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Practice report | Going back to Chicago 'still brings back a nice, big smile' for Ron Rivera

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Ron Rivera has been coaching for 26 years, so going back to Chicago to play the Bears, the team that drafted him, is nothing new to him.

It never fails to bring back a flood of memories from his nine-year playing career, though.

"It still brings back a nice, big smile," Rivera told reporters after Tuesday's practice.

Rivera, who had a successful career at the University of California, was a second-round draft pick by the Bears in 1984. While he did not receive his first career start until 1986, he was a valuable member of the Bears defense and played a role in the team's Super Bowl run in 1985. He secured his first career interception against the Detroit Lions in Week 16 of that season, and he also returned a fumble for a touchdown in the 37-17 win.

Rivera also created strong relationships with his teammates, who affectionately referred to him as "Chico" for his resemblance to a character in the television series, "Chico and The Man." There were several players on the Bears team with nicknames, including Walter "Sweetness" Payton, William "The Fridge" Perry and Steve "Mongo" McMichael. Even head coach Mike Ditka was sometimes known as "The Doctor."

"He was definitely tough," Jim "Smails" Morrissey said in 2020. "He was always in the right place at the right time. We took pride in not having too many mistakes on the football field, [whether that was] mental mistakes or just getting beat physically. We were very competitive in that regard."

Rivera will not be the only member of the Commanders to experience a homecoming on Thursday. Charles Leno will play the Bears for the first time since the team released him in 2021. Leno started in 93 consecutive games for the Bears from 2015-2020 and earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018.

Rivera knows and expects that Leno will play well against his former team.

"I think really for professionals, they do get excited about it because it is a little bit of a home crowd for him. But at the same time, you always do remember the reason why," Rivera said.

Here are some other notes from Tuesday's practice.

-- Tight end Logan Thomas was downgraded from limited to a non-participant on Tuesday. Thomas was added to the injury report late last week ahead of the Titans game and was later ruled out.

-- Rivera said the Thursday game is "very much so" a cross-roads game. He does not expect things to "go downhill," though.

"No matter what happens, we'll come out, we're gonna play and we gotta get better. It starts with me from the top. I mean, we've gotta get better and understand what our responsibility is."

-- Offensive coordinator Scott Turner called plays from the booth during the Titans game, and that will continue going forward. The change gave Turner some clarity and helped him see defenses from a better angle.

-- Rivera ended his press conference by saying that while the Commanders are 1-4, he believes the team has the pieces to win consistently.

"I think going forward, I feel good about what we have. It's just now a matter of putting it together and we've got to do it one game at a time. And we got to focus in on Chicago and going out and playing better. And again, as I said, it starts with me. We got to make sure that we are doing the things that we give these guys the best opportunity to show up on game day and play well."

-- Carson Wentz was added to the injury report on Monday with a shoulder injury, but the quarterback is not concerned and said he felt "pretty good" after practice.

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