Those were warm-up acts for what takes place Sunday: a chance to beat the team the Washington Redskins safety said bashed him like no other.
That's why Sunday's game versus the Houston Texans will be a little more personal for Swearinger.
"Houston bashed my name pretty bad," he said.
The Texans drafted Swearinger in the second round in 2013, and he played two seasons there before they released him during the 2015 offseason. Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers the following day.
"I never got a fair chance from Tampa," Swearinger said recently. "I remember my first interview with [coach] Lovie [Smith], he asked me about all the things Houston bashed me on. I was sitting there shocked, like, 'They really said that about me? This is horrible.' I took that and put that chip on my shoulder, like I never got that fair opportunity."
When Houston drafted him, Gary Kubiak was the head coach. A year later, Bill O'Brien took over. Swearinger played mostly as a nickel linebacker under Kubiak, but he started as a strong safety under O'Brien.
Swearinger preferred Kubiak's approach.
"Kubiak let me be myself, let me do whatever as long as I played ball," he said. "O'Brien was a control guy: 'You can't do this. You can't do that.' It came to a point where the DB coach [John Butler] took something I said wrong about the film and told Coach O'Brien. I remember it like it was yesterday. We stopped the walk-through. He cut the walk-through short. O'Brien talked to me and all the defensive coaches and chewed me out, dog. I'll never forget that. I'm like, 'Dang.'"
On a conference call with Washington reporters Tuesday, O'Brien said of Swearinger's accusations, "I don't really know what D.J.'s talking about."
Swearinger said the issue stemmed from a film session in which he said he reminded another defensive back about getting proper depth in a cover-zero call because the offense could use max protection. Swearinger left the room shortly thereafter. He said other defensive backs told him the position coach was upset.
"They said, 'When you left he was like, I don't know what Swearinger is talking about, but the blitz hits right here,'" Swearinger said. "I was like, 'Bro, I wasn't even talking about that play.' I was going off the film and he took something the wrong way and then they had that argument and I'm like, 'What's going on?' From that day, I never could be myself in Houston again. Bro, I'm talking about film and you tell that back to the coach? I don't know what to say. After that I could never find my groove."
Swearinger said that's the reason Houston benched him for three games in the 2014 season. But he regained the starting strong safety job for three of the last four games that year. Then it was on to Tampa, his home for less than a season.
"In Tampa I had one of the most incredible camps in my life," he said. "I haven't had a camp like that since. I picked off like 10 passes in camp; I had three punchouts. The next guy had like three [interceptions]. I was like, 'There's no way I'm not starting.' I started in the preseason and then they put Chris Conte back in. I'm like, OK. If they got their guys, they got their guys. It was crazy. I did everything by the book, but they just judged me because of what Houston said.
"It was crazy. It's all a learning experience for me. When I got to Arizona, it was a clean slate and it was time to go."
After 20 games spanning two seasons with Arizona, Swearinger signed with the Redskins. He's second in the NFL with four interceptions this season.
In an Instagram post Tuesday, Swearinger reiterated his disdain for O'Brien.
View this post on Instagram
#Houston I Appreciate Coach Gary Kubiak, Coach Wade Phillips, Coach Vance Joseph for Giving Me A Chance Of A Lifetime & Letting Me Be "Myself" My Rookie Year. When They Left My 2nd Year, the New Coaching Staff Would Always Worry About What I Was Doing Or Saying To Other Players 🤔🤔Well, the Young Swagg Had A Hard Time Adjusting To The New System Nor Did I Want To Play Linebacker Every Play, and I Also Was Late A Few Times Too Many...All Apart Of Growing Up & Learning To Be A Pro. There Was A MisUnderstanding With My Db Coach That Lead To Unprofessional Actions By My Head Coach (o'brien) That I Could No Longer Respect! Which Lead To Me Being Cut. That Same Coach Told Me I Would Be Outta The League In 3Years. Unfortunately, My God & Grind Had A Plan And Knew That 6years Later....I Would Make Him Eat His Words! #LiveIn5🤫 #2spoonzswagggu🥄🥄
When asked if Swearinger's maturity was an issue in Houston, O'Brien said, "No. Every player that comes into the league, no matter who you are, it is a tough transition from college to professional football and then on top of that you have a coaching change that D.J. had to deal with."
He said Swearinger "did a good job" for the Texans during their one season together.
"You just try to make decisions in the best interest of the team," O'Brien said. "D.J. made a lot of plays for us here. He's a very instinctive, tough, competitive player. He's obviously gone on to Arizona and now in Washington and he's ... doing a great job, has got excellent ball skills, good tackler, tough, competitive guy. He's going to be a challenge to go against on Sunday."