Sep 25, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera greets quarterback Carson Wentz (11) before the game between the Washington Commanders and the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera: ‘Quarterback’ why Commanders are last in NFC East

When Ron Rivera was asked Monday why the other teams in the NFC East are further along in rebuilding their teams than the Washington Commanders, Rivera had a one-word answer: “Quarterback.”

The Washington coach soon clarified that he had no regrets over the team’s blockbuster trade to acquire Carson Wentz amid the team’s 1-4 start.

“No, I got no regrets about the quarterback,” Rivera said. “I think our quarterback has done some good things. There’s been a couple games that he struggled, but you look at his numbers from yesterday and you would say, OK, look, at his numbers he’s had throughout the year, there was a time he was very solid. And then we had the unfortunate Philadelphia game, and he struggled a bit in the Dallas game.

“But the way he performed (Sunday against Tennessee), it just shows you what he’s capable of and we chose him because we believe in him. We chose him because we looked at what we felt were things that pointed towards him.”

The Commanders are looking up at the Philadelphia Eagles (5-0), the New York Giants (4-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) in the division. Philadelphia jettisoned Wentz two years ago to make Jalen Hurts the centerpiece of its offense; now the Eagles are the only unbeaten team in football.

The Giants are getting more out of Daniel Jones in his fourth NFL season after declining to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. And the Cowboys, who lost Dak Prescott to a broken thumb in their Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, have won four straight games behind backup Cooper Rush.

The Commanders, on the other hand, opened the season by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and have lost four in a row since.

Wentz has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,390 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also taken 20 sacks in five games and lost one fumble. On Sunday, he threw an interception at the Tennessee 2-yard line at the end of the game to let the Titans escape with a 21-17 win.

Rivera said the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and teams can only build success “around a specific quarterback.”

Alex Smith, who was with Washington in 2018-20 and overlapped with Rivera in 2020, called out his former coach while appearing as an analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.”

“I’m not going to lie, I had a really hard time watching that. When I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not here to defend Carson Wentz, he’s had a tumultuous career and ups and downs. But this is a defensive head coach that is absolutely driving the bus over his quarterback.”

Smith noted that Wentz ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards, while the Commanders ranked 28th in rushing offense and tied for 26th in scoring defense.

“The blame has got to be spread around,” Smith said.

–Field Level Media

Jul 29, 2022; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Commanders players' helmets rest on the field during day three of training camp at the Park in Ashburn. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Washington trainer appears in court over drug investigation

Ryan Vermillion, the former head trainer of the Washington Commanders, appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. on Friday to face charges of illegal prescription drug distribution.

The Drug Enforcement Agency raided Washington’s team headquarters in Ashburn, Va. last October in connection with their investigation into Vermillion, who was fired by the Commanders on Friday. He stands accused of giving NFL players oxycodone without a prescription.

Vermillion agreed to deferred prosecution, meaning the charges against him could be dropped if he complies with the court’s conditions over the next 12 months.

The NFL also suspended Vermillion indefinitely. Until Friday, he had been on administrative leave with the team.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office statement of facts, prosecutors said Vermillion only distributed the painkillers to players who sustained football-related injuries and he did not receive any financial benefits on the side from doing so.

However, Vermillion is not a licensed physician and was not legally authorized to prescribe medication. The Commanders have two physicians who could have prescribed oxycodone to players if they deemed it necessary. Vermillion allegedly had one of the team physicians’ prescribing pads, per prosecutors.

Prosecutors also allege Vermillion distributed leftover medication to players, sometimes on team flights.

Vermillion worked for the Carolina Panthers for 18 seasons. When former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera took the same position in Washington in 2020, he brought Vermillion along.

“For many years, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact Ryan has on a team,” Rivera told the team website at the time. “His primary focus has always been the health of the players and he is going to be a tremendous addition to the Redskins.”

Rivera released a statement about Vermillion’s situation Friday, in which he emphasized that the government “viewed the organization as a witness, and not as a subject or target of the investigation.”

“I was recently made aware that Ryan Vermillion has entered into an agreement, pursuant to which he has admitted to wrongdoing, but will not be charged with any crime so long as he satisfies certain conditions over the next 12 months,” Rivera said. “The situation is unfortunate and although it resulted in no criminal charges, it was necessary to move forward in a different direction. Ryan’s employment has been terminated.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 20, 2020; Ashburn, Virginia, USA; Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99), head coach Ron Rivera (M), and quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) walk to the field prior to day twenty-three of training camp at Inova Sports Performance Center in Ashburn, Virginia. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders DE Chase Young (ACL) to miss start of 2022 season

Playing Week 1 of the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars appears unlikely for Commanders defensive end Chase Young, Washington coach Ron Rivera said Friday.

