Cravens, speaking to reporters for the first time, declined to provide insight into why he opted to step away.
But he said, "I would just say God has a plan for everybody and right now he's putting me through something he knows I can handle. 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 jersey, outside a Dick's Sporting Goods store less than 10 minutes from the Redskins facility. Cravens had changed his number to 30 this season.
Cravens told the team he planned to retire on the day of final cuts, 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.
Cravens did not say Saturday whether or not he had wanted to return, but according to multiple reports he had planned to meet with team officials at Redskins Park earlier this week. However, the team was unaware of those plans and, two days after those reports leaked out, they eliminated any suspense. The Redskins placed him on the reserve/exempt list, thereby ending his season.
According to sources, the big factor: They worried how he'd be received in the locker room and weren't sure whether they could trust he wouldn't leave the team again midseason. Cravens, who had not talked to the media until Saturday about his decision, hasn't said specifically why wants to retire.
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 you never know until you face adversity. Cravens had missed time in training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Still, multiple people, including coach Jay Gruden, pointed to the enthusiasm with how Cravens practiced and played as reason why it wasn't just about his passion.
"It's tough. I grew up loving football and grew up loving to play football," Cravens said, "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 more than 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.
Many fans in line shook hands, took pictures and expressed appreciation for the one season he did play. Some told him they hoped he returned next year, to which Cravens would simply say, "I appreciate you." Another fan showed him pictures of him from a draft day party at FedEx Field in 2016 when the Redskins made him a second-round pick. The fan asked, "Does it seem like a long time ago?" He 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. I have to do what's best for me. 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."