Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera spoke to the media after practice on Sept. 7. Here is a full transcript of the press conference.
On how WR Terry McLaurin and DE Chase Young looked today:
"Well, I'll start with Terry. Terry looked really good. You know, he took the reps that we had listed for him and he looked good. So obviously the opportunity to increase 'em tomorrow will both certainly occur. It was a good day for him. As far as Chase is concerned, as Chase told you, he's doing everything he can to get himself ready to play. We have reps scripted for him. We have certain periods that he can participate in and again, it's gonna be all up to what happens with the doctor's visit that he has coming up soon and we'll go from there. But the young man is chomping at the bit. He's done everything that he possibly could and he's getting himself ready to play. Again, if he's cleared, he'll go."
On Limited Partner Earvin 'Magic' Johnson talking to the team today and what he took away from that:
"What was really cool was when the players engaged with Magic, asking a few questions and a couple guys asked what's a championship team? What's the characteristics of it? And just listening to his answers. Our guys really, you could tell they really bought into it and understood exactly what he was talking about. It's funny, you know, it's kinda like being a parent. You can tell your kid all you want, but until somebody like Magic says it, it didn't mean something. But it was really cool because he talked to the guys, talked about the characteristics of a championship team, about how they held each other accountable, how it didn't matter who you were you could hold each other accountable. And that was probably one of the more important messages. I really appreciated that. Just listening to him talk to the guys about how successful he is and you understand why just because of who he is."
On balancing McLaurin and Young being competitors but not rushing their returns:
"It is always a balancing thing because again, you know, you appreciate young men like this that want to get out there and play with their teammates. It's one of those things that I have a tremendous amount of respect when I see guys that do whatever it takes, and they do the little things. And that's what you're seeing from both these young men. They're doing the little things. They're paying attention to what they're being told, and they're doing the best they can. Now it's what we'll know as the week progresses."
On what he has seen from the team that makes him believe they are ready to play meaningful football on Sunday:
"I just think the growth that we've had in the last couple of years. I mean, we've got our heads above water in light of the situation and circumstance we've had in the last few years, I thought this training camp was different. The energy level was different. The way the guys did things was different, obviously. A lot of it has to do with new ownership. A lot of it has to do with what we've done on the offensive side of the ball, the experience we have on the defense. I mean, these are the things that you're looking for and I think that's what we're getting. So again, we'll see. That's why we play 'em on Sundays."
On what he expects Sunday to be like:
"I think that's the biggest thing about more so than anything else is that we'll play in front of a packed house. I mean, that's exciting and what we're looking forward to is seeing the crowd and seeing a crowd that's in our favor. I think that's gonna be really cool. Our business side has done a terrific job selling the tickets, selling the suites, getting the fans engaged and that's kind of the synergy of it all. Now we have to go out and do our job and play to the best of our abilities."
On what he remembers from his first game as a defensive coordinator:
"Actually it was Chicago, 2004 and it was pretty intense. I mean, it's one of those things that you check and you recheck and you check again. I do remember it was a home game, waking up real early, earlier than normal. I mean, like 4:30am early, and just kind of going over the list again, going through my play calls. I actually went downstairs early, because we stayed downtown at the hotel. I went downstairs to the defensive room, and I threw the tape in again and I put a sequence of different plays on. I would have to read, you know, what the down and distance was, what the personnel was, what the circumstances were, and then I would call the play and I can remember going through it, and it just kind of flowed and that's what I'm looking for, you know, is the flow. That was one of the things that I was really impressed with [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator] Eric [Bieniemy] the very first preseason game when I stood by him and listened to him was just his flow and how quickly he went from one play to the other and then when we got into that rhythm and even though we had the two penalties in the first series, or the penalty and the sack in the first series, his flow never stopped. And then finally we got to the third series, and when you just saw it, if we went down and everything just kind of came together, and then it just kept going that way. During the Baltimore game, I felt the same way with it and then we finished that way. So, for him, for Eric, without [Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach] Andy's [Reid] shadow, I'm really looking to see forward to seeing him really kind of come into his own. I really am. I mean, he's been terrific. He's really helped make an impact on this football team and I'm excited for us as a football organization because of a young man like that."
On coaching in Chicago and having also played for Mike Ditka:
"I think so. You know, but I was fortunate enough that I had been there for that. You know what I mean? And I think that because I played for the organization, that that wasn't something that was held over me as much as anything else."
On his excitement towards a sold-out crowd for Sunday's game:
"I'm very excited. I really, truly am. A lot of it has to do with just, you know, from my own personal experience, having been on the football field, even though it was on the other side. But just watching the bleachers literally bounce at RFK, as a rookie in the league and it was a playoff game, the atmosphere was unbelievable. It's just one of those things that I'll never forget. I know I've referenced it many times and you know, this is what we've been working for and this is what's exciting, and we've got to live up to it."
On the players valuing having Washington Commanders Limited Partner Earvin 'Magic' Johnson in the ownership group:
"I think that's one of the cool things because you know, when you talk about coaches that have played in the league, it doesn't necessarily mean you're better than anybody. It just gives you perspective. And then when you take, a person as iconic as Magic, you know, has won five championships as a player and five championships as an NBA owner, you sit there and you say, 'Wow, he's got an unbelievable resume.' And so what he does, what he says, resonates very strongly with these young men. What I found really cool is in just talking with our players about the new ownership, one of the things that they've said is just the fact that they've been able to sit down and talk with them, have lunch with them, you know, [Washington Commanders Managing Partner] Mr. [Josh] Harris came in a couple of times and just had meetings with our guys during training camp and spent a little bit of time and asked them specific questions about what can we do? How can we help? And then they've gone out and done these things and that's kind of the communication that our players have had with these guys. But at the same time, them following through has been really, really big for the guys and I think that's one of the reasons that they're pretty excited. I mean, having Mr. Harris come in and talk to the guys, introduce Magic and then sit back and let Magic do his thing and then every now and then he would interject and the players would respond. I mean, it was really neat, it really was."
