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Daily Slop - 10 Aug 23: Commanders HC Ron Rivera tries to refocus previous comments about OC Eric Bieniemy

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Washington Post

Ron Rivera: ‘I put my foot in my mouth’ with Eric Bieniemy comments

Rivera said he spoke to Bieniemy on Tuesday and told him he wasn’t as clear as he needed to be.

“I basically told him I put my foot in my mouth,” Rivera said. “... I think everybody’s making, in my opinion, a little bit more than what needs to be made of this. … The results are what you’re looking for on the field, and the last couple of days have been outstanding.”

“I realized my comments yesterday took on a different life than I intended yesterday, and that’s on me for not being as clear as I needed to be,” Rivera read from his statement. “I’ll own that.”

Bieniemy said Tuesday that he is always going to be “loud” and “vocal” and will not change his approach.

Rivera’s comments spread quickly Tuesday. ESPN analyst Booger McFarland, a former defensive tackle for the Buccaneers and Colts, said on “NFL Live” that “players are just soft” and have become “accustomed to their surroundings and the culture they have in Washington.”

Commanders safety Kam Curl tweeted that evening, “Ain’t nobody soft over here Crazyman.”

The Athletic

Ron Rivera: I ‘own’ my comments about player concerns over Eric Bieniemy’s intensity at Commanders practice

“Since those conversations took place with Eric and the players, I’ve seen the improvements. And I can honestly say that the last couple of practices probably have been the best of training camp, which I think is great. To me, that displays a team is beginning to embrace the message and approach to how he does things and how we want things done.”

“I did not communicate that correctly and I met with Eric,” Rivera said. “We had a great conversation and that was cool. I think the biggest thing is we’re all on the same page. … I’m fortunate to have an experienced staff, guys like Eric and Jack, and a roster of players who want to take this franchise to the next step. We’re all working to build a culture where players and staff respect each other’s views.”

Rivera’s attempt at clarifying his Tuesday remarks seemed based on the league-wide attention that followed more than a change in stance.

Yes, the head coach acknowledged he could have communicated clearer. Rivera also repeatedly emphasized, as he did initially, that Bieniemy’s approach and energy are needed and working. He reiterated his appreciation for Bieniemy’s vision that “You have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and that an evolution is occurring on the offensive side.

There is intense, and there is mean. Bieniemy’s coaching style is firmly in the former category. So when practice updates focus on hearing the offensive coordinator’s voice consistently booming ‚ Rivera on Tuesday, before his newsy comments, initially referred to Bieniemy’s impact as being “loud” — it’s not a negative.

However, the wonder is whether that level of intensity works for all players or is sustainable over a long season. For now, players have spoken positively of Bieniemy’s style when asked publicly. Running back Antonio Gibson said the fast-paced practices required an adjustment period. Gibson also noted he feels like he’s in the best shape of his career.

It’s therefore not surprising that some players expressed concern, though we don’t know when they addressed them with Rivera (OTA? Mini-camp? Monday?). That Rivera surprisingly shared the info is another story.

Sports Illustrated

Everyone Will Ultimately Decide an Opinion on Eric Bieniemy’s Coaching Style Based on the Commanders’ Results

No matter how the season plays out in Washington, one side will look back at this news cycle and say ‘I told you so.’

I see Rivera getting some of the blame, because he tends to misspeak from time to time. There was the whole deal where he buried Carson Wentz and then blamed reporters for it. He’s had more press conference walk-offs than Don King. But we also need to have some degree of sympathy for the coach, who has real dad-trying-his-best energy in Washington after years of coaching the notoriously unpredictable Cam Newton in Carolina. Sometimes he’s going to flip out. It’s not always going to make sense. He’ll probably apologize, and, yes, everyone still gets ice cream after dinner. He’s tired. Give him a break.

The real problem is how the discussion takes form after it leaves the podium, when we turn Bieniemy’s personal style—which includes a more confrontational approach—into an all-or-nothing indictment on toughness. There have already been several think pieces devoted to this idea that Washington needed to be hardened after years of mediocrity, and, of course, the players would have some resistance to someone who tells it like it is. Think of this as the antithesis of the Sean Payton approach in Denver, where a coach has chosen to blame a visibly lackluster product on an outgoing coach.

