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Interview: Washington Football Coach Ron Rivera

ASHBURN, VA — Coach Ron Rivera held his first interview of training camp via Zoom with the media.

On placing QB Alex Smith and LB Reuben Foster on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list:

“Well, with both those guys, they didn’t pass their football physicals. The biggest thing for us more so than anything else is we wanted to get a chance to look at them, watch them on the side and see how they’re doing. That’s probably what the hardest thing is you can go out and work out and do all you want straight ahead and sideways, but we’ve got to see the actual football movement before we’ll clear them. Again, they just hadn’t passed the football portion of their physicals for us.”

On what he wants to see in order to get Smith and Foster off the PUP list:

“We feel pretty confident in what they’ve done. We thought they both had very good off seasons in terms of their rehab programs. They both look extremely good right now, but again, you really don’t know until you get them out on the field pounding and doing football specific drills. Then, we’ve got to see how their injuries react. Again, this is just all part of being able to pass a football physical.”

On a new team name and a possible tribute to the military:

“I wouldn’t say it’s important to have it. I just thought it would be cool for us to at some point to honor them, especially because of the fact that we do have a Salute to Service month. I just think that’s important. For me personally and I just think it’s something that we want to make sure that our folks that are serving our country know that we appreciate them.”

On the uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic:

“I really couldn’t go into that, Ben, and tell you that much. I do know for us to have a successful showing of it, I think it comes down to being disciplined as a group and as an organization and as individuals. You have to be disciplined to understand that you can’t go out and not follow the protocols. You have to wear a mask. You have to wash your hands. You have to properly distance yourself from one another. It’s hard to say what it would take to shut everything down, but I’d imagine if you had a mass breakout, you’re going to have some big questions. We’ll have to see. In the meantime, we’ve got to make sure we’re following all the protocols that have been set forth by the CDC and by the NFL and NFLPA. We’ve got to be really careful with this and be smart.”

On RB Bryce Love:

“The biggest thing is he’s getting an opportunity to compete. He passed his physical. He’ll be out on the field once we start practicing. We’ll get a chance to see him move around and see where he is. He’s a guy that’s got a good skillset. He’s a threat in terms of running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s a guy that we want to watch and see how he fits. Again, to tell you exactly where a guy fits right now would be premature just because of the fact that we haven’t had an opportunity to see these guys in action. We’re very excited about watching a young player with his ability.”

On a quarterback competition with QB’s Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen:

“Well, again, I still think it’s a competition mostly because we’ll have a longer period of time than I anticipated to get ready to roll. Again, this is going to be pure competition. I like the fact that we have a good group of guys that will push one another. I think the big thing more so than anything else is going to be about how each guy develops overtime. We’ve got a little bit more time. One downfall is we don’t have any preseason games, so, again, we’re going to have to try to create as many game-like situations in our practices as possible so that we can get a good evaluation of our quarterbacks.”

On if QB Alex Smith comes back:

“Well, we compete. I mean that is the truth of the matter. We got a bit of good news that he passed the physical. As far as his doctors were concerned, he could resume football activity, and now, he’s got to pass the football physical for us. And if that happens, again, I think this is a guy that becomes part of our equation. It’s the truth of the matter. He’ll be part of a competition going forward.”

On what challenges the remote offseason and limited training camp present with a quarterback competition:

“I don’t think there’s a lot of limit to it. You look at what we’ve done as far as the League and the [NFL]PA coming together and deciding that we’re basically going to do what I call a ramp up period. It starts with the type of phase one from the OTAs to phase two to phase three and then to padded practices. I’m not as concerned about that. I think we’ve had Zoom meetings that went well during the spring. We’re going to pick it up right now, and we’ve been meeting with the young guys and the quarterbacks. We’ll start including the veteran guys who reported today. Those guys will be in on those meetings as well. I think it’s an opportunity for us to get a chance to see what we have. Again, the hard part will be – as far as creating game-like situations – is really the speed and tempo. That’s the one thing you really can’t simulate, just because it’s a different feel and vibe when you’re playing the game as opposed to practicing.”

