Ron Rivera respects his young quarterback’s toughness and wants him to lead the 2-0 Washington Commanders by “being themselves.” The head coach is in a different mental place this year now that the constant chaos surrounding the Commanders is gone. He joins me on his drive in to FedEx Field on Sunday morning.
Q: Good morning Coach, how did your day start?
Rivera: “I naturally get up around 6:15 and 6:30. I lay out the clothes I’m gonna wear … for the most part they’ve been hung up and I just take them off the hanger and lay them out. Then I pack my luggage and bag. I take a shower and head down to breakfast. I get a chance to check in on the guys and see how they are doing. It’s interesting how many of our guys get up so early for breakfast. It’s their routine. Once I finished breakfast, I’m in my car driving in. That’s when I go through my own mental checklist stuff as far as the game is concerned.”
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Q: You are at the field very early for a 1 p.m. game. Why?
Rivera: “I get there early, mostly so I can see the team chiropractor before the day starts. Get ahead of all the players and get a little pressure taken off of my body. I then go to my office at the stadium and get my iPad set up. I’m putting on the Raiders–Bills game from last week. I think I’ll probably watch the second quarter. It was really good. It was a good quarter for Buffalo, so I’ll watch the second quarter of their offense. And then once I get done with that, I’ll meet with my coordinators and staff. If ownership is around, I’ll also meet with them. By then it’s probably about two hours before game time. And then I’ll kind of pop into the locker room and check the players out and see what music they’re playing.”
Q: Why do you check on the music?
Rivera: “When the music’s going, their personalities are showing. If this music isn’t on, then I’m concerned. I was worried about Wweek 1 against Arizona, our first game. There was no music on. So I went up to some players and said, What’s going on? They said, Well, guys have their own music on in their headsets, so I said, Well, I need your personalities to show. Put the music on! Let’s go!
“Last week, they had the music on and they had the personality going. I want that. I don’t want him them uptight, because we are a young team.”
Q: You are young, and so is QB Sam Howell, what can you guarantee we will see from Howell today?
Rivera: “Oh, Sam is going to play tough! He is all toughness and resilience. I mean, it’s crazy how this young man goes out there and he’s so steady … so resilient. And his teammates love that about him. He accepts responsibility. He’s resilient. He’s not as boisterous, he’s not as emotional outwardly as a lot of other guys, but he’s so steady.”
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Q: You have a chance to go 3-0. It’s been decades in Washington since this team has started this hot. How do you stay undefeated?
Rivera: “The Bills are a damn good team. We talk about ‘who’ we’re playing more so than anything else. I told our guys, we’ve played these types of teams in the past and we’ve done pretty well against them. Three years ago we played Pittsburgh when they were undefeated, two years ago we played Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs when they came in, and then last year we played Philadelphia. So we’ve played teams that are in this position of strength, well-rounded teams that are well-coached teams, teams that have good players.
“So hey, this is nothing new for us. We just got to go out and do our thing and play our game.”
Q: All around the league, players and coaches have shared that the Commanders just feel different with new owners. How has new ownership influenced this Commanders team?
Rivera: “New ownership, new outlook. They came in and talked about all the different things that they want to do to help us, to put us in a position where we just have to focus on football. They talked about helping us and actually doing things.
“They started purchasing stuff for us for practice. We wanted some new practice clocks so the coaches, the players with the quarterback, will be able to see the 40-second clock. So they got us these gigantic ones. They are huge. They’re big screen TVs that are out on the field now, and you can see the clock ticking now. We needed new speakers for crowd noise so we can play the crowd noise during practices. They got these two gigantic portable ones for us right away. We needed this new stuff in the training room and all sudden, the new stuff was there.
“Mr. Harris and some of the ownership will come by and have lunch with a player and staff member. They sit down and have a chat session with seven or eight or nine of these guys and catch up with the guys. They answer their questions too. The players then share with me they think it’s cool that the owners let them ask questions that give us answers. Yes, it’s all new, but they want to listen to these guys. So that’s been really helpful for our players.”
(Photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)