In Washington, Richard Rodgers sees the same Ron Rivera who revived Panthers

WFT’s Rodgers sees the same ‘resilient’ Rivera from Carolina originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington Football Team assistant defensive backs coach Richard Rodgers may be new to the organization, but he has a long history with head coach Ron Rivera.

Rodgers was on Rivera’s staff in Carolina from 2012 to 2019 before joining him in Washington, but he says the two have a relationship that dates back 20-plus years. During that time, they’ve shared countless moments and stories, but when asked to pick his favorite Rivera tale, Rodgers struggles to pinpoint just one.

Instead, he remembers a common theme and characteristic Rivera has demonstrated over the years: determination.

“I don’t know if I have a favorite story, but I think just watching him as a leader over the past nine, ten years and being a friend and seeing him and his resilience,” Rodgers said to NBC Sports Washington. “Obviously going through what he’s going through now. But even before that, taking a team to a Super Bowl.”

When thinking about his history with Rivera, the 2015 Super Bowl season with the Carolina Panthers did stick out to Rodgers and he was then able to tell a story that encapsulates just how important Rivera can be to an NFL franchise.

In 2011, Rivera took over a football team in Carolina that was 2-14 and in need of major changes. Though 2011 and 2012 were still years of rebuilding, the head coach took the franchise to the playoffs in 2013 and 2014. Come the beginning of the 2015 season, there was a new buzz around the Panthers. The team went from a bottom feeder to one with playoff expectations.

As fans crowded in at training camp, Rodgers wanted Rivera to understand just how far he had come, and how big of an impact he had on the organization.

“I just remember looking at him and saying ‘Hey, look what you built here, look what you did,'” Rodgers said. “We kind of gave each other a high-five.”

In that 2015 season, Rivera would deliver on the hype and lead his team to a 15-1 regular season record and a Super Bowl appearance. But as Rodgers recalls, it did not come without challenges.

2014 ended with star quarterback Cam Newton getting into a serious car crash, and 2015 began with Rivera’s family home in Charlotte suffering major damage in a fire. Yet through it all, Rivera took the adversity and turned it into success. That continued in the following years.

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Now in Washington, plenty of challenges still remain. Rivera is not only going through his own personal battle with cancer, but the head coach is tasked with fixing Washington’s performance on and off the field. It won’t be easy, but much like what he saw from him in Carolina, Rodgers believes Rivera is already laying the groundwork for positive change with his new team.

“I see the same here,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of things that are going on here, that were going on there. I see a person who is resilient, who is going to put his best foot forward and not make any excuses for us as a football team or an organization and only just continue to strive to make us better.”

Anyone who has spent time with Rivera has noted just how strong and impactful he can be for his players, coaches and organizations. Rodgers has spent about as much time with him as anybody over the years, and his depiction of Rivera echoes the constant perception of the head coach: There is no challenge that Ron Rivera will back down from.

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