How Verizon gave Detroit Lions DB Charles Washington a cut-down day scare

Regarding the customer service text he received on cut-down day, Lions safety Charles Washington said "It scared me." Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Charles Washington insists he wasn't nervous. He felt better than he did last year, when he was a rookie going through the entire cut-down process for the first time. He figured it would come down to how many safeties the Detroit Lions would keep.

If Detroit kept four, he'd be out. If the Lions kept five, he had a good shot. So he wasn't stressing at all. At least not until 12:24 p.m. when his phone went off. It was a text message from a 313 area code.

"It scared me," Washington said Monday afternoon. "Because all I seen was a 313 number. More than anything, that was like, 'Oh, I'm out of here.' Seeing 313 pop up, I'm like, 'Wow.' Then I checked."

It was the worst kind of false alarm. Earlier in the week, Washington had visited the Verizon store in Allen Park, Michigan. So the 313 area code was actually an automated message, asking him if he had any feedback or questions about his recent visit.

Then the message said "Thank you for being a Verizon customer!"

For a moment, Washington was anything but thankful. All of his calm, all of his work, for a second he thought it all meant another trip to the practice squad or worse. After reading the text message a relieved Washington continued to wait at the hotel the team puts up players in throughout the preseason.

That, Washington said, was the only message he received from an unfamiliar number until after the 4 p.m. cutdown deadline. Cornerback Nevin Lawson had joked with him earlier in the week he was going to call him at 3:30 p.m., but he never did.

And the Lions never called, either, giving Washington a spot on the 53-man roster. It's a place that came from a lot of work and effort. Washington entered camp on the fringes of the roster, easily the No. 5 safety at best and unlikely to move up the depth chart with starters Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson ahead of him along with No. 3 safety Miles Killebrew and special teams ace Don Carey.

But Carey and Wilson were both injured for parts of camp. That gave Washington some chances with the first-and-second team. It was in those reps --and that he wasn't automatically demoted when Wilson and Carey returned -- that allowed him to think he could make the team.

"Once I got started running with the first group, like, 'OK, there's kind of hope there,' " Washington said. "More than anything for me, I let special teams work for me. I knew as long as I excelled at that and put good film on defense, I wouldn't have too much to worry about. It was special teams more than anything and then just defense topped it off.

"I got some reps with the ones and the twos and I stayed right there. I'm like, 'I'm here. I'm here. I'm here for four weeks. I'm not going to back down.' "

Washington didn't throughout training camp, but lived precariously on the roster bubble for the better part of a month. The work he put in left him "at peace" with whatever happened over the weekend. He didn't necessarily expect a call, which is why the one from Verizon was such a painful tease after a 2016 season when he came in undrafted, was cut, spent the majority of the season on the practice squad and then worked his way up the depth chart this spring and summer.

But he didn't feel completely comfortable in his position. It's why he stayed in Michigan this weekend instead of heading back to Fresno State to participate in the jersey retirement celebration for his former college quarterback, Derek Carr.

And despite his self-proclaimed non-nerves, there was clearly some agita. Washington said he didn't have much of an appetite Saturday and when his parents called after he made the team, he was still in shock. That he actually made the 53-man roster didn't register until Monday, when he walked into the locker room, looked around and saw a bunch of lockers cleaned out and name plates stripped.

His? The No. 45 Washington name plate and jersey remained.

"It's crazy what 365 days can do," Washington said. "Just the difference of being undrafted, being on practice squad, being released on practice squad, coming back to working with the ones, working with the twos, working with the threes.

"It's been a roller coaster."

One with an added bump thanks to some unintended customer service.