Players reported for training camp on Tuesday, and on-field workouts began this morning (Wednesday). We should soon be flooded with camp reports, but before the torrent of tweets get overly deep, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss some of Coach Rivera’s Tuesday comments to reporters.
I saw tweets from several people yesterday evening, including a number of beat reporters, who were surprised to hear Ron Rivera say that Logan Thomas would likely be ready to play before Chase Young even though Chase’s injury occurred nearly a month earlier.
I read reports dating back to minicamp (possibly earlier) that said that Young’s injury and surgery had been more severe and complicated, and that Thomas would likely return to play earlier, so I’m not sure how any beat reporters could have been surprised, but that happens I guess.
The team announced that 4 players would open camp on the PUP list, and that, while the head coach didn’t want to predict any dates or specific timelines (a wise decision in my opinion) he was willing to share the order in which he expected them to be cleared to play.
Chase Roullier has had some really good sessions. He looks like he might be the first one off of PUP.
Tyler Larsen has had some good ones as well. He’s a little further away than Chase Roullier.
I thought Logan [Thomas] has looked really good as well. You’re not quite sure, but he’ll be down the line a little bit.
Then, Chase Young is probably the one that there is most concern as far as the time is concerned because he had a serious injury. He had it late in the year. He’s been working hard. His rehab has been going well from what we’ve seen and what we understand. But you never really know until you get your hands back on him. But, Chase Young is probably the one that’s gonna take the most time. I mean, it was serious, obviously anytime you’re talking about an ACL, it’s down the line, so we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
The biggest thing is, we don’t put timelines on those things. It’s unfair. You put pressure on people to try and accomplish that and get to where they’re supposed to be before they should be. And it could cause something, but as I said, though, with [DE] Chase [Young] and for the most part, all those guys, when they’re ready, they’ll be back on the football field. But I did say, Chase, the seriousness of his is there, again, it’s an ACL and it happened later in the year. And so the expectations, because I do know, he said he expected to be there, from the beginning. And that’s an unfair expectation.
We’ve been reading optimistic reports and guarantees about Chase Roullier from Mark Tyler for most of the offseason, so this good report on Roullier shouldn’t be a surprise to any regular Hogs Haven readers. While both Roullier and Larsen (the starting and backup centers) are rehabbing, it provides an opportunity to Wes Schweitzer to step up and show off his versatility — something that I mentioned in the recent depth chart article. Here’s what Ron had to say about Schweitzer’s positional flexibility and the team’s OL depth:
Wes Schweitzer’s a more than an accomplished football player, who’s done a great job for us at guard and center when he’s played both positions. So you feel really good about that.
We try to have 10 guys that we feel good about. And we do, in fact we feel like we have 12 guys that we feel really good about as far as that group’s concerned. We did that on purpose. Last couple years, we’ve had really good line play in spite of the amount of the injuries we’ve had on the offensive line. It’s a credit to the coaches. I think what [Offensive Line] Coach [John] Matsko and [Assistant Offensive Line] Coach [Travelle] Wharton has done with those guys has been really good.
With respect to the team’s starting tight end, Logan Thomas himself has been bullish on his chances to be ready to start the season, but then, that’s par for the course for most players who are rehabbing from an injury.
It sounds as if Coach Rivera is very pessimistic about the timing of Chase Young’s return. If he opens the season on the Reserve/PUP list, the soonest he could be activated (assuming he’s medically cleared) would be for the Week 5 game against the Titans. In past years, the earliest return would have been 6 weeks, but the rules were adjusted in the May owner’s meeting.
Adding a veteran linebacker to the roster
In a press conference earlier in the offseason, Coach Rivera said that the front office and coaching staff had their eyes on three veterans, and that they might add one or more free agents before training camp or before the season.
He seemed to step back from that a bit on Tuesday when he was asked specifically about his comfort level with the linebacker group.
Well, we feel very good about the group. We like who they are. We think they fit for what we want to do and how we want to do it. We’re going to see what we got the first week before we make any decisions in terms of a veteran guy. We feel we got a pretty good group that fits what we want to do. Probably the biggest thing is it’s not just about the linebacker per se, as much as what we plan to do with the the Buffalo position as well.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Ron starts out by expressing confidence in the linebackers, talking specifically about “who they are” and how they “fit”. The question, then, is, what do the coaches expect to learn in the next week that they don’t already know?
My guess is that, if we take Ron’s comments at face value, they want to see the players they’ve got on the field in order to assess the mental part of the game — the ability to diagnose what’s in front of them and play fast, and the ability to set the defense. It won’t be enough to have one guy who can handle the responsibilities; they need at least two in order to be prepared for injuries.
The fact that Ron threw in comments about the Buffalo nickel spot (which is probably much more of an unknown than the abilities of the linebacker group) is interesting. Perhaps it means that the team simply needs to assess the players on the roster to see if they’ve got a couple of guys that will allow them to play the Big Nickel defense that Ron said they used on 53% of the defensive snaps last year.
