Interview: Washington Football Coach Ron Rivera

LANDOVER, MD — August 31, 2020, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera met with the media following the teams practice at FedEx Field.

"I wanted the guys to get a feel for the stadium and an understanding of what to anticipate and what to think about. We had the ambient noise going, so the guys got a feel for what it’s going to be like when they’re playing.”

On the balance of pushing players harder at this time of year:

“The balance is this really would be the second to last week, when you push your starters a little bit more. Now that we’ve gotten past this, now it’s really starting to help them get their legs back as much as we can. We pushed them, we’ve given them what I feel is—the last few weeks have been really good. We had a big practice yesterday, took them down to the stadium, gave them an opportunity to see what it feels like. Now we’re going to start working toward getting ready for the regular season.”


On if he has seen versatility from the team:

“We’re still seeing it. We still work with some guys playing multiple positions. I think the thing that helps is it improves your depth is what it really does. When you have a guy that plays offensive line—let’s say center guard—now you have a guy that at the swing arm position and if something happens in the crunch, let’s just say in your game day rotation you only go with seven offensive linemen. Now, you have an opportunity to have a guy that can help you in two spots. That’s the versatility you look for. Running back is another instance—again, a guy that cannot just play running back, he can go out into the slot, he can go out as a wideout. That gives you some versatility in terms of play calling. Defensively, you have a safety that can play down in the box, you have a safety that can play post. That’s something special because now, ‘What are my calls going to be?’ that is now a part of their thinking, is when do we use this guy? Or do they try to create matchups when you have a guy that has cover skills as well as being a good post player. So, you want that type of versatility in terms of player skillset.”


On communication at the stadium today:

“I hope so. That’s why we came here to do this. We wanted to give our guys a chance to see what it was like communicating. We did have a little bit of a hiccup in the first portion of the two-minute, a little communication between [offensive coordinator] Scott [Turner] and QB Dwayne [Haskins], but they seemed to get that worked out pretty well so that was good to see. Again, it was important for our players to come down and get a feel for our stadium.”


On the ambient crowd noise:

“I’d love to be able to play the noise really loud when they’re on defense, and low when they’re on offense. But, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think there’s really benefit either way or detriment. It was at a good level. You could hear the communication all the way across the field. So, it’s going to be the same for both teams. We’ll just go with it.”


On people separating themselves today:

“Well, we have a good group. We really do. I like the number of guys we have. Again, we’ve got some tough decisions to make as far as who’s going to be starters and backups and who are the guys that we’re going to rollin and out, that type of stuff. We’ll see. We’ve still got a good week and a half before things get ready to roll. Like I said, we do like the positions.”

On LB Jon Bostic:

“I think Jon’s done a nice job. He really has. He’s a smart football player, understands the game. I really don’t see the deficiency under coverage. A lot has to do with matchups and where he ends up on. The thing that you try to do as a signal caller is make sure you put your guys in position to have success. The last thing you want to do is put them in a bad coverage. Again, that’s one of the things I know [defensive coordinator] Jack [Del Rio] is very aware of. As he calls the games, he’ll call accordingly.”


On QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.:

“I think he’s growing. He’s learning, he’s developing. This year, obviously as a team we’re at a handicap. But for a quarterback, the guy really has to learn. This has been tough. I thought he’s handled it very well. He’s gotten a lot of good work in. He’s worked with [quarterbacks coach] Ken Zampese and the other quarterbacks. You see the growth, you really do. Again, we still have a way to go, but it’s promising. And that’s probably the best thing you can say about it, too, that he’s showing those moments that really tells you he’s learning. He learned from that last play in the two-minute drill. He got greedy. He saw Cover 2, he saw the corner sitting there and then he tried to throw the ball from the far left side all the way to the far right side. It’s a lesson that he learned. He and I talked about it, and we talked about what happened: ‘If you’re going to throw the ball, you’re going to throw it to a certain part of the field. You can’t throw it where you threw it.’”


On when he will officially name a starting quarterback:

“What day—the 13th? That’s our opener? There you go.”


