ASHBURN - Two days after ending his five-month holdout, Washington Redskins star tackle Trent Williams sat hunched in a chair next to his locker at the team’s practice facility. His right foot tapped nervously. He was angry, he said, furious that team doctors didn’t take seriously for six years a growth on his head that was diagnosed this winter as a rare form of cancer.
“I almost lost my life,” he said.
Thursday was the first time the 31-year-old Williams has spoken publicly since the end of last season.
When he finally spoke, he told a far more serious story about a cancer creeping inside his skull and the fear that he might die, opening an enormous rift between the Redskins’ most-respected player and the team’s doctors and senior management that doesn’t appear likely to be closed.
The cancer, he said, is called dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, or DFSP, a soft tissue sarcoma that develops in the deep layers of the skin. He first noticed the growth late in the 2013 season and said he asked the doctors about it then and at other times in the ensuing years as the growth continued to get bigger. Each time, he said, he was told the growth was nothing to worry about.
Only when the team finally grew more concerned with the growth this offseason did doctors deem it to be a serious health problem, he said. Williams then went to a Chicago hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. In midwinter, he had surgery there to remove it.
“We literally caught it within weeks of metastasizing through to my brain to my skull,” said Williams, who added that the ordeal was “a scary thing to go through” and described being told by a doctor to get his affairs in order, in case he didn’t make it.
“Think how you describe to your 9-year-old, your 5-year-old, that daddy might not be here,” Williams said. “It’s tough.”
This is why Williams was angry enough to hold out. He did not directly confirm suggestions made by friends and associates that he does not want to play for the Redskins again, but he did not sound like someone who wants to be with the team. He said no one from the team visited him during his two-week hospital stay - it had flown him to Chicago, but not back.
When asked whether he wants to be traded, he smiled and chuckled.
When asked whether he trusts the organization he said: “No, there is no trust there.”
He returned to the team Tuesday, just before the NFL’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. By reporting then, he can claim that he has fulfilled the obligations of his contract, which expires at the end of the 2020 season, allowing him to become a free agent.
A Redskins spokesman said that the team doctor will not comment at this time, and that the team will not be making a statement.
Asked whether he trusts team president Bruce Allen, Williams looked toward the floor.
“Next question,” he said icily.
When asked about team owner Daniel Snyder, however, Williams said he still valued his friendship and seemed to separate him from Allen.
“It wasn’t his fault,” Williams said of Snyder. “He’s not down there in the training room. It’s not on him. It’s not on anybody. I had a very rare form of cancer; my displeasure comes from how long it lingered and how it was neglected and how it almost cost me my life.”
Cardinals: Arizona played without running back David Johnson and right tackle Justin Murray when they faced undefeated San Francisco on Thursday night. Both players were listed as questionable. The Cardinals’ three running backs are Kenyan Drake — who was acquired from Miami in a trade on Monday — Alfred Morris and Zach Zenner. All three players have been with the team less than two weeks.
Jets: New York rookie Blake Cashman will miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury. The fifth-round pick out of Minnesota suffered a torn labrum during practice Wednesday. Cashman had started the Jets’ last five games because of other injuries at inside linebacker.
Steelers: Pittsburgh linebacker Anthony Chickillo is back at practice after being taken off the commissioner’s exempt list. The league made the move one day after misdemeanor chargers were withdrawn against Chickillo stemming from an incident with his girlfriend at a western Pennsylvania resort earlier this month.