On if the off-the-field distractions have affected where he is at with the football team:

“Well I think the only thing that really affected us more than anything else was the pandemic. That’s kind of the one thing because we didn’t get the chance to have any OTAs or mini camps and be with our players in person. I mean, you know we had guys who were coming in for their COVID tests this morning and you know, I didn’t recognize them, they had their masks on too which made it even harder to recognize. That was probably the hardest part, but all the other stuff, you know the name change and the Washington Post story, you know those are things that we deal with and we move forward. I also think the other thing too that’s really kind of added to this has been the Black Lives Matter movement which I think is an impressive thing, it’s something that our players are talking about and so that’ll be part of our, of really what’s going to happen in our day-to-day. ”

On if there are certain things that the pandemic will impact:

“Well the pandemic could impact us because we didn’t have a normal offseason to work out. We didn’t have a normal offseason to watch our guys work together and develop that type of timing that’s required and not just for the      quarterback and the receivers but you know for the runners and blockers, our cover guys. Those things you know, that’s why I think the [NFL]PA wanted this so bad, because if you go back and you reflect on what happened in 2011 when there was the lockout that start to training camp and training camp for the most part we had a number of soft tissue injuries. That’s why I think the ramp up period was a heck of an idea. I think if we do things right and we take advantage of the way the rules are lined up for us, we can get something out of those basic eight or nine, page one practices, two phase two practices, and then two phase three practices. Again, it’s a matter of whether or not you take advantage of the opportunity to get your guys ready to go, ramp them up properly and then get them on the field.

On what he hopes to imprint on the organization from a value and culture perspective:

“Well you know, the thing that I really want is that we have an open door policy. I said that in my first interviews in my first press conference. I said that in a couple of the town hall meetings we have as an organization and I try to stress that because a lot of those things occurred and it sounded like people were afraid to speak up and I hope that we don’t have that kind of culture here, you know that people are afraid to speak up. I think that if something happens or if there’s concerns people should reach out and pass it on and hopefully we can get it to the right people to get things corrected, get things worked on so we can go forward, that’s what I want. I don’t want an atmosphere where people are afraid to tell the truth. That’s one of the things I’ve kind of learned through my experience as a head coach. The hardest thing is telling people what they need to hear as opposed to what they want to hear. Part of it is, I don’t want to blame anyone by saying this, but if you don’t speak up, if you don’t tell someone, you allow the problem to perpetuate. So we want to be able to hit those things early before they become a big problem. So hopefully, I hope our workers, our employees, our players, our coaches, everybody feels that they have this opportunity to speak up and they should.

On breaking the barrier between the football and business side:

“Well you know, one of the things is that we should be able to interact a little bit more with one another. You know it’s not rocket science, it’s not top secret other than we just don’t want it to leak out to the media. The truth of the matter is that we should have interactions, we should feel like we are family that’s kind of what I’m trying to create and hoping that we have here is that we have an inclusive culture so that people want to work here. You know one thing that I learned from playing for Mike Ditka is that you want to create an atmosphere where you take ownership and are more invested in it and work hard for it. That’s kind of what I’m hoping to create.”

On if any other players will be placed on PUP:

“Well that’ll be all about the physicals they go through. Obviously some of our guys, for the most part guys coming off injuries from the last season are the guys that’ll be the best candidates for going on PUP and we’ll see that from when they have their physicals over the next few days.”

On the depth in the wide receiver group:

“That’s something we’re going to look at. We’ve got 4 days with the quarterbacks coming up and then a few days after that we’ll have eight days of pretty much a ramp up period where we’ll really get the chance to look at our guys and see what we have and make a determination. I mean it won’t be a practice, but it’ll be a workout where we’ll be able to watch these guys. But if there was a position that we are concerned with in terms of being able to bring more guys on its most certainly that position.”

On health concerns with COVID-19:

“Well I’m concerned, I mean again you know that’s why the emphasis will be you know we’ve got to follow the protocols and be very diligent with them. That’s the thing you know that we’re missing right now as a society is that we’re not very diligent, we’re not very strict and unfortunately it’s still kind of ramped right now and I think as we understand more and more about this virus it seems that wearing a mask, washing your hands, socially distancing, trying to avoid large crowds, you know you give yourself a chance. We’re fortunate enough that we’re testing here, we’re testing a lot and so we’re getting results quickly that’s the other thing that’s been beneficial for us so far and hopefully we can continue to maintain that.”

On his relationship with Owner Dan Snyder:

“I think it’s been good. We’ve talked a lot, we’ve communicated a lot. It’s been one where we’ve talked every day for half an hour to an hour. It’s been kind of cool because he’s asked my opinions on a lot of things, he’s asked me what I thought more so than what would normally happen. So, I think that’s been a good thing when it comes to developing a working relationship and any relationship period. I feel comfortable and confident.”

On players and coaches in other leagues testing positive for COVID-19:

“My first question is, how did it happen? If you could figure out how that happened – let’s say one guy went out somewhere where he shouldn’t have gone, grabbed a bite and didn’t have a mask on. We could find out what caused it and what the reason was for guys catching it. That I think would really help us as we venture further into this. The hard part for us is getting an 80-man practice roster which we will have pretty soon and coaches, putting everyone in a bubble would be very difficult. We have to try and emulate it as close as we can with the circumstances that we are in. That does go through my head and it really is why? What caused that? Hopefully, we can learn from it and not repeat the mistakes. Again, it is going to be about discipline and guys understanding how hard this is going to be.”