Of course, we have learned over time that toughness has nothing to do with one’s ability to be screamed at. And, indeed, there’s no chance any of the 90 players on Washington’s roster have made it to the NFL without some wannabe General Patton screaming in their ear at some level of football. These players have all willingly accepted a politically cutthroat and emotionless career path that could end at any second. Their salaries are as reliable as a local weatherperson’s. On any given play, everything they worked for could be taken away.

Agreeing to those parameters for an outside chance of having a five- to seven-year career in the NFL is incredibly tough. Let’s get that out of the way and address reality: Bieniemy prefers to act this way and also has his own nine-year NFL career to draw on.

What matters is how Bieniemy backs up his stylistic preferences. While the NFL is quickly ridding itself of the yellers and screamers—remember Joe Judge forcing his players in New York to run sprints after a practice fight?—that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for one. It just means that, in addition to this style, Bieniemy needs to design an offense that wins games and puts players in the best position to succeed to avoid having to forcibly change himself.

The Athletic

Standig: Ron Rivera, Eric Bieniemy need each other … for 2023 and beyond

Ron Rivera needs Eric Bieniemy. Eric Bieniemy needs Ron Rivera.

Not only for the obvious reason: a head coach and offensive coordinator on the same team working together with others in the pursuit of glory. This is more human. Two football lifers born more than a decade before the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy are deep into their coaching careers. They aren’t aiming merely for wins or career advancement. They are trying to remain power players in their line of work. To reach that goal, they are gambling on one another.

This union wasn’t a shotgun marriage. Nobody forced Rivera, the Washington Commanders’ head coach since 2020, to hire Bieniemy as his offensive coordinator and assistant head coach … or to grant him significant power and responsibility. Even though, yeah, he kind of did. No other realistic candidate had Bieniemy’s combination of star power and, as the Kansas City Chiefs’ coordinator, insight into the league’s top attack. Given Rivera’s 22-27-1 record over three seasons and with a new ownership group arriving, playing it safe wouldn’t be enough.

That’s what makes the past 48 hours in the lives of these alpha males — who are central to the fate of the 2023 Commanders — so bizarre. Rivera overshared with reporters before Tuesday’s morning practice that players had come to him because they were “a little concerned” with Bieniemy’s intense coaching style.

Rivera, 61, is unlikely to finish his five-year contract or land another NFL head-coaching job with an unsatisfactory season. Bieniemy, meanwhile, would not only see his head-coaching dreams take a hit, but he might not draw much interest as a coordinator, let alone one with such autonomy.

On Tuesday, Bieniemy — after being prepped and made aware of comments from his boss before his own news conference — leaned into the perception that he won’t compromise his approach.

“Eric Bieniemy is who he is,” Eric Bieniemy said.

Yes, these two need each other.

Sports Illustrated

Washington Commanders at Cleveland Browns Preview: First Look at QBs

Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett should both see action for the Washington Commanders in their first preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.

While fans may have to wait to see all the starters, they will likely see major playing time for Washington’s rookies. Some face an uphill battle in terms of making the roster. Others, such as early selections Emmanuel Forbes and Quan Martin, could be making a case for starting snaps.

Washington’s many roster hopefuls try to earn their spot before Tuesday, Aug. 29, when every NFL team must reduce its roster to no more than 53 players. Washington’s 16-player practice squad will then begin to form.

RECORDS: Washington Commanders (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-0)

ODDS: Washington is a 3-point underdog vs. the Browns.

GAME TIME: Friday, August 11 2023 at 7:30 p.m. ET

LOCATION: FirstEnergy Stadium - Cleveland, Ohio

TV/RADIO: NBC 4, Washington Radio Network

Commanders Wire

5 takeaways from the Commanders first unofficial depth chart

There was a lot of hype around a pair of undrafted free-agent wide receivers entering the offseason. Kazmeir Allen and Mitchell Tinsley were both priority signings for Washington. Many pegged at least one of them as making the 53-man roster. Thus far, Allen and Tinsley have some work to do. They’ll have plenty of chances in the preseason.

Allen was particularly popular after fans saw his highlights. Allen can return kicks and punts. But he hasn’t seized the opportunity yet this summer. Both he and Tinsley have had some good moments on offense, just not enough to justify a roster spot. Allen needs to show something in the return game in the preseason, or both could be ticketed for the practice squad.

