Get live updates on the Commanders’ training camp from WTOP’s George Wallace. Listen live at: 25 and: 55 past the hour. You can also follow George on Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates from training camp.
Ron Rivera had a different tone as he sat down for his pre-camp news conference on Tuesday. The ownership situation is settled, and now it’s only about football, and the Washington Commanders’ head coach is ready for the first training camp practice Wednesday morning.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” Rivera said. “You can already feel the impact. A lot of it has to do with the reaction from the fan base. I think our guys have also felt it. The guys are getting into this. It’s a unique feeling. It’s exciting. I’m fired up about the opportunity as we go forward.”
For the first time since he’s been Washington’s head coach, Rivera finally has a chance to just focus on the field and not answer questions about the dysfunction off of it.
“The last few years, I honestly felt more like a manager — trying to manage things and stuff like that and try to keep everybody on task and on focus in terms of the game,” he said.
Rivera added that this past spring, things started to feel normal, knowing that the ownership change was coming. He and the other coaches had tried to keep things business as usual and have everything in place for when the inevitable happened. When that happened, they were able to move forward.
It was always going to be tough for Josh Harris to make changes regarding the on-the-field product with ownership approval coming so close to the start of training camp. Rivera and the coaching staff will have an evaluation period, but Harris wants to ensure the team is well-positioned to win football games.
“We’ve had an opportunity to meet — myself with Mr. Harris,” Rivera said. “And more so than anything else, we really discussed philosophy: mine and what his and the ownership group was going to be about, supporting us and being there for us, trying to give us the tools that we need to go out and play good football and winning football.
“That was the thing that I really appreciated was having that conversation and just hearing their commitment to trying to do the best they can to bring back to this area a sense of pride in this organization.”
It’s also not lost on Rivera that he’s now in a new position with a new boss and has to prove himself.
“I’ve got a lot to prove because I really do think we’ve put ourselves in a really good position. I think we’re a good, young football team with some key veterans at key positions, and now is the opportunity to go. And, yeah, I do feel that I do want to prove some stuff,” he said.
After winning the NFC East in 2020 with a 7-9 record, Washington has missed the playoffs the last two years, and Rivera knows it’s not just about impressing his new boss.
“We’ve been too close,” he said. “For everything that we’ve done and for what we’ve had and how we’ve competed, we’ve been too close the last couple of years. It’s time now to sustain it and just proving that these are the guys, these are the coaches, that I’m the right guy to help this organization continue to go forward.”
Harris plans to attend camp on Wednesday and spend time with Rivera after practice. There will be many conversations to follow as the season progresses.
The optimism and the energy are there. But it’s time to focus on football.
Wednesday’s practice is not open to the fans. The first open practice is Thursday morning at 9 a.m.