Young is recovering from a torn ACL, and the team wants to be cautious bringing him back due to the severity of the injury.

“Unfortunately, because of the injury, it’s a different injury than (tight end Logan Thomas’), a little more severe, he’s probably going to miss a little bit of time,” Rivera said in a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan. “But again, as he gets better and better and healthier and healthier… Chase and I had a conversation, and I said, ‘Look, don’t push yourself. This is not just about this season, but it’s also about the future. We didn’t draft you to come in and not be here eight, nine, 10, 12 years, whatever it is. We drafted you to be a big part of what we do.’”

The former No. 2 overall pick and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is a candidate to be placed on injured reserve to start the season, which would require him to miss the first four games.

Rivera said the Commanders are extra sensitive to pushing players back to daily on-field work following the setbacks wide receiver Curtis Samuel experienced last summer.

“It was a pretty extensive repair, those just take time and patience,” Rivera said of Young. “Last year, we might have pushed Curtis too much. So this year, what we’ve done, we’ve backed up, looked at everybody, and said, ‘Hey, we know there is a timeframe that you say look, OK, this is when we’ll get this guy back.’ But we’ve got to be really careful with this one just because of who he is for us. Shoot, he’s a first-round pick that can be an impact player. He did, showing us what he could do his rookie year.”

Young, 23, was limited to nine starts last season. He has nine sacks, 16 quarterback hits and six forced fumbles in 24 career starts.

–Field Level Media

Jun 10, 2021; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera stands on the field during drills as part of minicamp at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera pleads with WFT anti-vaxxers to get vaccinated

Cancer survivor Ron Rivera, head coach of the Washington Football Team, is confounded by the anti-vaccination sentiment evident in his team’s league-low vaccination numbers.

Rivera, who is immunocompromised after a battle with cancer in 2020, didn’t mask his frustration with players on the Washington Football Team for dragging their feet in seeking COVID-19 immunizations.

As of July 26, the NFL said the Washington Football Team was only 60 percent vaccinated.

“I’m truly frustrated. I’m beyond frustrated. Part of the reason I walk in with a mask on is I’m immune-deficient. And with this new variant … who knows,” Rivera said. “I just hope that our guys can understand that.”

Hoping not to be forced to add COVID survivor to the medical challenges he has defeated, Rivera allowed he will share information but ask players to make their own decision.

“I think the big thing really is — have individual conversations,” he said. “I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. I hope we can get to these guys, to help them understand it’s not just to them, but also the folks around them.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera looks on from the sidelines against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera’s family says he’s cancer free

Five months after Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera shared that he was undergoing cancer treatments, members of his family celebrated online Thursday that he has won his battle with cancer.

Rivera’s daughter, Courtney, works with the team’s social media, and she tweeted Thursday that she had “just gotten off the phone with mom and dad leaving the hospital @RiverboatRonHC is officially cancer free!!!”

Rivera announced on Aug. 20 that he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer and needed to undergo nearly two months chemotherapy and proton therapy during the season. His treatment lasted until Oct. 26, but even though his energy levels were sapped during the process, he missed only three practices and never missed a game as his team captured the NFC East Division championship.

Although Ron Rivera and the team did not comment publicly Thursday, his wife, Stephanie, tweeted that, “Prayers have been answered. Thx to all the Drs & nurses who “Coached up” @RiverboatRonHC and me and gave us the winning game plan to defeat cancer. The PET scan said it all, cancer you lost this fight! #RiveraStrong.”

“I was amazed. Usually our patients, halfway in, stop working,” Dr. John Deeken, the medical oncologist and president of the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, told ESPN in November. “Most of our patients toward the end of their treatment are very close to needing to be hospitalized because there are so many complications.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Smith might be Washington’s best QB option for 2021

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera is starting to believe his 2021 quarterback is on the current roster. A guy named Alex Smith.

Rivera has been impressed with Smith’s production over the past two weeks as the 36-year-old has put up yardage outputs of 325 and 390 yards after replacing injured Kyle Allen (ankle).

Smith has gone from feel-good story to the best quarterback option for the Washington Football Team. Smith suffered a gruesome right leg injury two years ago, a setback so severe that amputation was a possibility. He endured 17 surgeries before he was deemed clear to return to football earlier this year.

“You judge him by his performance,” Rivera told reporters on Monday. “You don’t get caught up in his story, you don’t get caught up in his age. Now, when you talk about going forward, now you talk about these other things.”

Other things typically include the contract for an older NFL player. Smith is due $40 million in base salary over the next two seasons as part of a four-year, $94 million pact.