Joey Slye, Michael Badgley embracing kicker competition

After nearly two years of having Joey Slye as their kicker, the Commanders signed veteran Michael Badgley one day before the start of training camp. The Commanders have not been shy about the situation with head coach Ron Rivera saying in a press conference the following day that “I’m expecting competition. I’m expecting to bring the best out of our guys.”

Both players have embraced the situation.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Badgley said. “You go into any type of competition...the same way. Just go out there and kick as well as you can and prove people wrong and just have fun with it.”

In many ways, Badgley is the complete opposite of Slye, who is known for his leg strength. While they are similar in accuracy (82.9% compared to 81.7% in favor of Slye), Slye’s is far better on kicks of at least 50 yards. He’s hit 17-of-27 kicks from that distance (63%), whereas Badgley is 5-of-13.

Even their methods of kicking are drastically different. Slye likes the ball “a little bit more forward,” according to holder Tress Way, and Badgley likes the ball tilted to the side. As a result, the ball flies off their feet differently; Slye’s kicks spin faster and higher, and Badgley’s kicks have a slower rotation.

Way, who has gotten an up-close look at the competition, said specialist competitions are like “playing somebody one-on-one on a golf course.”

Riggo’s Rag

Scenarios for every Washington Commanders tight end in 2023

It’s now or never for the Commanders tight end group in 2023.

Ever since the era of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis ended back in 2019, it seems as if the Washington Commanders have entered each season with more questions than answers at tight end. 2023 looks no different.

The top two pass-catching threats – Logan Thomas and Cole Turner – are coming off injury-affected years. Two in-line blockers – Curtis Hodges and Brandon Dillon – have virtually zero experience at the NFL level. And exciting young prospect Armani Rogers tore his Achilles back in May and is out for the season. Only starting in-line tight end John Bates seems like a sure thing.

Let’s take a quick look at the five tight ends currently on the roster with best-case and worst-case projections for each. In alphabetical order.

John Bates - Commanders TE

The third-year man from Boise State is about as steady as they come. Though things could change under a potentially tight end-friendly offense run by Eric Bieniemy, it is likely that John Bates will again function as the second option, usually lining up just outside the tackle, blocking, and occasionally slipping out on a pass route.

The biggest concern about Bates is that he seemed to regress slightly as a hard-charging pass catcher between his rookie season – when he memorably ran through Leighton Vander Esch – and his second year, where he seemed a total afterthought. Still, he has already proven to be a steady-if-unspectacular second tight end.

BEST CASE: Bates plays approximately 50 percent of the offensive snaps, provides strong blocking, and catches 30 balls resulting in 15 first downs and three touchdowns.

WORST CASE: Bates plays approximately 50% of the offensive snaps, provides mediocre blocking, and catches 10 balls resulting in three first downs and zero touchdowns.

REALISTIC CASE: Bates plays approximately 50% of the offensive snaps, provides adequate blocking, and catches 20 balls resulting in eight first downs and one touchdown. But he also has one highlight reel play where he bulldozes Nakobe Dean during another Commanders’ upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.

I don’t know if that’s technically “realistic,” but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Riggo’s Rag

4 Commanders players that could steal roster spots in 2023

These Commanders players will look to improve their chances of making the final roster.

Byron Pringle - Commanders WR

A member of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2019-2021, Byron Pringle spent time under new Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy while he served in the same role under Andy Reid.

Pringle had a career-best season with Bieniemy as a member of the Chiefs in 2021, snagging 42 receptions for 568 receiving yards and five touchdowns before spending last season with the Chicago Bears.

Inking a deal with Washington just before the start of training camp, the veteran comes with extensive experience in Bieniemy’s complex offensive scheme. Pringle is also a viable weapon in the kick return game, averaging nearly 27 yards per return while returning one for a score on 37 career runbacks.

The fifth-year pro is best utilized as a deep threat at outside receiver. Though he is no giant, the slender 6-foot-1 speedster checks in as one of the Commanders’ biggest receivers.

Mason Brooks - Commanders OL

While all signs had previously pointed to one of the holdovers winning the job outright, an injury to Charles has opened the door for another contender to emerge. Mason Brooks has routinely made his presence felt throughout the early weeks of practices and is a player to watch.

