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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 4, 2020

Opening Statement:

“Just to let you guys know, in talking today with some of the captains and team leaders, with [S] Landon [Collins] having gone through surgery and on IR, we had a team captain position open up. The players unanimously asked that [WR] Terry McLaurin be made a team captain. So, they made him a team captain today. We announced it today after practice, and the guys were very fired up. I’m very happy for Terry. A very well-earned honor.”

On McLaurin’s leadership:

“What’s been impressive is, for such a young man and such a young player, to be as mature as he is first and foremost and be the right kind of person that you want to be one of your leaders. He leads by example. A very quiet leader who just goes out and does his job. But his performance does most certainly speak on the field whether it is practice or game time. I think that is one of the things that impresses his teammates, especially his veteran teammates that all felt unanimously about it. So, like I said, it’s a heck of an honor and just glad to see that he gets the kind of recognition that he deserves.”

On not making trades before the deadline and changing the roster at the bottom:

“Well, I think the biggest thing more so for us—and I talked about it last week, I had a couple questions come up—if you’re going to make a deal, you want to make a deal for a guy that has a couple years left on his contract that’s in a favorable position for you so that when it does come to fruition, you can get a contract and it’s not going to kill you on your cap. A lot of times when a guy gets offered and a lot of times when people talk about it, they want to trade guys that are in their last year. Well, that’s going to be tough if you make a deal and all of a sudden, the guy’s gone in a year. I went through that a couple times in Carolina. Unless it was something that we really felt was something that’s going to knock our socks off, we were going to stay away from things. What you try to do is you try to find the right kind of guys, you bring those guys in, and you stick with them. A lot of people talked to me about [former Carolina safety] Eric Reid. I love Eric Reid, I really do. I think Eric Reid should be playing in this league because he’s a good football player. But we had [S] Jeremy [Reaves] who I believe deserved the opportunity because he had a good camp, a lot of good tape from last year. I want to stick with some of the guys that were here in camp to see where they are and to see if they really are the type of guys that should be here on this football team. It’s funny, I had an opportunity to talk to Jeremy a little bit today and said: ‘Hey, this is your opportunity, go out and show us.’ So that’s what I believe in. Again, we’re going to mix some things up at the bottom of our roster. [Vice President of Player Personnel] Kyle [Smith] and I were trying to find the right kind of people to break in and add them to our roster, but it’s hard with the COVID thing right now because you can’t bring guys in right now and work them out. These guys have been working their butts off. Again, this is something I feel very strongly about in terms of, if we can grow guys from inside, we’re going to certainly do that.”

On how receivers returning from injury will help the offense:

“Not just that, but for practice. Holy smokes. I was trying to figure out where we got all those guys from. But it will be, I think it will help [offensive coordinator] Scott [Turner] in terms of both will be veteran guys in terms of guys that were here during training camp. The last game we played, we had [WR Tony] Brown and [WR Jeff] Badet that were both guys that we had brought in and they didn’t go through training camp. Those guys, for the most part were young and didn’t quite know everything. That made play calling tough on Scotty, and I thought Scotty did a good job handling it in the last couple of games with a limited number of players. Now, having guys that have gone through camp that are back working and hopefully ready to go on Sunday, it’ll allow us to really open up what we want to do as far as the offense is concerned.”

On how Turner has improved throughout the season:

“I think the biggest thing is getting into a rhythm. Sometimes we as play callers—and I did it as a coordinator as well—is you try to get into a rhythm, you try to find something that’s working, and sometimes you reach. I’ve seen Scotty get more and more comfortable. I think part of it has to do with having a guy out there that knows about the system. It can help you in terms of being comfortable with what you call. That I think is one of the good things. The other thing that helps is we’ve been running the ball well the last few games. If we can continue to do that—and this will be a hell of a challenge now because they really are one of the top run defenses in the league—it helps as far as the rhythm’s concerned. I’ve been really pleased with the rhythm Scotty has had. I’ve been really pleased with some of the innovations he’s come up with. We ran a couple plays that have really hit for good gains. Again, we’ve got to keep that rhythm going. Another thing we have to continue to do as a football team is continue to protect the ball on offense.”

