“But deep down – and forgive me for putting it that way – it just makes me angry.”
Little did he know what to expect after these comments.
In the 72 hours after his Washington Football team beat up the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, Rivera learned that all team facilities would be closed earlier this week. that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ meeting with the Baltimore Ravens was postponed a second time because the number of positive coronavirus tests rose; that the Denver Broncos would play a game without a quarterback after contact tracing revealed they were “high risk”; and that Washington’s December 13 game against the 49ers is unlikely to take place in Santa Clara, California, as the city has ordered an emergency ban on all sporting activities for at least three weeks.
Rivera’s life was turned upside down this year as he remodeled with a new team that changes name and addresses allegations from the past while managing his own cancer diagnosis and the weight of a global pandemic.
For Rivera, the “player-coach,” whose reputation rests largely on his value on relationships and human interaction, the virtual world is challenging.
“I’m a person who doesn’t like the Zoom concept and I hold meetings with Zoom because it’s difficult to see everyone’s reactions,” Rivera told reporters on Monday through Zoom. “Sometimes I say something sarcastic and I want to see your boys’ reaction and I can’t and some people may get it wrong. So I tried not to be sarcastic because sarcasm and humor don’t translate. So I tried to be aware of it.
“And so it’s hard and you get frustrated and honest when you are told … that we’re going into these next steps of the protocol, that was frustrating.” It was really. But I understand. I get it. We have to be safe. “
For Rivera, the team’s de facto general manager, he had to manage a roster in a way he might never have imagined, to accommodate potential disaster situations like the Broncos’ and to ensure backups in critical locations remained available. Because of this, team kicker / punter added Kaare Vedvik to their training team, but the quarterbacks room, which started with four players, has dropped to three following the injury to Kyle Allen at the end of the season.
“We try to make sure that at certain times the backups and the trainees understand that they need to stay separate. That’s why we’re now trying to strengthen it even more. We spoke as staff this week about how we need to make sure these guys all understand they have it. You have to keep the social distance. “
Rivera has pondered the possibility that the NFL may have to suspend their season, and even that they might not end the season at all. The league changed its testing protocols as the season progressed, introducing stricter rules for wearing masks, with heavy fines for those who violate them.
But it hasn’t canceled any games yet, even as the number of cases has increased. Even among teams that only have 10 starters (Baltimore) or no quarterbacks (Denver) or no place to practice or hold games (San Francisco).
However, the chaos of week 12 of the NFL left Washington’s future uncertain. After Sunday’s 13th week game in Pittsburgh, which runs for now but could change if players test positive before the weekend, Washington will likely head west somewhere to play the 49ers, but where exactly is unknown . Arizona and Dallas were raised as options.
At the end of the season, Washington is returning home to meet up with Rivera’s old team, the Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, before heading to Philadelphia with what may be a playoff berth.
“We are monitoring it, but one that is currently affecting it more than anyone is our football operations director, Paul Kelly,” he said. “So I’ll let him worry about all of this and I’ll try to hopefully focus everyone on Pittsburgh.”
Washington (4-7) ranks second in the NFC East after the New York Giants win on Sunday, and how it deals with the uncertainty and difficult expansion of the opponents could ultimately become a measure of their growth.
Washington returns to training on Wednesday and Rivera’s message was simply to “be ready”.
“You need to talk about it,” he said. “And that’s really the only thing we’ve done is that we’ve just talked about the situation we’re in and we’re trying to make sure the guys understand the importance of being adaptable. … I told the coaches that and I told the players we can’t do a big deal if something changes. When you worry about this, the interesting thing becomes important. And we don’t want that. It’s not important. It’s interesting. It is different. We’ll deal with it and move on. “
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