Undrafted out of Ole Miss, Brooks represents a versatile option for Washington possessing experience at all five positions on the offensive front. The rookie has shown promising potential so far this summer.

Now firmly on the coaches’ radar in the competition for reps at left guard, Brooks could very well surprise by earning a spot on Washington’s final 53-man roster

Derrick Gore - Commanders RB

The Washington Commanders appear pretty set at the running back position going into the upcoming season. Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson will lead the charge and could be a dynamic backfield tandem in 2023.

Gore has a previous connection with offensive coordinator Eric Biemiemy from their time together on the Kansas City Chiefs as well as being a member of Washington’s practice squad in 2019.

Gore played in 11 total games for the Chiefs that season, with the majority of his snaps coming on special teams. The bowling-ball back was effective in a small sample, racking up 256 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 51 attempts while also catching eight passes for 105 receiving yards in his limited action.

Commanders Wire

Bieniemy pleased with the the development of the offensive line

“You know what, our young O-line, they’re doing a heck of a job,” Bieniemy said Tuesday.

“Like I said, there’s been ups and downs. There’s been some days that haven’t been as good, but there’s been some days they’ve done a hell of a job, and the thing that I’m loving about that group is that they’re having fun together. O-line groups are very, very unique because everything is based on communication. They probably do more communicating with each other than any other position outside the quarterback.”

Bieniemy believes going against Washington’s vaunted defensive front will only make the offensive line that much better.

“What better challenge than to face the front four that we’re seeing every single day?” Bieniemy asked. “I love it, I live for it, and I can see the improvement in our guys. Has it all been perfect? Nah, it’s not what training camp is about.”

The key for Washington’s offensive line will be next week’s joint practices with the Ravens. We’ll learn more from those two days than in any of the three preseason games.

Washington Post

Commanders hire Craig Fischer as chief financial officer

The Washington Commanders named Craig Fischer their chief financial officer, according to three people with knowledge of the move.

Previously CFO at Hemisphere Media Group, a Spanish-language media company based in Florida, Fischer is the first executive hire by new Commanders owner Josh Harris and a significant one; an investigation led by former SEC attorney Mary Jo White found the franchise and former owner Daniel Snyder intentionally shielded revenue from other team owners and withheld refundable deposits from season ticket holders.

The Commanders also hired former Atlanta Hawks chief operating officer Thad Sheely as an adviser on real estate and stadium matters, two people with knowledge of the move said. Sheely, who has more than two decades of experience in sports and real estate, oversaw State Farm Arena for the Hawks. His previously development projects include MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Kaseya Center in Miami and Hudson Yards in New York.

Commanders’ Salute Day delivers connection, dose of fun to members of the military community

“I’m new to the area, and this event is a great way to get involved in the community, to come together with people both in the service and outside,” said PO1 Matthew West, U.S. Coast Guard. “It means a lot when we get invited to these types of things.”

Building on last year’s edition, this summer’s Salute Day featured a larger military presence, representatives and family members from a dozen nonprofits, a strong turnout from the Washington Salute program and a number of initiatives to ensure the military community in attendance felt celebrated.

“The sheer number of veterans, service members and their families this year is a testament to how important Commanders football is to our local military community,” said Washington Salute Lead Chris Bailey.

As part of the enhancements to training camp, service members in attendance were treated to an updated VIP experience, which included great views from suites and sidelines, a military appreciation shirt and more.

“I’m really enjoying the VIP access and just the resources, the food, the viewing,” said Technical Sgt. Jasmin Carson, Air Force who was attending her first Washington Salute event on the day. “Being this up close and personal is awesome and being around so many other military people is also really cool.”


Ref the District: Stoner Goes to the Washington Commanders Camp - Episode 133


PHOTOS | Training Camp, Day 13

The Washington Commanders held their final practice before the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns in front of fans for “Kids Day.” Take a look at the top photos from Wednesday morning.

Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders


NFC East links

Blogging the Boys

Cowboys training camp battle of the day: Dak Prescott vs interception bug

The Cowboys held their ninth practice of training camp on Tuesday, and the regular clashes between the offense and defense are becoming must watch entertainment. After the offense, led by a crisp Dak Prescott, got off to a hot start in the first few practices, the defense has been stepping things up as of late.

