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Interview: Washington Football coach Ron Rivera

ASHBURN, VA -- August 10, 2020, Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera speaks to the media.

Opening statement on RB Derrius Guice’s release:

“On Friday, I made a decision that I believe was in the best interest of this organization, our players and our fans going forward. Very difficult decision. Anytime you have to release a very talented young football player, it’s always a tough decision. This type of circumstance, this type of situation, we take those allegations very seriously. We had to make the decision going forward. Sometimes, it’s one of those things where there are processes, there are situations, there are circumstances that you go through. Each situation, each circumstance is unique. Each one will be handled and dealt with differently to what we believe is best for the organization going forward, and that’s probably the most important thing. I talked with the players yesterday and basically told them I made a decision I thought was in the best interest of our organization. If it was the right decision, we will benefit from it. If it’s not, it will be on me. I will take full responsibility as we go forward to try and make sure we do things the right way. From that, I want to move forward.”

On the timeline of Guice’s release:

“I really don’t want to get into that, just because of the fact that the statement we put out really details what we did for the most part. I don’t want to get back into the situation and circumstances. Each situation is unique and each situation will be dealt with that way as we go forward.”

On activating LB Reuben Foster:

“The biggest thing about Reuben in watching him the last eight days – not eight, probably what amounts to the last nine days, four days off and four days on – he did extremely well. The thing you always worry about the next day is how does he feel, how has his body reacted to the amount of work he did, and he really had no issues. Each day he seemed to get stronger and stronger and more and more confident, so we activated him yesterday. I had an opportunity to watch and he moves around very well. We put him in limited action just to kind of ease him back into it, and he’ll get more today as we continue to go forward. He was prepared and ready to go and we’re pretty excited for Reuben.”

On the factors that led to the release of Guice:

“That’s something I really don’t think we can get into, so I’m going to move forward from that.”

On the emotional process of changing the team’s culture:

“It has been part of what I have to do. As we look at the entire situation and circumstances of trying to establish who we are as a football team, there are going to be some decisions that will have to be made that are tough and difficult. There are some things that we will continue to grow on and improve. It is hard, but the thing that I’ve got to do and the thing that we all have to understand, and I tell the players, is that when we decide to do something we have to think about what we’re going to do. We have to honestly think, ‘Is what I’m about to do truly going to help us? Is it going to benefit us, and how is it going to benefit us?’ In these situations, making those decisions to do what I believe is right, I will continue to do. At the end of the day as I said, I will own those decisions.”

On the linebackers:

“We’ve got a good group. I really do believe that. I think we’ve got a good group of veteran guys. To really say and start pigeon holing guys into positions right now is a little premature, to be honest with you. We have to see how all these guys mesh together. We’ve moved [LB] Thomas Davis [Sr.] around, we’re going to move Reuben around, [LB] Kevin Pierre-Louis is another man we’re going to move around and really see where these guys fit, where these pieces fit together. It’s going to be an interesting battle. I really do believe that just because of what we see from these guys. This is a good, young group of players, sprinkled in some crafty veteran guys and it’s a good group. I’m excited to watch them and see what really is going to be the best combination. Truthfully, the best combination may be, we have three different guys starting on the base package, two different guys starting on the sub package, we might have another sub package where we have two other guys. This might be linebacker by committee because it is a very talented group.”

On Foster being cleared and on his past issues:

“Well, I think the biggest thing is Reuben was claimed here and after he went through the process, certain things came out and he had his moment to be able to settle himself in and show that he was exonerated for the most part. Again, it’s always a difficult decision when you come to these things. Reuben and I have talked about some things, some specific stuff, I’m not going to get into details. But the one thing Reuben has shown since I’ve been here is that he is doing things the right way. He is doing things the way we need him to do and he has been excellent. He really has. He’s done great things in terms of his rehab. He’s done a great job in terms of working with our coaches. I’m excited for the young man’s opportunity. You know, here’s a guy who needed a change of scenery. I think that may be one of the things that has truly benefited him. Who knows, that’s what might be needed in Derrius’s case, an opportunity for a change of scenery.”

On what Foster brings to this team:

“He can be a very big asset, just because of his ability to make plays, his explosiveness as a football player and those explosive plays that he can make. When you have a guy like that, that has that kind of ability and he’s back, it can be a very good thing. You look at the Dallas situation, they went through the same thing with their young linebacker having almost the same type of injury. That’s what we’re hoping for, for Reuben, an opportunity to get back on the field and prove that he’s back and that he’s the kind of guy we hope he can be for us.”