On WR Isaiah Wright:

“I thought he’s done a nice job. Again, we’ve got a lot of young guys that could’ve truly benefitted from being in OTAs and minicamp. So, we’re just starting to see that he’s starting to understand, he’s starting to get it. There’s a lot to learn in what we do, so he’s learning that as well. As he starts to get more and more comfortable, he’s playing faster and faster. This is a high-volume offense in terms of responsibilities. We put a lot on the players to understand. He’s done a nice job. He’s handled it well. He’s got a way to go. He’s not quite ready for primetime—at least not yet—but he’s shown that he has some skillsets and you see the flashes.”


On if keeping LB Thomas Davis out of practice was precautionary:

“Yes. With the field the way it was, you don’t want to get a guy out there and have him slip and twist something or turn. We took him in and let him get off his feet, ice him down and just get him ready for as we move forward.”


On QB Alex Smith:

“We like what Alex has been doing. We like the growth we’ve seen. As we progress with about a week to go before, we really start gearing up for the opener, we’ll continue to work with him.”


On if Smith will participate in live contact drills:

“We don’t necessarily do live contact. He got a good series in today with the 11-on-11 football.”


On the film from yesterday’s practice:

“I think we got out of what we were looking for in terms of special teams because that was one of the big things we focused on to really judge where are guys are. Very pleased with what we got. We had a number of veteran guys, guys that will play a good amount on offense or defense, show up. They did some really good things. I think Jon Bostic was a good veteran to name as was [TE] Jeremy Sprinkle. Those are two guys that are part of the core of what we do as a football team. They both played special teams, and they played it very well. I was very pleased with that. Then some of our young guys stood out and really did the things that you hope they would. [RB] Antonio Gibson did gentlemen’s work out there. That was pleasing to see. [DE] James [Smith- Williams] was another one. He came out and did some nice things, showed us that he’s going to go out and hustle and give you great effort. [S] Kamren Curl did a nice job. When young guys that are learning to understand go out and do those types of things and things that they need to show you that they want to be part of it, that’s important. We had a number of those guys step up.

On former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson passing:

“He was one of the iconic coaches in this league. His stance on education—the way he pushed his players to get an education, not just be great basketball players and great basketball teams—he wanted to make sure his guys graduated. That was something that I truly appreciated because to him, it was more than just about the game. It was about developing the whole young man. He’s an iconic man. It was sad to see him go.”


On being on the home sideline of FedExField:

“I did think about that, too. When I walked over to the home bench and I was like: ‘This is home.’ I was pretty excited about it. My memories of playing at old RFK [Stadium] and coming here and coaching—I’d love to be able to restore that. The fan base here is something else. It’s a special group of people. We’ve got to give them a reason to come and cheer.”


On what he told Haskins in the two-minute drill:

“What we talked about was the situation. He still had a timeout left and the whole field open to him. There’s nothing wrong—and I told him at that point, there’s nothing wrong with putting something in the middle because if we catch it, call a timeout. There’s nothing wrong with throwing the ball away. The last thing we can do is turn the ball over and take the sack. That was pretty much the explanation. A veteran corner baited him into a mistake. That’s really what happened. I said, ‘Hey, if you are going to throw that, make sure’—and he said this, ‘Coach, I’ve got to throw the ball here away from them.’ He understood his mistake. And like I said, that’s where you see the growth in him.”


On how active they will be monitoring the waiver wire:

“I think it’s all just going to depend on who’s out there more so than anything else. We’ve got a number of guys that we like. We’ve kind of started going through the roster, and we’ll go through it again tomorrow and we’ll go through it again the next day. We’re going to try to be very efficient in terms of deciding where we are. But there are a number of positions where we like our guys. You have to see who pops out and who becomes available.”


On which positions may interest him for waivers:

“I think they’re all of interest. Quite honestly, I don’t want to say because I don’t want anybody thinking what we could potentially do.”


On his wife waving at practice:

“That’s something that we’ve done since the days I played. I just acknowledge her because—I tell people—I didn’t get to where I am alone and myself. I just want her to make sure she knows I appreciate her.”

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