On if S Kamren Curl staying in one position changes how he is evaluated:

“No, not necessarily. Because, again, it does change his focus. That’s a heck of a question. It is a really good question because it does change his focus because now, he’s really looking primarily at safety. What you don’t want to do is when you start going to your sub packages is taking one guy and moving him down to another spot because now you’ve got to plug in a whole other guy. So basically, you’ve got two new guys at two new spots. But with Cam, because his focus is safety now, we can leave him there and we’ll have somebody else to plug in at that big nickel position. Again, instead of moving two guys, we can put ourselves in the position to only move one spot. Again, Kam is a bright young man. He works hard at it. I’ve been very pleased with his progress so far.”

On if Curl will focus on one position long-term:

“Well, he’s such a smart football player. He reminds me, obviously, of a young [CB Kendall] Fuller, a guy that can give you some position flex in case you have some injuries. Or you want to do some sub-package stuff because, again, here’s a guy that is replacing a heck of a football player in Landon. When Landon gets back, we’re going to have a great situation where we can play Kam at different positions. Again, just going forward, we’ve got a lot to look at and a lot to watch. We just feel Kam is a heck of a football player who can help us.”

On evaluating the team during the bye week:

“Defensively, we could’ve been better on third downs. If we’ve had an Achilles heel on defense, it was the third downs situation. Now, there were a lot of medium to short situations that we had. But overall, very pleased with what we did defensively. Offensively, it really comes down to protecting the ball. If you go back and look at the games we lost—games that you can point to and say: ‘Hey, we had a chance’—you can say Cleveland, you can say Arizona. We had some key turnovers that really hurt us, and they took advantage as football teams. You sit there and say, OK those games—and New York—you have three games that you can point at and say turnovers really cost us. And special teams, I’ve been really pleased with the effort we’ve gotten, I really have. We did have a couple mistakes that did hurt us. We turned the ball over in Arizona, that hurt us. We gave up a fake against Baltimore, that did hurt us. But I have been very pleased as far as effort from our players in all three phases.”

On if position flex is becoming more common:

“I think so because you have to be able to adapt and match. With so many different things that you can do now, if you watch teams they come out and they play base offense. They’ll come out in 21 and 12-personnel base offense. Now all of a sudden, you have a special tight end and all of a sudden you start flexing him out as a wide receiver. Now if you stay in base, what they’re going to do is they’re going to target and go after it. So now you’ve got to go to your nickel package. If you go to your nickel package and you put a true nickel out there, now they’re going to bring him in and they’re going to run the football right at your nickel. Now you’ve got a kid like a Kam Curl that can play what we call quote unquote the big nickel or the Buffalo nickel. Now, you have a guy with position flex. Now he can play inside or outside.”

On having fans at FedExField this Sunday:

“I think it’s going to be cool. I really do because I did feel the friends and family at Dallas, and that was special. It really was. I was very happy for our guys because they had the family and friends up in the fans. I do look forward to having some roughly 3,000 fans. I do know that one of the things [Owner] Mr. [Dan] Snyder and [President] Jason [Wright] want to be aware of is really the safety of our fans and making sure everybody sticks to the protocols. I’m really excited about it. I know our players will be excited about it. It’s really kind of cool to slowly integrate our fans back into the game because we truly do miss them. Believe me, I would’ve loved to have a full house against Dallas. That would’ve been energizing, it really, truly would’ve.”

On his former teams performing better in the second half of the season:

“Well, I’ll say this: if you look at my first two years in Carolina, it was really about the development and growing. That’s what I hope we are is that we’re developing and growing right now. As the year goes on, hopefully we’re playing the right way, we’re doing the right things and we can win some football games down the stretch. That’s what I’m hoping for and that’s why. I will say this, too though, training camp in Carolina was brutal. We’d go down to South Carolina and go to Wofford because it wasn’t hot enough in Charlotte, we just felt we needed more heat. No, I’m just kidding. It was brutal, though. Honestly, training camp—I can remember having training camp where the temperature didn’t get below 95 with the humidity. I think it wears down a little bit, so we started slow. But as the guys recovered and recuperated, I thought their energy levels came back up and we played better down the stretch.”

