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Interview: Washington Football Coach Ron Rivera

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

ASHBURN, VA -- August 18, 2020 Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera spoke to the media after the first day in pads.

On what he saw from today’s practice:

“I was really pleased with what we saw initially. One of the things we want to do was make sure we were practicing with tempo. Up-tempo is really important as far as I’m concerned because again we want to learn to play fast, and that was one of the things we got out of today. I was pleased with some of the little things that we did, which was really good to see, but disappointed in some of the things we didn’t do. We had some alignment mistakes that you really shouldn’t have, mostly from our young guys, so they’re going to spend a little more time in their books. I think trying to get them to understand situational football, knowing that on third-down situations understand what the distance is because it makes a difference. It makes a difference how you play your coverage. It makes a difference on the types of routes you’re going to run. Guys have to be aware of situational football. It’s really important so it’s one of the things we were stressing out there. That was basically my message, making sure [players] know their assignments, know [their] job then go out and do it. Everybody else is depending on you. This is the ultimate team game and we can’t have one guy not doing his job.”

On how they are easing QB Alex Smith back into practice:

“Exactly what we did today. We’re very comfortable with his movement skills right now. We’re trying to slowly introduce him back into football in terms of being out there with other players. For the last few months, all he’s really done has been working out on his own, throwing to trainers and staff. Now he’s actually integrated where he’s working with other players. Today we introduced him back into 7-on-7. The best part about that, he didn’t have a pass rush to worry about, guys around his feet right now. We’re going to gradually reintroduce him.”

On S Landon Collins:

“He’s one of the guys that can step to the forefront and really help to solidify that forefront and the team. He’s a guy that can circle the troops. When you watch him play and watch the way he makes impacts on the football field, he’s a guy that’s earning that opportunity to do it. He was very active last year and did a lot of good things for this team. We’re expecting the same thing going forward. But we’re also expecting the leadership role from him. He’s been very good about it. You see him working with the young guys on the sideline. You see him buying in, trying to get a good feel and understanding for how we’re trying to do things. As long as he continues to grow, he’s going to be a guy that can truly help us.”

On getting closer to the team’s goal in padded practice:

“Every time we get an opportunity to watch our guys on the field compete, I think it helps us. It helps clears up some things. There are a couple positions that we looked at that we’ll probably talk about later, saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a couple guys here that have shown us something so let’s keep an eye on it.’ Or, ‘We might be player-deficient here so we’ve got to take a look at that.’ We’ll have conversations at the end of the week and get a chance to see where we are.”

On what he looks for in players with padded practices:

“How they handle the contact. How a guy might look good earlier because we weren’t in pads, so his movement is a little more fluid. He’s a little more explosive. Now you put the pads on and it changes, the fluidity isn’t there. The bulkiness of moving in the pads shows. You look for that in wide receivers, you look for that in defensive backs. You look for power; what kind of power a guy has when you look at the front. How are these guys blocking? How are these guys getting to gaps as defensive linemen? Pad changes the performance of a lot of guys, and some guys it either gets better than what you were seeing or it either gets worse than what you saw.”

On what he saw from Smith in the 7-on-7 drill:

“The thing that you’ve got to see to tell you he’s ready for the next one is foot movement. How is he going through his progression? Is he going through his progression with really fast feet and making the good movement decisions? Those are the things that you want to see so you can say, ‘He’s going through the progressions in a very quick fashion, so if it’s not there, he’s got to go here and get rid of the ball or do something.’ We’ve got to make sure his decision making is still there and his movement is still there before we can progress to the next phase.”

On what Smith did well:

“I saw the good movement when we were looking initially. We watched him go through it. His very first pass, he completed the pass on the swing to his left. What happened was he took his look through the middle of the defense to the side then went all the way to the slot. You see that he’s still in tune with that. He’s an old, wily veteran. He went right through his progression.”