On the 2004 Chicago Bears gameplan and specific play calls:
"I remember some of the blitzes we ran, some of the things that we did. It was a close game I can remember that much. We ended up losing on a field goal at the very end. It was a real close game."
On practicing later in the day with the heat this week:
"It's pretty much the type of schedule we've been using the last week and a half. The guys seem to assimilate to it very well. They come in in the morning, take care of all their business in terms of meetings and walkthrough and then going out on the field. Taking what we've learned and putting it to work during practice has been fine. I think our guys have responded well. I think they've handled it very well. It's going to be warm these next couple days, but hopefully by the end of the week it's going to be in the mid-eighties. One of the things that we've emphasized with our guys and we went out and did it today, I think you guys noticed we had several watering stations out there. Several ice tubs that were set up around the field so guys could pull out the ice towels and keep themselves cool. We took several water breaks today. We increased that, just trying to keep the guys cool. So far, we only had two guys cramp up. I think part of it has also been a direct result of the way we've practiced all year. Starting with OTAs and minicamp and now into training camp."
On staying focused this week despite coming off Labor Day and having Johnson in attendance:
"Yeah, because one of the biggest things that we tell them, and it goes back to what we used to say, is let's make sure we're focusing on what's important. Let's just kind of get past the interesting stuff more so than anything else. We got on the practice field, I thought we had a really good up-tempo practice. I thought the guys handled it well. There was a lot of interaction between the players. It was one of those things that you sit there and go, 'Wow, they're getting it. They understand it.' So that was a plus."
On how he feels about TE Logan Thomas:
"I'm very confident about Logan. Logan looked really good. In fact, he wasn't even on the injury report. He looked good. For everything that was going on the side, Logan was in all the meetings and he did all the walkthroughs. That's one thing that he did while he was doing all his rehab, he did all the walkthroughs. That's the biggest thing he's been working on the last two weeks has really been timing between him and Sam. It looks like it's starting to come together."
On what led to WR Jamison Crowder joining the practice squad:
"First of all, a veteran that was comfortable out there going to catch punts for us. He looked really good. He's a very crafty, shifty route runner and kind of looking for a little more veteran guy out there as well to help out. We'll see how it goes, how the rest of this week unfolds."
On what he tells the young guys to calm the nerves heading into Week 1:
"It's too late to go home now, [laugh] shoot. I do, in joking fashion, say that and say 'Hey, come on, you've earned this. Let's go.' I really just try to keep them focused on the task at hand. We got a good group, we really do. They work hard at it. [CB] Emmanuel [Forbes Jr.] had a really good practice today and [DB] [Jartavius] Quan [Martin] is a guy that is going to be able to contribute as well. We feel very comfortable with those guys. [C/G] Ricky's [Stromberg] going to be in his situation and circumstances being ready to play if called upon. These guys are, I think, a good class. They really are. It'll be exciting to watch them get their opportunities to go out there, whether it be on special teams or some first and second down plays on offense or defense."
On what it means for Howell to be voted team captain:
"I think it's really cool. It really is. It was one of those things that, you sit and you say, 'Oh, I hope they picked the quarterback.' And they did. It really was cool that they did that. It does tell you that they get him, they understand who he is. He is a quiet leader, very confident guy, very steady. He's so even keeled that that's one of the comments that a lot of other guys do make about who he is, is that nothing seems to shake this dude. I think that's kind of important because now his teammates recognize that he's not going to get flustered. He's going to be able to handle himself."
On how they prepare for the Cardinals with them not naming a quarterback yet:
"The biggest thing that we'll do is we'll prepare for what we anticipate they'll do. I know we're going to prepare for what we anticipate either quarterback doing. We may feel that one of the guys may have a tendency to run a little bit more. One we feel may get a little bit more RPO stuff. One may get a little bit more zone read, but we're going to prepare for those things based on where their coordinators are coming from knowing that the offensive coordinators spent time in Cleveland and Minnesota with [Cleveland Browns Head Coach] Coach [Kevin] Stefanski and a lot of things that we saw in the preseason are very similar to what they did in Cleveland and Minnesota. We did see what looked like some of the stuff that they did in Philadelphia and that's probably from [Arizona Cardinals Head Coach] Coach [Jonathan] Gannon in his time in Philadelphia. That's what we've anticipated as far as their defense. His coordinator [Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator] [Nick Rallis] came with him from Philadelphia. He was the linebackers coach there. So now you have a guy that's very familiar in that setting. That's what we're kind of anticipating as far as our preparations are concerned."
On what he learned from Johnson talking:
"Very much so. I do pay attention. What was really neat was you could see when he was saying things and it would catch our guys' attention. You could see how engaged they were because they would lean in and I could see guys getting to the edge of their seats, leaning in to listen to every word he was saying. I was doing the same thing. It was really kind of neat. It was really neat to listen to them talk about the Dream Team and how it was to play with a group of guys like that and what it meant, you know? How that group of guys still held each other accountable. He said the hardest thing he had to deal with was to figure out which guy he was going to give the ball to, whether it was going to be Jordan or Bird. I mean, what a tough choice."