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James Smith-Williams “respects what Coach Ron does for the best interest of the team.”

Commanders DE James Smith-Williams and Head Coach Ron Rivera spoke after practice today, and both had some words on the aftermath of the Sam Mills III departure.

Washington Commanders Off-Season Workout Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The firing of defensive line coach Sam Mills III sent shockwaves throughout the fanbase and media alike, but surprisingly, the news surprised the players and staff, too. First, Head Coach Ron Rivera broke the news to the assistant and now the new defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina before practice began Tuesday morning. Rivera then spoke with the team shortly after Tuesday’s practice to tell the players that Mills III would no longer be their coach.

Overall, I am sure it is hard to digest, regardless of how players and other coaches felt about the clear disconnect between Mills III and his unit. However, third-year DE James Smith-Williams spoke after practice today and understood the volatile nature of this industry. “Football is a great sport, tough business,” Smith-Williams said when asked about how the team took it when they heard the news. “We respect what [Head] Coach Ron [Rivera] does for the best interest of the team.”

Staying focused also will not be a problem for Smith-Williams, either. “We still have to go out and play. The NFL is more of a self-start league anyway. You are going to need someone to drag you along, and you are going to have to push the pace regardless.”

Rivera acknowledges that he did something in the team’s best interest. “Well, I just think they have accepted and understood that this is something that I did with what I think is in our best interest. I think they’ve adapted and handled it very well.”

Rivera and the team are happy that this is now in the past. “The thing I appreciate is, these guys pretty much, they do their thing, and they’re professionals. They understand. I love what Jonathan [Allen] said. Football is a great sport, but it is a tough business.”

The good news now is that Ron Rivera and the defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will not be able to place the blame on anyone else if the defensive line issues persist in 2022, so hopefully, Rivera made the right decision.

Listen to the Hogs Haven Podcast for a full conversation on Rivera’s tough decision to fire Mills, and a conversation Carson Wentz’s training camp issues.