Also, can Smith be counted on to perform at a high level over a 17-game NFL season? That will be part of the evaluation process.

“You’ve got to look at how much longer do you think he can play? How much longer does he want to play? And if so, is he part of your plan? That’s something that we as a coaching staff and as an organization have to talk about, most certainly if this continues, if he continues to play at this high level.”

The one thing Rivera does know is the old Alex Smith is now on the field for Washington. At least it appeared that way as Smith completed 38 of 55 passes against the Detroit Lions in his first start since suffering the compound fracture of the right tibia and a fracture of the right fibula in a game against the Houston Texans on Nov. 18, 2018.

“He’s pretty much back,” Rivera said. “There’s still some things that he still has to work on, and he knows that, and he’ll continue to work on them, but this really was his first full week of work. But I think that he’s proven that he’s back as the player, and again, that’s something that we’re going to most certainly discuss going forward.”

Smith was also encouraged despite the team’s 30-27 setback. He has been sacked 10 times in three appearances and the leg has held up fine.

“That was the scary part is how normal it felt,” Smith said of Sunday’s game. “I’ve got to pinch myself how lucky I am to feel that way. I’m lucky to progress this far and that I am where I am.”

Smith was a three-time Pro Bowler in five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs (2013-17) before being traded to Washington. He also was the No. 1 overall selection of the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 and started 75 games for that franchise.

Perhaps another factor in Smith’s favor for next season is that Rivera doesn’t appear overly fond of 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins. Rivera inherited Haskins and recently said the quarterback needs to work on his preparation skills.

Haskins began the season as the starter and passed for 939 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions before losing the job to Allen. He was sacked 13 times in four games.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team as part of the NFL s Crucial Catch honors head coach Ron Rivera with a banner and cutouts of friends and family against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Rivera to coach Washington through treatment

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera plans to remain on the sideline through the final three weeks of his ongoing cancer treatment.

Rivera appeared to be physically exhausted during Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in August, but has missed only two practices and part of another.

Rivera said doctors told him his prognosis is very good and a full recovery is expected. He shared his story with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.

“It’s who I am,” Rivera said of his plan to remain in his head-coaching role the rest of October during treatment.

“Listening to the doctors talking about how important it is to try and do as much of the routine as possible, but they also tell you, ‘Hey, be careful, listen to your body.’ And also, there’s other people watching me, so I’m just trying to set the example.”

Rivera has former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio, Washington’s defensive coordinator, to rely on if he misses practices or eventually is not well enough for game day.

Friends and family purchased 400 cardboard cutouts for a section of the stadium on Sunday to show their support through the American Cancer Society. Rivera said he didn’t know anything about the gesture, which caused an emotional reaction.

“As [ESPN anchor] Stuart Scott said, ‘I have it; it doesn’t have me.’ And it’s not how far I have to go, but it’s how far I’ve gone,” Rivera said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) drags down Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) by the shirt for a sack during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Haskins to remain Washington’s QB, for now

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins hasn’t lost the support of coach Ron Rivera — yet.

The Washington Football Team lost to the Cleveland Browns 34-20 on Sunday, and Haskins completed just 21 of 37 passes for 224 yards. His two touchdown passes were overshadowed by three interceptions and a 58.8 QB rating.

Rivera said Monday morning that the team played hard and deserved a better outcome in Cleveland.

“There were a lot of guys that put their heart out on the field and, truthfully, they deserve better,” Rivera said.

“When you look at the way Daron (Payne) played and Jonathan (Allen) and Montez (Sweat), guys like that are leaving it on the field. Jon Bostic. Guys played hard. Then you turn around to the offensive side and you look at those guys on the offensive line were battling and fighting, too, and the things that the backs and the receivers and the tight ends.”

Rivera said he wasn’t ready to abandon Haskins, a first-round draft pick in 2019, and turn to Kyle Allen or veteran Alex Smith.

“I mean, you have to say at some point there is, and I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” Rivera said.

Haskins, 23, has completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 625 yards, with four touchdowns and three picks in leading Washington to a 1-2 mark. His passing percentage is lowest in the league. The team is averaging 288.0 yards per game — better than only the winless New York Giants (272.3) and Jets (263.7).

The defense, however, is keeping Washington in games, surrendering the seventh-fewest yards per game (334.3).

Rivera said Haskins must work on correcting “untimely errors” or could face being replaced.

“We have to make sure everyone is playing well enough to win,” he said. “There is a cutoff point for me. There is.”

The task doesn’t get easier for Haskins. Washington will host the Baltimore Ravens (2-0) on Sunday. The Ravens had the fourth-best team defense in the league entering Monday night’s showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.

–Field Level Media