On if he feels well-positioned to improve play in the second half of the season:

“I hope so, I really do. But we have a tough schedule and we’ve got some really good football teams coming up. We’ve got to be at our best if we hope to make some noise. These next few weeks are very important in terms of this NFC East race. We’ve got an NFC East opponent coming in with the Giants. I believe Detroit next I think. After that we play Cincinnati. These are good, young football teams as well. Nothing’s for granted. We’ve got to focus in and we’ve got to take them one at a time in terms of the NFC East. This is a big game coming up for us with the Giants.”

On evaluating the back-up quarterback position:

“I don’t see any changes right now, but I do appreciate the way [QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.] has been working. I think Dwayne is understanding. Again, he and I have talked, and I said: ‘Dwayne, this really is about your development and growth.’ He’s a young, young quarterback. I’ve said this before, he played what—12 games in college or 13 games in college? Then he’s in the NFL and he played some games last year, this year we gave him a lot of opportunities and you still see the rawness. To me, it’s really about him developing and growing. He’s going to have opportunities. But right now, we’ve got [QB] Kyle [Allen] as our one, [QB] Alex [Smith] as our two, and he’s our three. We’ll go from there.”

On Election Day:

“Honestly, I have no idea what’s transpired since we came out for practice. Again, just the process. I think we as Americans have to appreciate the democratic process that we have. People went out and did their—I don’t want to call it their duty, but they exercised their right to vote. Because of it, there are so many people that voted and there are so many votes that have to be counted. That’s why it’s taken a while. But the truth of the matter is, to expect to have had an answer by now is a little ludicrous because we shattered records. I guess the last time we had votes like this it was early 1900s. This is an amazing thing. We just, again, as Americans have to respect the process. Let’s respect the outcome whatever it is.”

On what he wants to see from Allen long-term:

“If we’re looking at the long-term, the biggest thing is to continue to develop. The guy has a tremendous, terrific arm. He’s a good decision-maker, so far. But the one thing he has struggled with is protecting the football. He’s done a good job. I’ve seen him have success; I really have. I was with him at one point where he won six games in a row. You sit there and you see these things that he’s capable of and you know what his potential can be. For me, it’s just continued growth. It’s the same thing I talk about with Dwayne, it’s continued growth. Dwayne has a little bit of a handicap because he’s only been in the system for a year, when Kyle’s been in it for three. So, as we watch these young guys out here it’s going to be about development, development and growth, growth, growth more so than anything else as we continue to go forward with young quarterbacks. Quite honestly, as Alex gets his opportunity, with Alex it’s just going to be about consistency.”

On his decision-making before the trade deadline:

“I will tell you this: Kyle and I had a lot of conversations about a lot of guys in terms of out there, what people were throwing out in terms of potential: ‘Hey, we want to trade you this guy.’ We talked a little bit about those things. For me personally, looking at where we are, what we have, I’m curious about the guys we have. I really am. I want to see that. What makes this different and difficult, like I said, is because of the COVID thing. You have so many guys out there that you’d love to bring in, run through workouts and trade out at the bottom, but you don’t know. Because of that, I just felt like slow-playing a lot of things was probably more important for us going forward. Plus, you always have to take into consideration what those salary cap impacts will be in terms of what we want to do with the guys that are on our roster right now. We’ve got a lot of good football players – a lot of good, young football players and we’ve got to make decisions on going into next season.”

On playing a team coming off Monday Night Football:

“I think that can be a little bit overrated in today’s NFL. But, if it plays to our advantage, great. But I know how hard scheduling is. I know how scheduling kind of throws things through a loop. It’s the Thursday night scheduling that kind of throws things as well. We’ll see how it goes, though.”

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