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Interview: Washington Football Coach Ron Rivera

Every week All-Pro Reels will bring you day by day coverage of the Washington Football Team through the eyes, ears and lenses of our content creators.

ASHBURN, VA -- November 2, 2020

On considering a trade of DE Ryan Kerrigan before the deadline:

“First of all, I’m not going to speculate on anything because it’s all been rumors. We’re going to leave it at that. Ryan’s been a big part of what we’ve done. He’s been a big part of this organization for a number of years and has had a tremendous amount of success. We have a tremendous amount of respect for who he is as a member of the Washington Football Team.”

On his trade deadline philosophy:

“Generally, it’s all about circumstances and situations. Right now, our circumstances are what they are. The situation is what it is. We’re just going to go forward.”

On balancing veteran status when considering a trade:

“First of all, the [former RB] Adrian Peterson comparison is not fair. AP was in a different set of circumstances. [I have] a tremendous amount of respect for a future Hall of Famer like him. The Ryan Kerrigan situation is he’s been exactly what we’d hope he’d be. He really has. He’s contributed, he’s made impact plays for us, he’s impacting our defense, he’s impacting our young players on our football team, he’s setting the example. He’s the right kind of guy that we have here because he’s been here for 10-plus seasons. Again, I think that’s a very unfair comparison to make. Like I said, AP is a different guy, a different set of circumstances. The guy is a future Hall of Famer.”

On the kicker position:

“I think the kicking situation is what it is. [K Dustin Hopkins] Hop’s done a great job for us. He’s had a couple struggles, obviously. We wish he could make them all, but we know he’s not going to. There’s going to be an opportunity for him to kick and win football games for us.”

On his last day of treatment:

“It was surreal to know that I’ve completed my treatments. Obviously, now it’s about the recovery. Now it’s about the medicine doing, finishing up its job. That’s what you pray for and you hope for. But, having a week where I didn’t have to get up early and drive to the hospital and get treatments and hurry back to here—that was great. It really was. It was kind of neat to be able to just stay home and relax and take a breath. Believe me, as I’ve told folks, through the grace of God we can get through this. So far things have been good. I’ll continue to pray and continue to do the things that the doctors tell me.”

On what his recovery will look like:

“I’m not sure. I’ve never been through this, obviously. Just from what I’ve been told, it’s really about recovering and handling the ups and downs of recovery. They say your body goes through a number of things that will happen in the next few weeks. Today’s been a really good day. Saturday was an up-and-down day. I actually napped three times on Saturday. I normally just take one. Your body will have its ebbs and flows and have its highs and lows. It’s a matter of how you handle them and how you deal with them. Like I said before, I’ve been very fortunate we caught it early. We had a good prognosis, good doctors, a great plan. Now we’re in the recovery phase. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed. Like I said, by the grace of God and with me following the protocols and the directions that doctors are giving me, hopefully we’ll get through this.”

On how T Cornelius Lucas performed in his first start:

“[I’m] very pleased. Very, very pleased. He came out, did his job, did his assignments. He had a couple little moments that—I really thought he could’ve graded even higher than he did. I thought he had a good grade. I talked to [offensive line coach John] Matsko, he was very pleased with his effort. But we both agreed he had a couple low moments where if he had stuck to the way he had been playing, he could’ve graded even higher. I was pleased, I really was.”

On what makes for an ideal trade:

“I think, really, the Greg Olsen one was one that suited us in terms of filling a need for a period of time. That’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for a guy who, in my opinion, has a couple years left on his contract so he’s tied into you for at least two seasons. He’s going to fill the need and if he fills the need, you can go ahead and redo his contract and extend him for four or five years and have him again for an extended period of time. That to me is what you really want to do. The Jared Allen [trade] was an opportunity for me to fill a need immediately, and he did exactly that. A veteran guy that came in, added some outside rush for us, was able to help pressure the quarterback, was able to set edges for us during our Super Bowl run. Those are two examples of two types of trades that filled needs for us specifically.”

On determining value in a trade:

“I think the biggest thing when you look at it more so than anything else is—let’s say we’re trading for somebody and we hope that person has a number years left on his contract, and a good, favorable contract for us in terms of our cap going forward. Does he fulfill that need, and if he does, will he fulfill that need for two or three years? If that’s what you’re getting right off the bat, then you’re going to feel very fortunate that’s the circumstances going forward. It’s really the need-aspect and filling the need is probably the most important thing. There are a number of guys out there you can trade for, but they’re all on their last year of their contract and you’re sitting there going: ‘Oh, wow. If he comes out and plays really well, it’s going to be really, really expensive.’ If it is really expensive, you may not be able to keep that player, so you just invested three months and now that player’s gone. So those are the things that you worry about as well.”