On QB Dwayne Haskins Jr. becoming a leader:

“I think the one thing I did say to Dwayne in one of the opportunities he came to first see me was being the leader is not just what you do on the football field, but what you do off of the football field as well. He’s taken that to heart and has done a great job. He’s competing, he’s doing the things we need him to do, he’s being very professional about the way he’s handling himself and he’s really been very thoughtful in terms of his actions. So that’s one thing that’s been a big plus. It really has. I’ve been really pleased with what we’ve got from him.”

On what to look for in the first open media viewing practice period:

“The biggest thing is I want you to see tempo. I want [reporters] to be able to say, ‘Man they practice fast. Man they move from one drill to the other.’ To me, that’s one of the things that you have to do, is play with up-tempo. The only way to do that is practice with an up-tempo. You’ve got to be able to understand how things have to be done. We’re not going to get an opportunity to play any preseason games, so when we practice we’ve got to practice faster. We’ve got to practice quicker. We’ve got to practice at an up-tempo every opportunity we get, and that’s what I hope [reporters] see. If [they] don’t, let me know because that’s something we need to get corrected. That’s the only way we can simulate anything right now as you start to lead into your first regular season game.”

On the differences between the handling of the WR Cody Latimer and Guice arrests:

“The biggest thing is, when the Cody Latimer thing came out was there were some things we hadn’t known. So, what happened was he goes onto the Commissioner’s Exempt List, so we’re now in the position of where we’re just going to continue to monitor it and see what happens there with Cody. As I said, and again, we will look at each situation and each set of circumstances individually, and we’ll go through our process and make our assessments.”

On leaning on RBs Bryce Love and Antonio Gibson:

“Don’t forget [RB] Peyton Barber. We feel very good about the group of guys we have. We really do. We think this is a group of guys that are talented. It was a very difficult decision, it really was. Derrius is a gifted young football player and again, it’s one of those things where we’re trying to get ready for the season and one thing we can’t have is situations and circumstances that are beyond our realm. He’s going to have to deal with something for a while, and his opportunity to get prepared and ready for the season would be limited. We’re looking at getting ready in the next five weeks to play our opener. With those guys, we’re going to have guys who will have a lot of opportunities between now and the opener and we’ll get an opportunity to see which guys are the best ones for us.”

On activating TE Logan Thomas from the Reserve/COVID-19 list:

“Well, the biggest thing we learned is you have to go through the process when guys are testing positive for COVID. You have to be safe and they’ve got to handle their situation, which Logan did. He did a great job of getting himself healthy and ready to roll and following the directions of our medical staff. As far as Logan is concerned, we saw a guy that is starting to grow and blossom in the tight end position. I had a chance to watch some pretty good tape on him when he was with Detroit, and we really felt that this is a guy who has the skillset we’re looking for to be one of our tight ends. We’re going to be a group that we’re going to use one tight end, two tight ends, maybe three tight ends just depending on circumstances, situations. He’s going to be lining up in the down position, he’s going to be lining up in the up position. He’s got enough athleticism that he can be dynamic. We’re pretty excited about who he is. One thing I always tell people is don’t forget he’s only been playing tight end for a couple years because he was a quarterback. So, he’s got a tremendous feel for football, especially the offensive side of football, so that’s going to help him if he continues to develop in his role as a tight end.”

On DE Montez Sweat:

“He’s a guy that we liked when he was coming out of the draft. Seeing that he’s here and we’ve had an opportunity to watch him the last couple days, it’s pretty exciting. He’s a tremendously gifted athlete. Again, going back and watching his tape and seeing how he was, he was growing and developing. I’ll be honest, just kind of going back and looking at him from his college tape and remembering him putting his hand on the ground and how explosive he was off the line of scrimmage and then seeing it again, with his hand on the ground knowing that this is a guy, with his ability and DE Chase [Young]’s ability, and that whole group of guys we have, we have the ability to have a special unit. A good, solid group of defensive linemen. It’s pretty exciting to watch these guys practice. I know it’s just practice, but when you start throwing in [DT] Daron [Payne] and [DT] Jonathan [Allen] and [DT] Matt [Ioannidis] and [DT] Tim [Settle] and [DE] Ryan Kerrigan, the veteran who’s really put his arm around Chase, which has really been neat to watch, and [DE] Ryan Anderson. We’ve got a solid corps of guys where when we’re building this unit, you look to the future that can be very bright as a group of guys. They’re all going to get opportunities. We’re going to roll these guys through. You don’t want them to play 65, 70 snaps a game. We want a guy to be fresh and come in and play 25, 30 snaps. When it really counts and when we really need them, we want them to be explosive and be able to make plays. I think, and again, when you look at the group you feel pretty strong about them right now. Hopefully we can stay healthy as we go through camp and get ready for the regular season.”

