.

Cravens, 22, told the team on the day of final roster cuts that he planned to retire, announcing his decision in a group chat with the other defensive backs. They were shocked and disappointed. Redskins coach Jay Gruden and team president Bruce Allen, among others, spoke with Cravens. Washington placed him on the exempt/left team list, allowing him a month to decide whether he wanted to return.

According to multiple reports, Cravens had planned to meet with team officials at Redskins Park earlier this week. The team, however, was unaware of any such plans and, two days after those reports leaked out, they eliminated any suspense. The Redskins placed Cravens on the reserve/exempt list, thereby ending his season.

The decision-makers wondered how Cravens would be received in the locker room and weren't sure whether they could trust he wouldn't leave the team again during the season, according to sources.

Multiple sources said Cravens is dealing with personal issues that required his attention. Some teammates said they didn't think it was simply a matter of how much he loved the game, but also added that you never know until you face adversity. Cravens missed time in training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Still, multiple people, including Gruden, pointed to Cravens' enthusiasm for practicing and playing as reason why his absence wasn't just about passion.

"It's tough. I grew up loving football and grew up loving to play football," Cravens said Saturday, "so the fact that I'm in the middle of my career and I'm not playing, it's different. It's difficult."

Cravens announced on social media Thursday that he would give away a box of his jerseys. He said he figured maybe 50 to 100 people would show up. Instead, there were 50 people already in line two hours before Cravens was scheduled to appear. By the time he was done, there were an estimated 1,000 people in line. After handing out his jerseys, he shook hands and took pictures with those who remained in line.

Redskins safety Su'a Cravens was greeted by teammates Anthony Lanier and Fabian Moreau after handing out jerseys. Cravens, 22, is on the reserve/exempt list and said he's going to retire.

John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer

Cravens greeted by Lanier, Moreau

Many fans expressed appreciation for the one season Cravens played. Some told him they hoped he returned next year, to which Cravens would simply say, "I appreciate you."

One fan showed him pictures from a draft day party at FedExField in 2016. The fan asked, "Does it seem like a long time ago?" Cravens eyed the photo.

Two teammates, rookie corner Fabian Moreau and second-year defensive lineman Anthony Lanier, showed up and gave him a hug. Cravens appeared to choke up as they pulled away. The event took place less than 10 minutes from the Redskins' training facility.

"This is crazy," Cravens said afterward. "I'm real emotional right now. I wasn't expecting a lot of people to come out here. To see the mall is packed and they have to bring out police and organize and everyone -- if they can't get a jersey, they just want to say hi and give me their best wishes. It means a lot.

"I understand the situation is kind of frustrating for everybody. But I gotta do what's best for me and just seeing this right here, this welcome or this kind of support and love, it makes it easier to get through this."

Cravens said he wanted to hand out his jerseys to the fans for a reason.

"Anything I can give back to them it's important to me," he said. "I had a couple 36 jerseys laying around and felt it was a better use than to give it to friends and family. Give to the fans who have real appreciation and show compassion and empathy right now. These are the most important people in the world to me right now."