On the chaos of COVID and if there is any advantage to facing that type of adversity:

“Again, with all of the things that did go on, prior to me being here, hopefully we can learn from it. I think going forward as a football team, the one advantage we have is that no one is really going to know what we do once we start playing football again. That is really the only advantage we will have. The hard part is that one of the things you want to develop and build through OTAs and minicamp is trying to figure out what the personality of the team is going to be as you go through that. That way, as you get ready for training camp, you can carry that momentum in the direction that you want to head. We don’t have that. Everything is a big question mark right now. It is really, what is our combination going to be at running back? What is our combination at receiver? Defensive line shape? How is our offensive line shaping up? There are so many questions that haven’t been answered or we haven’t even started on yet. To me the only advantage that we have is that we are a mystery. Some of the teams that have the same coaches, those things are pretty much set.”

On if you can create an advantage from this pandemic from an adversity standpoint:

“You can. You’re going to have to really work at it and find what the advantage is. One thing is that everyone is starting with a clean slate and no one is starting with any bad habits as far as the way you do things. Correcting guys should be easy. I have heard this expression called learners mind. A blank slate and an eager attitude to learn and grow. Hey, look, this is all new to everyone. You guys are getting this for the first time. This is how we want you to do things. You have to learn this.”

On how the last few months have weighed on him personally:

“The name change wasn’t as difficult because I was new to the whole thing and process. I grew up in an era to me where the name was one of those things, an honor. That is how you grew up, idolizing that team – well at least I did. As we went through the process, sitting down and talking with Mr. Snyder, a change came and it was fluid. The Black Lives Matter movement was difficult and tough just because I needed to know what to say and how to do it for our organization. That was a learning experience for me. The one thing is I wanted to make sure we portrayed it in the right light. It is an issue but it is an issue that we need to continue to talk about. The COVID-19 situation, that is all about learning. That is a learning process. That has been hard but for me emotionally, I am excited about where I am and I’m excited about this opportunity. This hasn’t dampened my approach and spirit with this organization. I feel very confident in what we can do here. A lot of this stems from my interview process that I went through with Mr. Snyder. The roster, looking at how young it is, the salary cap situation, how flexible it is. There were a lot of reasons why to be here. The frustrating thing about the Post article is that those are things that happened in the past and hopefully we can get through those things and create the right culture. We want to create a situation and set of circumstances that all of our employees, coaches, players, all of them feel that they are part of.”

On the expectations for the defense this year:

“We are not sure how it is going to mesh going forward. I think the attitude and the philosophy going forward is championship caliber. Our attitude and philosophy, we are going to be physical. We are going to be aggressive and we are not going to sit back. We want our defensive line going vertical on their way to the quarterback playing the run. Our linebackers are going to be downhill aggressive tacklers behind the line of scrimmage and our cover guys are going to be aggressive. We are going to tell them to be physical and make plays. The only thing that we can say right now is championship caliber. Do I think we have a lot of potential for growth? Absolutely, especially if you look at the defensive line. I feel very comfortable and confident in those first rounders that we have. Without that, we also talk about the guys that we have that were not first rounders. Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle. Those are guys we want to put out there because they have that type of skillset. I like our safety situation lead by Landon Collins. Another thing is how is our corner situation going to play out? We have a lot of guys that have had a lot of success. How are they going to mesh? How is the line going to impact our coverage. As far as the defense is concerned, I like our attitude and philosophy going into it. They have the potential. All those guys, there are a lot of young guys especially on the defensive line. None of them are younger than Chase [Young].”

On if he is relying more on his position coaches this year than in years past:

“Through this process, I got to pop in to all the different meetings. It was interesting to watch all the coaches work. All the apps they can use to create these games. There are all kinds of neat ways to do it. I am not going to rely on these coaches anymore than I usually would. I did talk to our coaches and discussed stressing the importance of doing a little extra. On the practice field I try and be two hours and 15 minutes so there is an extra session of 10 minutes to clean things up or keep the young guys active. Same thing with our meeting times. We won’t keep them the whole time but there is room to do a little bit extra. We are going to rely on our coaches no more than we have in the past for them to develop our young talent. One thing that we will do with our young talent is that they will work with everyone. Knowing that you’ve worked with the ones and the twos. You will develop that comfort level.”

via Washington Football Team

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