On S Troy Apke:

“The biggest thing about Troy right now is he’s got a really good, athletic skillset. He’s got good range, good quickness. One thing he has to work on, obviously, is his angles. He’s got to improve those things. He’s a sharp, smart player. Really today was part of his rotation. I know yesterday I saw that you had talked about who we started out with on this offensive line, well today we had a different group. You’re going to see that, just so everybody knows. You’re going to see different combinations of guys. Very few positions are set in our mind as of now. We’ve got 12 workouts with these guys, had an opportunity to watch these guys, and there’s a couple spots where we feel very, very comfortable, so we’re not going to rotate through that. But other ones we’re still trying to find the right combination. So tomorrow you might see a different group of players on the left side of our offensive line. You might see a different combination of safeties in the secondary. You’re definitely going to see a different combination group of linebackers, that’s for sure. We’re going to continue to try to experiment. We’ve got a little bit of time, so we can go through a few more practices where we try to figure out who exactly is our best combination of players on the field at a time.”

On what makes a strong tandem of safeties:

“First of all, like any relationship, if you have the type of relationship where things can go unsaid yet you know what that other person is going to do, that’ll come in time. That’s probably the best thing you love to have, but that’ll come in time. But the communication aspect of it is very important. Making sure everybody knows where each other is supposed to be as well as the guys around them. I think the thing they’ve got to be able to do too is be almost interchangeable. So let’s say the strong safety is supposed to be down but there’s a shift in the motion and the other safety realizes that he’s not going to be in position, he can change and be in position and go down and play that spot. So, those are the types of things you’re looking for. You’re looking for great communication, a great combination of leadership between the two of them, and guys that understand and get it that they’re working with the rest of the defensive unit.

On LB Reuben Foster and if he watches players with injuries more carefully:

“You do. I’m going to be honest with you, you do. I’ve watched RB Bryce Love a little more today and again, Alex. Those are three guys that are on your mind just because they’re coming back from big time leg situations. It’s kind of fun to watch them out there and have some success. It was kind of, I got on Reuben a little bit. He put himself in great position and he kind of forgot his technique and the ball was thrown in his direction. One of those little things that if he continues with his technique, he’s got himself to make a play. It’s fun to watch him because it’s fun to watch him succeed and get more confident in his leg. There’s a satisfaction to that as well.”

On concern over accuracy with his quarterbacks: 

“That’s secondary right now because young quarterbacks, what you’re going to find is their brains, their minds, they’re going to see things before their body is in position to do it. With guys like Alex, if you watch Alex and how mechanically fluid he is, here and here, as he’s turning everything is moving together. His eyes, his shoulders, his hips, his feet are all moving together. But when you watch young quarterbacks, and I learned this in Carolina with [former Carolina offensive coordinator] Rob Chudzinski as we were talking about the development of Cam Newton. Watch how certain parts of his body aren’t in sync. His eyes might be over here, but his shoulders are still over here. He’s got to whip around to throw the ball, his tendency is to be late. Sometimes he gets ahead where his shoulders are already turned, his eyes are over here and he throws the ball way ahead. That’s what you’re trying to find with young quarterbacks. Is their body keeping up with their eyes. Is their decision making being in position to throw the ball properly. You’ll hear us talk about mechanics, you’ll hear us talking about footwork. Those are things that we’re looking for. As long as he’s making good reads, as long as he’s making good decisions, you’ll feel like your guys are progressing because you’re watching tape and you’re watching him throw it where you want him to throw it to that receiver, but he didn’t lay it out where it needed to be thrown. That’s what we’re looking for from our young quarterbacks.”

On some bad habits he has seen from them players and how he is trying to improve on those:

“They all have bad habits. They’ve been away from football for a long time and we didn’t have OTAs or minicamp, so we figured there would be a lot of bad habits we’ve got to get corrected. It’s not necessarily residual from last year, it’s just guys tend to fall back to what’s easiest to do right now. We’ve got to make sure that guys are understanding that this is how we do things. One of the things we asked players to do is to make sure they understand that, ‘Hey, we want you to do this a specific way. We’re teaching you a specific technique.’ If we do it the way that we’re talking about, and hey, glory goes to the players. If we don’t have success, it’s my responsibility because again, we have to put players in the best position to have success. And we may not be doing that, so we may have to reevaluate ourselves as well. We’re trying to get them to understand right now, this is how we do things and this is how we want it done.”

