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Players, Coaches Are Impressed With Ron Rivera's Leadership In A Virtual Offseason


Landon Collins, like the rest of his teammates scattered across the country, sat in front of his computer May 18 and prepared to enter another videoconference. This one was noticeably different from the dozens he had experienced for the past month, though, because it was the first time the entire team was called together, albeit in a virtual meeting, under head coach Ron Rivera.

Collins listened as Rivera laid out his expectations for him and his teammates. He heard where Rivera wants to take the team and what he wants out of everyone when they all finally get together again.

His impressions of the meeting: straightforward and to the point.

"It was very, very good. Very stern," Collins said. "[He was] putting his philosophy in place and setting the tone to let everybody know what to look forward to and what kind of mindset to come in with this team."

Trying to establish a new regime in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not an ideal predicament. That task is already a challenge, but Rivera has dealt with having to manage players hundreds of miles away when they would normally be at Redskins Park. But even in an unprecedented offseason, his players and coaches are impressed with how he has taken charge of the team.

"I've seen him lead already because we haven't been through the most normal of times," said special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor. "He's an impressive person behind the scenes as he is out in front of the camera."

Technically, Rivera went through a similar situation during the 2011 lockout with the Carolina Panthers. Players weren't allowed inside facilities then, either, and he didn't have the chance to see his new team until training camp.

Unlike then, Rivera is able to speak with his players, but the pandemic still brings trials with it, namely trying to establish the sustainable, winning culture he has preached since he was hired in January.

Based on what Adrian Peterson has seen, Rivera has managed to overcome that obstacle.

"It's the man that's leading. You lead by example," he said. "You know what to expect. When a person talks, you can sense what they're about. So, just strictly off that, we have a good understanding's going to be a change, it's going to be different."

Rivera has 32 years of NFL experience a a player and coach, so Peterson said the players already have an idea of who he is. That's also true for Kaczor, who coached against Rivera with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South as their special teams coordinator from 2016-18.

Flash forward two seasons later, and Kaczor is now a part of Rivera's new staff in Washington. He already had a good idea of who Rivera was as a coach and person, but observing him in recent months has backed up those assumptions.

"He's so consistent," Kaczor said. "I believe this is how everybody [sees him], whether it's the media working with Coach [Rivera] or his coaching staff or his players, people in the building. He is such an authentic, real, sincere person with just a great background that covers a lot of different areas."

Like Peterson and Kaczor, Jonathan Allen has heard plenty about Rivera's reputation. He met Rivera once before his introductory press conference, and they and their wives went out to dinner after he was hired, but their personal interactions have been limited thus far. It's also difficult, Allen said, to judge someone before he can actually get on the field with them.

But Allen's first impression of Rivera is that he loves him.

"It was easy to get behind and believe in everything he was preaching and everything he was saying about what he wanted to do as a coach and as the leader of the Washington Redskins," he said. "Just really seeing what he is on an everyday basis and not just in front of the camera, which, from what I've seen is the same person."

Both Peterson and Allen said it's hard to lead and establish a new culture virtually. Combine that with having to install new playbooks on offense and defense, which Allen said is "definitely weird," and leading a new team can easily become a monumental undertaking.

But players and coaches are giving their confidence to Rivera during a time rife with uncertainty, and it's not just because of his standing with the rest of the league. It's all about what they are seeing and hearing from him.

"Rivera is just a solid coach," Collins said. "He's a guy I know is going to get the job done, and that's why he said what he said in the way he said it."