ASHBURN, Va. -- The frustration of a four-game losing streak has become evident for Washington Redskins inside linebackers, targets of criticism from fans and coaches.
Linebacker Zach Brown, less than a week after being benched, said he sees the "writing on the wall" for him in Washington. And starter Mason Foster had a private Instagram exchange leaked, one in which he took a shot at the organization and the fans.
The Redskins (6-7) remain alive in the playoff race but are coming off a 40-16 home loss to the New York Giants.
Foster, a Redskins captain and a constant spokesman for the defense, was unavailable for comment Wednesday. But an exchange he had with a fan on Instagram earlier this month was leaked Tuesday night. In the conversation, Foster told the fan, "F--- this team and this fan base." It was followed by six laughing emojis.
He also told the fan, "Yeah and I'm not f---in wit it or being a scape goat to make fans feel better about all these big money ppl who ain't playin or getting dogged out." Finally, he said in the exchange, "Yeah I'll try my chances and go to a winning team next year ... love the redskins but this ain't it for the African #LOVE".
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he spoke with Foster about the post Wednesday.
"I really don't even care," Gruden said. "It's a private message. I know Mason and how hard he's worked and how hard he plays. I know he wouldn't say anything publicly to do that. That was a private deal. He could've been messing around. I don't know the intent of that message; I don't really care.
"I do, however, disagree with that guy posting a private message out on social media. He broke a code there that I don't agree with. As far as Mason, I have nothing but respect for him as a person and a player."
Foster had been active on Twitter until recently, when he deleted his account. It coincided with the Redskins' slide in the standings and in their defensive play. The team has lost four straight and five of six, and Foster has been a target of the fans' wrath.
Redskins second-year defensive end Jonathan Allen said he avoids social media.
"The way I look at it, 99 percent of fans are great," he said. "They're supportive no matter what you do. They're always going to love the Redskins. But there's always going to be that 1 percent of fans that aren't like that, and they're the fans that are going to ruin it for everybody and give players the bad image about all the fans -- which isn't the case."
Meanwhile, Brown said he doesn't expect to start Sunday at the Jacksonville Jaguars after being benched last week against the Giants. At the time, Gruden said it was because Brown missed two days of practice with an illness. Brown wasn't buying that reasoning.
"I mean, if a guy's sick, he's sick," Brown said. "What was I supposed to do, go out there and throw up for you? I had a stomach virus. Wasn't nothing I can do. Last year, I didn't practice at all until Friday or Saturday with my knee injury, so it's kind of contradictory what they're saying."
That's why Brown said he doesn't see himself having much more of a future in Washington. The Redskins signed him to a three-year deal worth $24 million last offseason. If the Redskins cut him after this season, they would clear $5.75 million against the salary cap. They would have $3 million in dead money. The Redskins claimed Reuben Foster last week after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. If Reuben Foster is cleared of domestic violence charges and plays for the Redskins, he would challenge for Brown's job.
"I think they're just going in a different direction towards everything," Brown said. "I'm going this direction; they're going that direction. I'll talk to them, but right now, I've just got to focus on beating Jacksonville."
Brown has spoken out before -- as has safety D.J. Swearinger -- on the Redskins' defensive performance and the need for coaches and players to prepare better. Earlier this season, cornerback Josh Norman criticized the fans for the lack of a home-field advantage, though a week later he bought and handed out more than 50 tickets to fans.
Gruden said all the public airing of player grievances does not indicate a larger problem. Multiple sources, however, have questioned the chemistry of the defensive group.
For Brown, it goes back to losing his job. He is viewed as flashy, but inconsistent with his assignments.
"It's been very frustrating," Brown said. "You get benched and it's not like you get a reason or anything for [it]. Just got to keep doing things, just got to keep practicing. You've just got to just stay ready. But at the same time, it's frustrating. It's frustrating on anybody to get benched and you not know the reason."