And, in case you forgot, Prescott is still fighting the perception that comes with leading the league in interceptions a year ago. It seems like every interception he throws in camp gets shouted from the rooftops now, while everything else he does in said practice gets soundly ignored.

So, of course, Prescott found himself in the news on Tuesday because he came out and had an interception-filled practice. The people who have been obsessively tracking Prescott’s practice interceptions got a gift on Tuesday, starting when Trevon Diggs made this impressive grab.

Prescott continued to have a poor day as it relates to ball security, which has been such a rarity for him in camp so far. Leighton Vander Esch got in on the action later in the day.

More of Precott’s training camp work:

NFL league links


Sports Illustrated

Washington Ex Bashaud Breeland Arrest: Drugs, AK-47s, AR-15s and Stolen Car

Officers have arrested former Washington standout Bashaud Breeland. Their evidence: A stolen Mercedes-Benz SUV, 62 grams of suspected illegal mushrooms, more than five pounds of marijuana and eight guns, including two AR-15s and two AK-47s.

According to a police report in Charlotte, officers found Breeland, 31, with a stolen Mercedes-Benz SUV, 62 grams of suspected illegal mushrooms, more than five pounds of marijuana and eight guns, including two AR-15s and two AK-47s.

Breeland played at Clemson and was drafted by Washington in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was a four-year starter in Washington and then eventually landed with the Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, and he played with that team during its Super Bowl win in 2020.

Charlotte police officers report having discovered the stash of guns and drugs during a traffic stop at a Circle K on Monday afternoon. Breeland was jailed just after 2 a.m., Tuesday, and was then released after posting a $30,000 bond.

Breeland last played for the Vikings in 2021 - a stint that ended poorly when he reportedly initiated an altercation with coaches and teammates. He lives in Charlotte and recently said he’d like another shot with the Panthers. But his legal issues and his suspension issues are part of his record. In 2020, Breeland was suspended from playing with the Chiefs four games for violating the NFL’s policy and program on substances of abuse. He was also suspended in 2015 while a member of the Washington football team.

Washington Post

HBO cameras flatter Aaron Rodgers. What if his new look is real?

He was engaged, no longer detached. He was curious, no longer indifferent. He looked refreshed, no longer burdened. The dude is a superstar, after all — a GOAT-tier quarterback still capable of elite bleating as he begins his 19th season and a charismatic television personality when he chooses to be. For as much as Rodgers and the Jets seemed uninterested by the intrusion of this preseason documentary before taping began, it’s also an opportunity to acquire valuable influence over how his New York experiment will be perceived. Rodgers understands this better than anyone. He is already using the platform to present a fuller image of himself after years of endless controversy, bouts of dissension with the Green Bay Packers and odd behavior that saw him drift into conspiracy theories.

Weird Aaron was nowhere to be found in the “Hard Knocks” season debut. For certain, he still exists. But with the future Hall of Famer trying to make an impression on his new franchise, there’s a grander story to tell. There’s a grander way Rodgers wants to be seen. While these five episodes figure to embellish the tale, “Hard Knocks” will also help frame Rodgers’s greatest responsibility now. As a leader, he must supply the young Jets with stability.

Teammates have always followed Rodgers, even when the chemistry wasn’t ideal, because he was The Franchise playing for a franchise that specializes in sustainable success. The Jets, on the other hand, haven’t made the playoffs for 12 straight seasons. During that span, they’ve had one winning season and two .500 records. “Follow me!” won’t cut it from Rodgers. He can’t take for granted that every player can walk this walk.

The documentary series has only begun to amplify the excitement. It’s hard not to watch and wonder, “What if this thing actually works?” But a reality show is different from reality. When preseason giggles yield to regular season hardships, we’ll learn who the Jets really are with Rodgers. And we’ll learn whether Rodgers will be wise enough to use all those years of winning lessons from Green Bay.

Rodgers led the Packers to a 147-75-1 record as a starter, but it was the combination of his individual greatness and their structure that made his time so magical. His departure isn’t an excuse to do whatever he wants now. It’s a challenge to inject some of that culture and institutional success into the Jets’ locker room and thrive anew.