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Thomas Davis Sr., Kendall Fuller Plan To Bring Competitiveness, Winning Mentality To Ron Rivera's Team


Thomas Davis Sr. and Kendall Fuller have taken different paths in getting to Washington, but they do share some similarities, namely that they've played under branches of the same coaching tree.

Six years before Davis first entered the league in 2005, Ron Rivera was the linebackers coach for Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles. They advanced to the playoffs four times from 2000-2003 and appeared in three straight NFC championship games.

Reid and Rivera eventually parted ways and became head coaches for the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers, respectively, where they instituted new cultures based in part on what they learned in Philadelphia. Both Davis and Fuller have played and had success with those championship-caliber coaches, and now they plan to bring what they learned with them to the Redskins.

"Just knowing the mindset that you've got to [have going] into those types of seasons and those types of games, that's what I want to help us do," Fuller said on the "Offseason Update Live" show Tuesday night.

Fuller, who the Redskins traded to the Chiefs in 2018, joined Kansas City as Reid was entering his sixth season with the team. In the two years away from Washington, he was surrounded by Pro Bowlers like Eric Berry and Tyrann Mathieu and got the chance to learn about football from a different perspective.

Reid's culture with the Chiefs was already established by the time he joined them, and it showed itself in their preparations for games. Fuller said his coaches would have the entire defense out 10 minutes before practice to walk through different plays they would run each day. At first, Fuller and his teammates were not enthusiastic about the extra practice, but that eventually subsided when they realized how helpful it could be for them.

"You get to a point where that's just the routine. That's just what we do," Fuller said. "That's how we do things. Those little extra sessions help guys so much. Once we got onto the field, it was so competitive."

The competitions during practice were intense. Fuller said the offense and defense "were at each other's throats," talking trash to one another. He remembers going back and forth with 2018 MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes; even Reid wasn't immune to the occasional jab from players.

At the same time, there was never any ill will behind the rhetoric. They could be competitive while also learning from each other. There was no animosity between the offense and defense because it was all in the spirit of helping everyone get better.

"We're going to compete, we're going to talk trash, and then the next [play] I'm going to come at you saying, 'Hey, what were you looking at? What did I do for you to throw it here and not there?'" Fuller said. "Those are the things that we have to do on a daily basis."

While Fuller only had a two-year sample of Reid's system in Kansas City, Davis was a cornerstone of Rivera's teams for almost the entirety of his coaching career. From the time Rivera got his first opportunity to be a head coach in 2011, Davis has seen his coaching style grow and morph into what it is today.

Two aspects of Rivera's teams that have remained steadfast over the years are that his players are accustomed to fierce competition and difficult practices. For eight of Davis' 14 seasons in the league, Rivera taught him that games can be won or lost during practice, so they should compete hard every day throughout the week.

"He'd tell us, 'Hey, practice is gonna be hard on the defense always,'" Davis said. "I don't care what the situation is, he's gonna make it harder on the defense, because he wants us to be that group that's on the field to finish the game at any point and have that confidence to know that we're gonna get the job done."

Now that he is back with Rivera after a brief stint with the Los Angeles Chargers, that is something Davis wants to teach the young players on the team, especially among his fellow linebackers -- a position that has seven players with less than four seasons of experience. They've already been competitive during the virtual offseason program, but that will need to continue once training camp comes around.

"Once you make things competitive, I think it makes everybody in the room better," he said. "That's the mindset we have to take once we get on the field as a linebacker corp. If we want to say that we're gonna be one of the best in the league, it all starts with the competition."

Both Davis and Fuller have had the benefit of learning from two of the best coaches in recent memory. As head coaches, Rivera and Reid have made 19 postseason appearances, advanced to three Super Bowls and led some of the league's best teams.

Now that they're playing for Rivera and helping him establish a new era in Redskins history, they already know what to expect when he tries pushing the team beyond its limits.

"When you have a coach that can do that," Davis said, "as a player, you want to go out and you wanna compete and play and work harder for that coach."

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