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Interview: Washington Football Coach Ron Rivera

ASHBURN, VA -- Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera spoke to the media after Thursday afternoon's practice at WFT Park.

On if changes to the Injured/Reserve protocol will impact roster decisions: “It could. Again, we have to look at where we are as a team. We’ve got to look at who fits what. Things change as we were going through training camp, seeing the things that we had as far as players and the things that we had as far as the scheme. It’s going to play into our decision making. We’ve started discussing our roster. We’ve worked through one position right now. We’re going to work through the rest of them the next day and a half. We have some pretty interesting decisions to make. We’re going to work through those things.” On having practice squad on game day twice: “That does play into it. Again, because if you go into the week and you’re not sure about a guy’s health and then you get to Saturday then all of a sudden you’re going: ‘Wow, you know what, he’s not going to make it. But, we have that same type of guy, same type of player on practice squad, we can pop the guy up and hopefully not lose anything.’ We’re going to feel good I think about some of the guys we put on practice squad, too.” On if there are any metrics he’s utilized to evaluate the defense: “Well, defensively how you’re stopping the run, your third-down percentage. Those are probably two of the more important things as far as I’m concerned. And then how you do on the first and second downs. If a team is getting into a lot of third-and-4, third-and-3, that’s disconcerting. You want to get those guys obviously in third- and-7, third-and-9 and plus. Those situations are huge. When you do look at the analytics of football, certain things do play into it. One of them is rushing yards allowed, the other is third-down percentage, the other is first and second down. What is your third-down situation? Those are very important.” On what they look for in a tight end: “Well, you do try to have a guy that’s complete. This team had one in Vernon Davis, who was as complete as it gets. Unfortunately, we get here and he’s retiring. But, he’s a guy that could run block, pass block and run routes and get vertical very quickly. That’s what we had in Greg Olsen in Carolina. So, you’re looking for that kind of guy. Do we have that? Maybe. You know [TE] Logan Thomas has done a great job. He’s learning a lot. He’s relatively new to the position, you know he’s a former quarterback who’s converted himself to tight end. He’s worked at it. I like the direction he’s headed. A couple of the other guys we have are guys that run good routes, have good hands, good quickness and speed. A couple other guys we have are good blocker. So, we’re going to choose the best out of that group and we’ll go with those guys.” On RB Antonio Gibson’s run-game development: “He’s learning and getting a good feel for that stuff. He’s learning aiming points, he’s learning when to stick your foot in the ground and cut back. He’s learning how to set a block; he’s learning how to show some patience. He’s learned to run toward the crease. Those are all things that you want a young back to learn and show that he’s capable of doing. Remember, this is a very talented, gifted young man that did a lot of different things. We’re trying to hone his skills to fit what we believe he can do. It’s been an interesting growth period. It’s been good.” On if T Saahdiq Charles’s uncertainty complicates roster decisions: “Yeah, but this is one of those things where you’re going to keep a good number of offensive linemen just for the safety sake. If there’s one position that you can’t have a catastrophe at in terms of catching the virus, it’s offensive line. That’s a position that we’re taking a nice, long look at—and not just on the 53 [man roster] but on the practice squad as well.” On LB Shaun Dion Hamilton ranking highly in coverage per snap analytics: “Well, I think he’s a good football player. One thing you’ve got to be careful about in analytics, there’s a little bit of a saying: ‘Figures lie and liars figure.’ You can find a stat to tell you whatever you want it to tell you. A lot of people will point to those things. The truth of the matter is you really don’t know. People will sit there and tell you, ‘Well you know you get here and eight times out of 10 you’re going to convert. OK, great. That’s a great number, eight times out of 10. But you decide to go for it and you just happened to be that two out of 10— now what? Are you guys going to excuse me and say: ‘Hey Coach, you know what it was in the numbers.’ No. You can’t go by just strictly pure analytics. This game is not just by the numbers. This game is played by humans. Decisions are made by humans. You start going with the cold, straight-up numbers, that’s hard. It’s like, everybody sits there and goes, ‘What’s with the analytics on the fake? When you run a fake punt, what’s the analytics? When does it tell you to run a fake?’ Well, there’s really is nothing that tells you. Sometimes it’s a feel. The other team’s gotten momentum back. They’ve closed within three. It’s fourth-and-3 and all of a sudden you call a fake on the punt and you get the first down and everybody goes: ‘Oh wow. What did the analytics tell you?’ The analytics didn’t tell me anything. They had taken back the momentum, we only had a three-point lead, we had seven minutes left to go and if we had punted the ball, there’s a chance they could’ve scored. So you have to be careful when it comes to numbers. You have to really dive deep into those numbers. But you also have to pay attention to what you see and what you feel on the film and in practice. Believe me, I appreciate the numbers, I do. But I also take them with a grain of salt because I’ve played this game, coached this game long enough to know sometimes the numbers aren’t always there. Just because you covert nine times out of 10 times—but you may be going up against a defense that converts nine times out of 10. So, it’s a little bit of a crap shoot. But, you’re talking about a really good football that we like that’s done a nice job. Again, I’m appreciative of who he is don’t get me wrong. I’m just telling you guys because I know some of you guys are going to come back and tell me about a bunch of numbers at some point. I just want you to understand the way I look at it and I understand the numbers as they are. Again, I always take those with a grain of salt.” On how he has implemented analytics in coaching: “That’s a great question because one thing I do is I do get all of the analytics. I do look at all the stuff. A lot of times, the way I use it is if it validates the way I’m thinking, man it makes me feel even better. If it goes counter to the way I’m thinking, now I’m concerned. Honestly, I really do. But I always take it with a grain of salt. Everybody can tell you nine times out of 10. Well, what if you’re that one time? You know what I’m saying? Believe me, I’ve been in those situations. We went for it one time, we didn’t convert and somebody said, ‘It’s alright Coach it was just the numbers.’ I said: ‘No it’s not. We lost. So how can you tell me that?’ I’ve had conversations with some of those guys that come in and do those analytics for you and they sit there and they break it down every week and they tell you: ‘You know what Coach you made the right decision.’ Did I really? We lost. What if we kicked that field goal instead of going for it on fourth down? You following me? Sometimes three [points] is better than none. So, you have to be very careful with that stuff.” On if practice squad decisions will impact active roster decisions: “It really will. There’s a lot of things that are going to impact the decisions. We’ve started talking about this. Like I said, we’ve gotten through one group. That’s how much we’ve had to think about it. We sit there and we go: ‘OK, if we put this guy here, what about that guy? If we take that guy from practice squad, can he be a pop up where we can pop him up three times but on that third time we’ve got to sign him?’ Those things do play into what you’re thinking. There’s going to be even a guy or two where you say, ‘We can’t expose this guy. But you know what, that guy, we can put him over here. I don’t think anyone will take him and if we can get him on practice squad, we’ve got a pop-up.’ Those things are playing into our decision making. It’s all been a part of the discussion. Like I said, we started having discussions yesterday. In my mind, we’re through one group right now. We’re going to start talking about all of the other groups very shortly because we’ve got a day and a half really to get ourselves prepared for Saturday. We feel fairly confident right now. But, you still have to go through these conversations and these discussions.” On if decisions are harder without preseason games: “Yes. Absolutely it’s been harder. There are a lot of discussions because what’s going to happen is you’re going to have a scout or two or a coach or two that’s adamant about a guy, and yet we have nothing to go on besides: ‘OK, I watched his college tape or I’ve watched his pro tape from when he was with the other team and I’ve seen him do this. I know he can do this, but we haven’t seen it because we haven’t been able to compete the right way, the way that you need to compete so you’re able to tell a guy has that kind of ability.’ That’s the hard part for us. To be quite honest, that’s the really unfair thing for a lot of these young guys. In fact, I was walking over talking to some of the coaches when we were going to get ready for walk through. I said: ‘You know, we’re going to cut two or three guys that should really make this team, but they haven’t had a chance.’ I understand last year that one of the guys that really showed well was WR Steven Sims. I look at it now, he’s a guy that has an opportunity. He’s a return guy for us, he’s a slot receiver for us. These are all things that are playing into our decision making and have—quite honestly—really played into our decisions where we do get bogged down in our conversations because we don’t know. One other thing, too, on that—everybody’s opinion is important. Somebody may have seen something that we didn’t see. Now we go back and put the tape on them and look for what we were told. That’s the other part about this, too, is we have to hear everybody.” On he and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s decision to sign T David Sharpe: “One thing that Jack and I talked about was the young man’s potential more so than anything else. What we did in terms of compensation to the Raiders, we feel really good about the decision that was made. We really do. He’s a young guy that potential’s a big word for him, but it’s also a nasty word in the NFL because a guy only gets so many opportunities and so much time when you talk about potential. Having said that, there is some good tape on the guy. The scouts had some good things to say about his athleticism and ability. Now, it’s if we can get it out of him. I think for the price that we paid, I really believe it’s worth it. This is one of the things that we really need to take a look at.” On CB Kendall Fuller’s uncertainty: “My concern is no different than anybody else. We’ll see how it goes. When it comes to Tuesday when we have to give our first medical report, Tuesday I’ll be able to answer that question better.” On Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith’s responsibilities in decision making: “Kyle and I have been talking all week. The only difference more so than anything else is that the sole responsibility lies on me. Kyle’s got a huge influence in this. He’s a big part of the conversation. Kyle’s run all of our personnel meetings that we’ve had to date. So, at the end of the day when the decisions are going to be made, Kyle and I are going to work it out and come to a decision. But, as it looks, as it appears on paper, that’s my responsibility.”

s“What we’ve done is in the [Sharpe] decision is Kyle came to us, we had our coaches look at the tape from last year, got the reports out, read the reports that were written. It turns out that both Kyle and [Director of Pro Scouting] Eric Stokes had both done reports on him. They were both favorable reports. So that was really good to see. Then the coaches—we had them watch them all—had a favorable report coming back. When I popped some tape on, the athleticism showed immediately. So, we just felt good about it. We just felt that that was an opportunity for us. What Kyle and his guys will do is really give us the stuff that we as coaches aren’t prepared to answer. Then, we can get a chance to go watch the tape. We’ll get their opinion, we’ll get their reports and

then we’ll take a moment to look at the tape, too, and then formulate an opinion together. We’ll talk collectively and then make a decision.”

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