ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In an NFL career in which he has missed more games than he has played, Su'a Cravens wants everyone who’s willing to listen to understand just how glad he is to be on the doorstep of a fresh start.
The Denver Broncos completed a trade for the 22-year-old safety -- he’ll turn 23 in July -- last week. Cravens, who was a second-round pick by the Washington Redskins in the 2016 draft, did not play last season because of post-concussion syndrome.
He was medically cleared to play in December and after a somewhat messy exit from the Redskins arrives as a low-risk investment for the Broncos, as Cravens says he’s ready for a return to the field.
"I love football," Cravens said Monday, during his first visit to the team's suburban Denver complex. "... But sometimes you have to be mature about situations, and when it came to last year, it wasn’t really about what I wanted, but what I needed to do.
"I don’t like the way things happened; it wasn’t part of my plan," Cravens added. "I never thought, at 22 years old, I’d be at the house watching football instead of playing football. So the Broncos gave me this fresh start, this chance to basically create a new image of myself. I can’t wait."
Cravens, who has also had knee and elbow injuries in his NFL career, had missed time in his rookie season with a concussion and then had post-concussion symptoms return last season. As a result, he has not played in a regular-season game since Dec. 11, 2016, as there were rumors he had contemplated retirement, and the Redskins designated him as "injured reserve/left squad" all of last season.
After some initial questions last year about why he felt "something wasn’t right" with his health, Cravens was eventually treated by Dr. Michael Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion program. Cravens said he went for extended appointments with Collins "four or five times" last year before Collins cleared him to return to the field in December. "He felt in his best medical opinion I was ready to play," Cravens said.
Cravens said he had seen all of the social media offerings as well as other reports that he had walked away from the Redskins and his teammates. But he called many of those items a "false narrative" and said that he had spoken to several former Redskins teammates in recent days, including Mason Foster, Preston Smith, Will Compton and Junior Galette.
"I’m not a quitter," Cravens said. "I’m not a guy who lacks love for the game. Definitely don’t know where the ‘quit in college’ came from."
Before the trade to Denver, Cravens discussed with Collins the chances of having additional concussion issues if he continues to play.
"We’re all grown men," Cravens said. "I know what I’m signing myself up for. I’m aware of the situation I was in. I’m aware of the dangers of the game and experienced it firsthand. I’m willing to go out and put everything on the line."