Su’a Cravens has found happiness, harmony and himself just in time for his do-over in Denver.
Elated over John Elway’s call and Von Miller’s text, the former standout safety from USC celebrated his trade from the Redskins to the Broncos by posting “A Whole New World” from the Disney movie “Aladdin” on his Twitter account.
“I felt like it was perfect,” said Cravens, who missed all of last season and even mulled retirement while dealing with the lingering effects of a head injury.
Selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, Cravens played in 11 games his rookie season but he sustained a concussion in Week 4 and later suffered an elbow injury. He said he felt off-kilter heading into training camp last year, and things only got worse after he underwent knee surgery in August to repair a torn meniscus.
Cravens had to be talked out of retiring in early September during a meeting with team President Bruce Allen, and the Redskins placed him on their exempt list, forcing him to miss the entire season. They sent him to see sports concussion expert Micky Collins in Pittsburgh, who had an answer for all of his mood swings, personality changes and feelings that something just wasn’t quite right: post-concussion syndrome.
“I didn’t really know what was going on until I went to see Dr. Collins and he made me fully aware of the situation,” Cravens said. “At first I just thought that something was wrong with me, something’s not right and I didn’t feel the same. Once he explained, ‘This is why you feel this way.’ He’d ask me questions, I’d tell him, ‘Yes,’ and he’d say, ‘Well that’s a correlation to this.’ Everything started making sense and once we started working on it progressively I got better and better.”
Cravens said he never lost his love for the game but did succumb to feelings his football career was finished.
“Certainly. I was going through something that I wasn’t even aware I was going through,” Cravens said. “The mind-set that I had last year was just completely different from how I am now. Once I got cleared, I took a step back and looked at the way I was acting and the way I was treating my loved ones. The way my whole thought process was, it was a stranger.
Cravens even had to deal with accusations that he’d quit on his teammates.
He was finally cleared in December and the Redskins began shopping him during the NFL combine last month.
The Broncos essentially sent a fifth-round selection in this year’s draft for the safety-linebacker hybrid whose instincts and athleticism wowed scouts two years ago.
Cravens is eager to put his past behind him and start anew in Denver.
“I think there’s a false narrative on what exactly happened,” Cravens said. “Right now my focus is just on being a Denver Bronco. One day I’ll be able to speak a little further on that, but I’m not a quitter. I’m not a guy who lacks love for the game. I definitely don’t know where the ‘quitting in college’ came from, but like I said, I’m here to play for the Broncos and do whatever I can to help this team win games.”
He sees himself as a strong safety but is willing to play wherever the Broncos feel he fits best in a revamped secondary that lost standout safety T.J. Ward last fall and elite cornerback Aqib Talib this spring.
“I’m just grateful to be on the field,” Cravens said, adding that last season made him appreciate his chance to play pro football and he has no qualms about getting right back into the fray.
“We’re all grown men and I know what I’m signing myself up for. I’m aware of the situation that I was in and I’m aware of the dangers of the game,” he said. “I’ve experienced it firsthand and I’m still willing to go out there and put everything I have on the line. I wanted a fresh start just because I don’t like the way things happened. It wasn’t a part of my plan. I never thought at 22 years old that I’d be at the house watching football instead of playing football.”