On if anything has surprised him about WR Terry McLaurin this year:

“Honestly, no. It’s funny because the more I got to know him in the offseason in January and February when he was around and running into him at the facility or some different event or something and talking to him, the young man is so impressive. I just think the thing that surprised me is his maturity, how mature he is for a second-year player.”

On Election Day tomorrow:

“I think it’s very important that every American that’s eligible to vote, votes. It’s a very impactful thing. It’s a very tremendous thing that we have that people all over the world wish they had. We have a say in what our government is going to be like. If we don’t, shame on us. I’m one of those people that feels like if you don’t vote and you’re wasting your opportunity to vote, don’t complain. That bothers me to hear people: ‘Oh, I didn’t vote.’ Well, OK, that’s part of the problem. There’s a lot of issues and there are a lot of things that need to be taken care of. It’s funny and it’s one of the things I learned recently in talking with some folks is that for the most impactful part of government, the local government—most people don’t vote for that. That’s crazy. That’s crazy because the mayors, the city councilmen, those people impact your life daily and they have an immediate impact. You need to know what’s going on in your local government. I just think it’s important that we exercise one of our God-given rights as Americans and that’s to go out and vote and make an impact. Whether you’re Republican, whether you’re Democrat, whether you’re Independent, you’ve got to vote. People always ask me: ‘Who did you vote for?’ I always tell them, ‘I voted American.’ I believe I voted for who I believe is going to be the best person for us.”

On if players have had conversations about voting:

“They have, and it’s interesting because the spectrum was huge just listening to these guys. A lot of them are voting emotionally, a lot are voting intellectually. Just listening to them talk about it and get into those conversations, I was just thinking: ‘Wow, this is really cool that our guys have taken this kind of interest.’ I was very pleased to hear our guys talk.”

On how Kerrigan helps younger players:

“Well, I see him talk to them about certain things as far as playing the game, preparing for the game, how to take care of their bodies. You bring it up and it’s interesting because I can remember when I first got into the league and it was very guarded. Guys were truly on the bubble. They really, truly understood what it meant to be on the bubble. I had veteran guys that either didn’t saddle up to a young player to help out, or actually told a young player something wrong and incorrect so the player would make a mistake. I don’t see that from guys like Ryan. Ryan is, like I said, the epitome of a true vet and a true pro.”

On the team’s opportunity after the bye:

“Well, the biggest thing more so than anything else is just looking at the standings in the NFC East. I told our guys in our meetings today: ‘I don’t care if we’re 8-8 and getting into the playoffs. You’ve just got to be invited to the dance, and then we’ll see what happens.’ We’ll see. Like I’ve said before, I’ve made it to the playoffs at 7-8-1 and people said we didn’t deserve to be there and we turn around and win our first playoff game and go on the road and scare the heck out of a good team. It doesn’t matter. However you can get in, get in.”

On what he does on Election Day:

“What I used to do is I used to get up early and go to the polling place as quick as I can and be one of the first people to vote. I love putting that sticker on that said I voted. I really do. And then I’d go to work and go to the stadium. Now, what we did—[wife] Stephanie and [daughter] Courtney and I did—is we filled out our ballots, put them in our envelope, and went and dropped them off at the drop box. This was about two weeks ago; I think it was. We made sure we went out and did it. What I’ve done in the past is, usually in the day around 5 o’clock, I turn the TV on, and I put it on the local news, and I listen to what’s going on locally. I have it on memory so I hit it and switch it over to that channel and I can get one of the major networks and listen to what they have to say, one of the cable networks and listen to what they have to say, and then switch it back to local because I really am interested in what happens locally as well.”

On being an advocate for universal healthcare:

“I would love to. The reason being, obviously, is after seeing what I went through and knowing what the cost has to be, you worry about the folks that can’t afford what I had. I almost don’t want to say it’s unfair, but it is. These folks deserve every opportunity. It just kind of struck a chord with me. Whether I get involved directly or whether I get involved with something else indirectly—I know Inova is doing their big fundraiser this coming Friday and I’m going to be a part of it. Those are the kinds of things that, if that’s all I can do, I’m going to do it. I just think that we need to understand that we need to have the Affordable Care Act, whether in its current structure or it’s been changed or corrected or fixed or being added onto, we need to have something for the folks of the United States of America. For us not to have affordable, quality healthcare and be the richest nation in the world, that’s kind of disappointing.”