On a having a physical and aggressive practice:

“It was good. It was exciting. That’s always the hard part because you want to be smart, you want to practice the right way, you want to get something out of it but you also want to take care of your teammates. You try to avoid as many of the big time collisions as you can. Sometimes it’s just players getting juiced up. That is exciting. I do get excited about it. I had [DT] Jonathan Allen come up to me after a couple periods and say, ‘How much do you miss it? I know you wish you could still do it.’ He’s right. I do wish I could still do it. But unfortunately I can’t and I’m doing the next best thing, and that’s coaching.”

On the defensive line:

“The best thing that I saw was that these guys are starting to understand it and get used to it. Coming from a different style than what we’re playing now – we’ve gone from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 base. It’s a little bit different, a little bit different technique. Some of the guys are a little stubborn and reluctant, they’re using their old techniques. We’re trying to get them to understand that these techniques that we’re showing them will work best with this type of defense. When they have success, you can see the lightbulbs starting to go on. When you don’t see the success, you start to see the frustration. Some of these guys are wearing the frustration on their sleeves, which is great. But also you want to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to move on. Learn from it and go onto the next play. That’s one thing I saw from the D-Line. As far as the offensive line, you can see the nuances they’re starting to learn. There are some techniques they’ve got to improve on. One thing that our guys have felt really good about was what [former offensive line coach Bill] Callahan had done and the stamp he put on a lot of these young players. You see that good work ethic. [Offensive line coach John] Matsko has picked up on it and he’s trying to install his way of doing it for this offensive line plan. That’s been a big plus. I’ve been very happy with that. As far as the individuals that looked good out there, I was very pleased with [DE] Montez [Sweat] and [DE] Chase [Young]. I think we’ve got a good group of young, young guys. It’s exciting to watch them. [DE] Ryan Kerrigan is really starting to show a feel for putting his hand in the ground every play. That’s been neat. The four tackles have been all exciting as far as defensive tackles. That’s been a really cool thing. I think the left side of the line battle is shaping up nicely as far as our left guard and left tackle combinations. We’ll continue to monitor that and watch because we’ve got some guys who I think have a chance to help us.”

On QB Dwayne Haskins working with the 1’s:

“One of the things that we’re going to try to do and continue to talk about is put us in the best position in terms of working guys with different groups of players. We’ll continue to do that. I don’t know if you noticed, even though Dwayne was with the first line, he wasn’t always with the first group of receivers or running backs or tight ends. We’re constantly rolling those groups of guys in and out. We’re trying to find the best combination. Probably the only wide receiver that’s been mostly with Dwayne has been [WR] Terry [McLaurin]. You do see those two guys typically in together at the same time. But mostly, you do see those guys in different groups.”

On how Haskins practiced:

“I thought Dwayne did some really good things. I thought he made some really good decisions. Again, he’s a guy who – we look at this offense and with these quarterbacks, with all of these quarterbacks, we’re going to talk about decision making more than we’re going to be talking about anything else. I think that’s really important. I think that’s really, really important.”

On DE Ryan Anderson and T Saahdiq Charles not being out at practice:

“I’m going to be very blunt about the injury situation just so you understand. I don’t have to give you an injury report before it’s time. You guys do get injury reports. I’m going to be very basic because I’m not the doctor. All I can really tell you and I’ll basically regurgitate what it says – I just want to be fair with the players. Again, the less our opponents know about our guys the best it is for our guys, period, to be safe with them. The only thing I will tell you is Ryan did work off to the side. We’re monitoring that situation. It’s a minor thing right now. It’s one of those things where we just have to see where it goes. Saahdiq had a minor injury as well. We’ve got to kind of work through that with him as well. Hopefully they’ll both be out there within the next day or two. We’ll see what happens. But just so you guys know, I’m going to be very vague with that stuff. I do have to say, I hope everybody saw the announcement we made yesterday about Jason Wright joining us as our president. It’s a very exciting time for us. I think that some of the things Mr. [Dan] Snyder has done for us the last couple of weeks has been very positive for our franchise going forward. I’m really excited about it. I had the opportunity to know who Jason is as a player. Now more importantly, I’ve gotten to know him as a man. I didn’t realize after we had made the announcement – I got text messages from several people and I didn’t realize how many people we had in common threads and people that we knew. It’s been really neat. It’s been a thing that I think is great because we’re going to be working together as we try to get everything going in the right direction as far as the Washington Football Team is concerned. Just real pleased with the things that have happened and I appreciate Mr. Snyder doing those things for us.”

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