Someone looking for hidden meaning behind Ron’s comments might wonder if the coming week is less about assessing the players who are currently on the roster and more about needing time to negotiate with available free agents. The team, apparently, is considering the Buffalo nickel position very carefully, and Landon Collins is still an available free agent.
How the dysfunction affects the coach and his team
In case anyone forgot, Dan Snyder is supposed to testify before Congress tomorrow.
Ron Rivera is heading into his 3rd season as the head coach, and the off-field issues that he so desperately wants relegated to the past simply will not go away, and Ron admitted on Tuesday that it gets to him.
It’s almost to be expected to be honest with you. It goes in cycles. It is situation circumstances, and to use a quote that, t is what it is, and I try to make sure it, for us, it’s what’s interesting versus what’s important and we’re back to football. And to me, that the important thing is it’s football. I’m here to be judged on that. Okay.
The judgment starts with winning or losing. And that to me is what’s important. Does it make what I do harder? Yeah, it really does, ummm, because....
I think Ron almost stepped into a giant pile of poo here. His opening gambit in answering this question was his “go to” distinction between what’s interesting and what’s important.
You can see the contrast he was setting up. Football is important. Winning and losing is important.
He then started to pivot to the contrast; I think it’s clear that he was about to say that the other stuff isn’t important — that it’s just a distraction. If you watch the video of him speaking, you can see the alarm bell ring in his head just as he utters those words, “Does it make what I do harder? Yeah, it really does, ummm, because...”
In my opinion, Ron saved himself with his next few words, because he realized that it would have been a bombshell to say that all the other stuff isn’t important. Of course, what he would have meant was that he couldn’t let himself or his players be distracted by off-the-field issues that they aren’t responsible for and that they can’t control, but that’s not how it would have been reported or received by the Twitterverse.
Ron paid attention to that bell ringing in his head, and this is how he finished the answer to this question:
and again, all that stuff that’s happened, that’s important. Okay. It is.
But to me, as a football coach, what I have to do is I’ve gotta make this team presentable as a football team on the football field and in the community. Okay. The players and coaches, we have to have success. We have to go out and play.
Why? Because we need the fans behind us. The fans get behind us, give us support, help build this up, get some momentum going. And some good things can happen. I believe that because I know what this area is capable of in terms of when the team’s winning and they get behind them. I remember playing against, Coach [Joe] Gibbs teams and just how impactful it is when that stadium’s rocking. So, that’s what we have to do. That’s what’s important. Okay.
And again, I said that other stuff that’s important too, but, and I don’t wanna brush it aside, but that constantly, being in the news and people putting it in the news makes it hard for what we do. And again, I’m not saying it’s not important. Okay.
Because I know somebody’s going to say, ‘oh, look what I’m trying to’. I am because I wanna get the fan base back. And I don’t want people mixing up what happened back then with what we’re trying to do as a football team. Okay. Appreciate us for being the football team. And the other stuff is over there. That’s what I’m hoping.
Ron says 4 times in the second half of his answer that “that other stuff” (two decades of misogyny, sexual harassment, dysfunction and a toxic work environment) is important. Okay.
He clearly realizes how close he came to stepping on the land mine.
It’s a threat that he has to live with all the time because of the Commanders’ “coach centric” organization, which basically means that, aside from being overruled by Snyder, Rivera has the final say in the organization. He is the ‘face of the franchise’. That means that he ends up answering for a lot of stuff that, as a football coach, simply shouldn’t be in his bailiwick.
Ron has consistently sent out the message that he believes that winning will shift the focus and take the pressure off. He believes it partly because there’s a longstanding truism in sports that ‘winning is the best deodorant’, but also because Ron believes that there’s actually a line in the sand that was drawn on the day he was hired. On one side of the line is ‘what happened before’ (or ‘all that stuff that’s happened’), while on this side of the line is what’s happened since Ron’s arrival. As a competitor, Coach Rivera believes that winning is all that will matter in the end.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe winning is all that’s needed.
But I think Coach Rivera is going to be in for a rude surprise, because the shenanigans haven’t stopped; they’ve just left the country on a super yacht where they are hiding from Congress and hoping for a change of power in the mid-term elections. You’ve gotta think that Snyder’s weasely strategy of hiding on his boat and hoping it all goes away must gall a man like Ron Rivera who preaches character and accountability at every opportunity. He must be starting to realize that he partnered up with a slimy creep who sold him a bill of goods in their pre-hiring meetings.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think that winning ball games is going to ultimately be enough, and I don’t think that Ron is capable of making that line in the dirt meaningful enough to keep all the ugliness locked in the past. Ducking a subpoena from Congress is this month’s mess, but all Ron needs to do is wait; his boss will step in the shit again, and my money says it’ll happen sooner than later.