If it hadn’t been covered during the game, it’s doubtful many would’ve noticed. After being benched to start the second half of last Thursday’s game against the Bears, Damarious Randall went to the locker room and wasn’t seen again. Though his play hasn’t been at the level expected of a former first-round pick, Randall is one of the top cornerbacks on Green Bay’s roster, and his late game absence is curious, to say the least. Here’s a look at what exactly happened, and how Randall has actually been struggling.
It started late in the first half. With the Packers pitching a shutout, gearing to end the half with a 21-0 lead, the Bears showed their first signs of life. With just 8 seconds remaining in the half, Kendall Wright caught Randall playing an inside technique and burned him en route to as easy a touchdown catch he’ll ever have, with no defender within a few yards of him. To be fair, it looked as though their was an error in communication, with Randall expecting help on the outside that was not there. Whether that was his error or another players is anybody’s guess.
When the team’s took the field to begin the second half, it was the former undrafted free agent, Josh Hawkins, who ran onto the field with Kevin King as the Packers top cornerbacks. Randall didn’t step foot on the field in the second half. Rather, he spent his time on the bench, appearing unhappy, to say the least, at his apparent benching. To Josh Hawkins’ credit, he did have the best game of his career. Hawkins compiled five tackles and three passes defensed, doubling his career tackle total and tripling his career passes defensed total in a single game (Randall, by comparison, has never had more than two defensed passes in a single game).
A short while into the half Randall walked off the field. Initially, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Randall left the field of his own accord after getting into an on field argument with a coach, presumably regarding his benching. It was this report that garnered much of the attention that Randall has since received (including this article you’re reading now). However, after the game, Randall denied the allegations that he fought with a coach and Mike McCarthy likewise would not confirm any of the supposed altercations Randall was in. McCarthy also clarified that it was his decision to send Randall to the locker room, Damarious didn’t simply choose to leave early.
Though an understanding of why Randall left doesn’t explain it away and make it okay, it does put him in a ever so slightly more favorable light. The matter was assuredly dealt with internally, and Packer fans should not be concerned with a brewing conflict within the locker room as a result of Randall’s attitude or actions.
If fans are to be concerned, it should be with Randall’s play. Drafted in the first round just two years ago, Randall has not panned out to be the pro-bowler that many hoped he would become. Keeping in mind that he’s still only 25 and has room to grow as a player, it’s time his expectations are refined a bit. He has looked improved this year, now that he isn’t hurt or forced to cover top-flight receivers as the best available cover option on a hobbled secondary. There’s no shame in being a quality second or third option in the NFL, and at this point, it appears as though that’s what Randall may be.
Going forward, pay attention to how he responds. Randall has been a starter for almost the entirety of his short career. He’s never had to take a backseat and he’s certainly never been benched. He has two options. He can sulk and prove the decision right, or use the chip on his shoulder to come back better than ever. Only time will tell which path he goes down.