Renaldo Wynn And Sean
Spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with former Redskin Renaldo Wynn Friday night while news of the arrest in Sean's murder was coming down (then my laptop crashed, henced the delayed posting). Wynn went through the same range of emotions and thoughts so many of you have expressed to me via email:
Why did these kids need a gun if no one was home? Why didn't they leave if there was a car in the driveway? Why did they kick in the bedroom door if they didn't expect anyone to be there?
(All I have heard on this is some rumblings that they had targeted a safe in the bedroom, and were intent on getting to that room, and that they may have believed just Jackie and Baby Jackie were home, and not Sean. Again, this is not confirmed from the police. Some answers may come in the next few weeks and others might never come, I suppose).
Wynn's locker was next to Sean's at Redskins Park, something Sean facilitated, asking to move next to him last season. For good reason. Wynn was the dean of the defense, a universally beloved and respected man for his actions, demeanor, beliefs and selfless nature. He was a guy who held the locker room together and someone the coaches and staff would definitely want Sean to emulate.
Wynn, now a member of the New Orleans Saints (who are fighting for a playoff berth), will be at the funeral Monday ("No way I wasn't going to be there," he said), quickly granted the day off by Saints Coach Sean Peyton. Peyton coached Sean Taylor in the Pro Bowl in February, and became smitten with him.
"Coach Peyton got to know Sean in Hawaii and liked him a lot," Wynn said. "Like a lot of people, he kind had a preconceived idea about Sean, but when he got to spend some time with him he said he was surprised at what type of person he was. Coach definitely wanted me to be in Miami on Monday."
Wynn will there as something of a delegate for the Saints. The entire team signed a card for Sean's family, with the players writing personal messages, and Wynn will give it to Pedro Taylor at the funeral.
Wynn said he found himself telling story after story about Sean to his New Orleans teammates this week, many of them thinking of Sean originally in less-than-ideal terms.
"It just felt like I spent all week explaining what kind of person he was," Wynn said. "It was like I constantly reiterated what type of person Sean was. Because of a few mistakes he made as a 21-year old kid, a lot of people had this idea about what he was about - even guys in the NFL - and that's a shame. And, the way some people wrote him when he was shot, man, a lot of people in the media should feel pretty bad right now, saying they saw signs and Sean had this coming. That's crazy.
"This man was in his house. It's not like he was at the club - even though that's not a crime to go out - but he was in his house. He did what most guys do when they can't play, they go home to be with their family. So he's at his house, checking on his wife and daughter down there, and someone shoots him. Some people act like they want to still blame him for this, even though he is a victim here."
Wynn said he has chatted with many of his former teammates in Washington this week, trying to help them stay as positive as possible, but knowing what they are up against.
"I can't even imagine what this has been like for them," Wynn said. "My locker was right next to Sean's, and having to look at locker every day and go out and play football? That would have been crazy."
Renaldo also shared some anecdotes that I found deeply touching (and hopefully we'll find a way to get some of this in the print edition of the paper as well). Wynn said he mother-in-law used to bake Sean a sweet potato pie every year around Thanksgiving, and he was one of her favorite players. Sean was also the favorite player of Wynn's mother.
Sean became best acquainted with Wynn's mother at the most inopportune time. In January 2005 the Redskins were playing in their first postseason game since 1999, at Tampa (a game they won, 17-10, in bizarre fashion). For the second straight week Sean scored a defensive touchdown (this time on a 51-yard fumble return), but in the third quarter he was ejected for spitting on Tampa RB Michael Pittman.
In that same game Renaldo suffered a horrendously painful injury, breaking two bones in his forearm, ending his season. As Wynn was carted off his family members - and a great many were at the game - made their way to the Redskins locker room to get an update on him. As they huddled around the training room, there was a clatter from within the visitor's locker room at Raymond James Stadium; Sean had just been ejected and he was throwing equipment and screaming, mad at himself for letting his team down.
"Little did he know he was about to be tormented by my mother," Wynn said. "She was a retired school teacher, she had seen it all, and man, she can talk."
Wynn's mother went into the locker room, amid the rage, and diffused the situation. "Baby, it's going to be alright, everything is alright," Wynn could hear his mother saying to Sean.
Later, Sean told Wynn, "'Man, your mom is crazy, I can't believe she went in there.' Sean said he couldn't be mad after that, because she just kept talking and talking until he kind of calmed down."
Wynn said Sean always called his mother "Mrs. Wynn" and spoke in the most mannered tones to his elders.
"He was very respectful," Wynn said. "At training camp he always came over and hugged her. He was definitely one of the guys who went out of his way to say, 'Hi.' My mother taught in the toughest part of Chicago for 30 years - she knows a bad kid when she sees one - and she loved being around Sean. She had a lot of respect for him.
"I'm just glad I got a chance to play with him and to watch him grow up. That playoff game in Tampa, than was a tough day for me getting hurt like that, but I'm fortunate enough to have that memory of Sean and my mother in that locker room."
Still, by the end of our conversation there was just sadness that lingered for Wynn. Even the young lives of these suspects - who while clearly plotting to commit a crime, by all accounts to this point panicked and did things much worse than they imagined - are shattered now, too.
Renaldo was just kind of theorizing, a few of these teenagers may have been going along for peer pressure, looking for an adrenaline rush, maybe a necklace or two, never imagining they would be charged with murder. Again, we agreed that their actions were stupid and criminal in the first place and armed robbery of anyone is a horrible action worthy of severe punishment ... But like many NFL players I spoke to Renaldo just couldn't help thinking about how young these suspects are, and how senseless all of was.
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