On speaking with Guice about the allegations against him:

“The biggest thing I’ll tell you, in the statement we just talked about the fact that we had conversations with him on Friday morning. From what we learned later on, we made our decision.”

On divvying up QB reps in practice:

“Well, the biggest thing we’ve got to do is not make sure we’re divvying up the reps as evenly as possible, but we divvy up who they work against. This could be a very interesting challenge for us because of QB Alex Smith. If Alex is healthy and continues to get healthy and we do activate him, he’s going to be in the throes of this competition. It’s going to unfold very nicely as a football team for us because competition is only going to make you better. It’s going to push the young guys as well. I just feel really good about what we’re going to be doing as we start going forward. It’ll be a very challenging situation to make sure everybody’s reps are equitable, and their competition is the same.”

On his message to players about staying isolated:

“Well, we try to mention it every day. I ask the coaches to try to mention it. One thing I told everyone is we all have to own this together. If something is not right around the facility we’ve got to mention it. If we’re finishing up the day and we’re about to leave we’ve got to mention, ‘Hey guys, be safe. Let’s be smart about this.’ The other day we had an entire team organizational meeting in terms of the people that are Tier 1 and Tier 2 people that are all involved within the facility, and we talked about the rules because the rules don’t only apply to the players, but they apply to the coaches, the support staff as well. We wanted to make sure everybody knew them, everybody understood that there are consequences if we fail to follow those protocols. So, we had to make sure everybody knows. We’ve been very fortunate so far. And again, we see some of those examples that are being set by basketball, hockey and golf and baseball. In some cases, you see them working very well and in other cases you see that there are some issues. One thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to be aware that we are like no other sport because we have more players that we have to be concerned with, more coaches that we have to be concerned with. Our travel situation is a little bit different. Now baseball’s is very difficult as well. So, we’ve got to sit there and learn from what we’re seeing from the other sports.”

On penalties for not social distancing during the season:

“Well, there are specific rules that the league has set forth and that the league and NFLPA have worked on. Again, that’s why I said that they don’t just apply to the players. They apply to everybody. That’s the thing we have to understand. Now, you’re going to have an incident where it’s accidental, where somebody is going to get gas or go to the grocery store and something crazy could happen. What you don’t want is you don’t want somebody going to a 100-person party or to an indoor concert or something. That’s what you don’t want. Those are the things you want to be willing to sacrifice right now until the vaccine has been found and been perfected to where we can hopefully return to about as normal as we can get. That’s the thing we’ve got to be aware of. Again, we’re asking everyone to do that for about a six-month period. Hopefully we can follow that and we can do that as we go through the season.”

On Smith’s progression coming back after his leg injury:

“It’s a little bit more difficult with Alex because of the specific movements we’ve got to continue to watch and see as he continues to get stronger and stronger. The only way he’s going to know is by doing all of the drills, and that’s one of the things that [Head Athletic Trainer] Ryan Vermillion and his staff have been working with Alex on, is getting him the opportunity to do all the specific quarterback drills. So, as he continues to go through them and we continue to watch, we notice that he is getting stronger and stronger. His movements are all coming back. But again, we don’t want to put him on the field and expose him until the proper opportunity comes. We’re trying to be smart. We’re trying to be diligent in this situation because of Alex’s circumstances. He’s been tremendous right now and we expect him to continue to develop and grow. When the moment’s right, at the appropriate time we’ll make our decision.”

On the complications of college football’s uncertain season on the NFL:

“Well you know, it’s been interesting because [Vice President of Player Personnel] Kyle Smith and I have been talking about how he plans to do it, the way he plans to set things up, and it’s been really interesting in terms of our conversation. He’s got a plan, he’s got an idea, he’s got a couple ideas on the best way to handle it. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see which one’s going to unfold. They’ve been working on some of the other things they’ve been doing right now. They’ve been doing some of the Zoom things with the colleges, talking about their players that they have on their roster right now. That’s one of the things our guys have looked at doing going forward. We’ll see what happens. If it turns out like a lot of other leagues, college leagues that is, conferences, that they’re going to play in the early spring, then it’s going to really change some things and who knows, we’re going to see how it’s really going to affect everything that we do in the offseason.”

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