On how COVID-19 affects the trade process:

“I think what it really has affected more so than anything else has been the whole free agency stuff in terms of bringing players in, working players out, finding those gems in the rough. Those are the things that I think are really being impacted because when you’re trading guys, you’re trading guys that are in the system. So, they’ll come over and they’ll get right back into the system as opposed to guys who are free agents. I don’t think that’s really that big of a deal.”

On offering free agent safety Eric Reid a practice squad spot:

“I thought it was a very good conversation with Eric. Eric and I were very honest with each other. Eric told me exactly what he was looking at. I told him exactly the reason why I offered him the veteran spot, the practice squad veteran spot, was that so he could get in, get his legs under him because he really had the opportunity to go into camp or be a part of anything. So, I wanted him to build his way up into it. Eric felt that he had kept himself in great shape and that he’d be ready for any action. He’s a smart football player, he really is. But I also wanted to give [S Jeremy] Reaves an opportunity. I’m one of those guys that—if you come to training camp, you work your butt off, you do everything that you’re supposed to, you deserve that opportunity before anybody else. That’s what I was kind of doing with Jeremy. He earned that right. He earned my respect as far as having gone through camp, not complaining, and doing things the right way. I wanted to give him a chance to be a part of the 53 and see where he is. I also didn’t want to bring a guy in right away and have him sitting in front of [S] Kam Curl. I thought Kam did a nice job last week. Kam has done a great job for us in our nickel package, what we call the Buffalo position, and I wanted to see what he has to do as well. But Eric and I had a great conversation. Eric is an honest young man. I’m very honest with Eric. That was what he decided, and I told him I completely respect that point of view. Like I said, I think he’s really one of the really good individuals that really is just a good person.”

On the importance of establishing the run:

“You basically just answered all the question for me [laughs]. When you do look at it, though, it’s one of those things when I get up and talk to you guys about how we stop somebody else. A great example is when we talked about the Rams. After we lost to the Rams, what did we do? We didn’t stop the running game, so it kept that play-action live. That’s how important it is to have success early running the football. Some people will go: ‘Oh, you were blowing them out. That’s why you rushed for 200 yards afterwards.’ Yeah, but what did we do at the beginning to keep it going? Were we successful in that first quarter? If you’re successful and you pop off a couple runs—let’s say you have four or five eight-yard runs in a row in the first quarter. Well, guess what happens in the second quarter? In the second quarter if you go harder play-action, you suck those linebackers up and all of a sudden that 17, 18-yard dig becomes a huge play. That’s why it’s important that you have success early. You might not run the ball as much in the second quarter because your play-action is going so well. Now all of a sudden you’ve got a three-touchdown lead and you get into the third quarter and you pound it, pound it, pound it and low-and-behold you rush for 200 yards. To your point, and to the example, if you don’t stop the running game it makes the play-action game that much more valuable.”

On what has clicked with the team:

“I think players have ‘aha-moments.’ All of a sudden it’s: ‘Ah, I see what the coaches are saying. I see what they’re trying to show us. OK, that makes sense.’ Again, part of it is we didn’t have OTAs. We didn’t have minicamp. We didn’t have a normal training camp for these guys to look and see and adapt and get used to things. What’s happening now is we’re having these aha-moments, and hopefully they continue where it makes sense. ‘That’s why Coach told us to do this. That’s why I should drop into this coverage. That’s why I run the route the way I run.’ You know, one of the neat aha moments that I’ve seen in the past is why a receiver understands he has to run a route at a certain pace. I’ve seen guys go: ‘OK, that makes sense now.’ I’ve seen linebackers go all of a sudden: ‘OK, the reason why I fall back on this and I don’t fall back on that is because of this.’ As a coach, that’s gratifying. But you wish they’d get it sooner. Right now, we’re kind of going through these aha-moments and, hopefully, they continue. Again, as the players see these little things and they make more and more sense, now you’re going to see them play with more discipline. They’re going to play faster. They’re going to get to where they need to be to make plays. That’s why aha-moments are so important.”

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