NationalSports

Rivera Diagnosed with Cancer, Camp Positional Battles Ensue

The Washington Football Team announced on Aug. 20 that head coach Ron Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) located in a lymph node and detected from a self-care check. The form of cancer was caught during an early stage and is considered very treatable and curable, providing a good prognosis for Rivera.
Coaching during the pandemic could prove to be a risky decision for Rivera if he experiences a weakened immune system during treatments. He asked the organization that the team keep things on a business-as-usual basis, but team officials noted that an alternative, called “Plan B”, is in place if he needs time off.
“Coach Rivera has consulted with leading doctors and oncology specialists and is establishing his treatment plan in conjunction with the team’s medical staff and his outside physicians,” the team said in a statement.
Should Rivera miss any time coaching during the 2020-2021 campaign, the Washington Football Team will turn to former 12-year NFL head coach and current defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio during his absence.
Rivera confirmed to the media on Aug. 22 that Del Rio is “Plan B.” The 57-year-old served as interim head coach during former Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox’ recovery from heart surgery in 2013.
“Coach Rivera wishes to extend his thanks to the team doctors and athletic trainers, and all of the healthcare specialists who will be assisting him through his treatment plan. In addition, Coach Rivera wishes to extend his heartfelt thanks to the Snyders, coaches, players, staff and fans of the Washington Football Team, as well as his family for their love and support during this time,” the team said.
On the football side of the house, quarterbacks Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are in a positional battle for the starting role during training camp.
Haskins looks to improve on his rookie campaign (1,365 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT). Meanwhile, Smith is determined to defy all odds and play his first game since 2018 after suffering a leg injury that required 17 surgeries.
Rivera mentioned that he has seen a lot of progress in Haskins’ development so far in camp and sees Smith getting comfortable back under center during 9-on-9 drills.
“It’s just a part of another step in the process,” Rivera said of Smith. “Hopefully, he’ll continue to grow. We’ll get a chance to look at it. We’ll watch it. I know our trainer will watch it. As long as he’s feeling more and more comfortable with it, we can go ahead and continue to add more and more. It is another milestone for Alex. I’m very happy for him, especially with the way that he works and that’s a huge plus for us and for him, especially.”
The other man in the mix, Allen, started 12 games for the Carolina Panthers under Rivera’s tutelage last season, throwing for 3,322 yards, 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He is familiar with the Rivera offense and is fighting for position in the competition.
“Kyle’s done a nice job. It’s interesting because you watch his decision making, and it’s very typical of him based on my experience with him the last two seasons. You see that he has a grasp and an understanding for the things we’re doing. The other thing is he works well with the other quarterbacks.
“He seems to really help out with [QB] Dwayne [Haskins] and Alex – you don’t need a lot of help with Alex in terms of learning it.”
Like the quarterback position, Washington’s tight end situation is a bit of a hodgepodge, and the depth chart got even murkier after the team waived former LSU star tight end Thaddeus Moss, on Friday. Should the undrafted product clear waivers, Moss will return to Washington’s injured reserve list.
Moss reportedly did not practice much due to his injury designation, and, according to many accounts, another unheralded prospect, second-year tight end Marcus Baugh, has been impressing the coaching staff, including Rivera.
“He’s a young, athletic tight end. He’s got a good skillset,” said Rivera about. “Last year, we started to see his development and growth. We played the last preseason game last year against Pittsburgh, and he really had a good game. It was exciting to see.”
The Ohio State University product hauled in three receptions for 29 yards during that contest against the Steelers in 2019 and was familiar with playing for Rivera in Carolina last season.
Baugh has not played in a regular season game, yet Rivera has liked what he has seen so far from the young man with no definite starter in the mix.
“He’s quick; he’s got good speed, good hands,” Rivera said. “He’s got good strength. He plays with good leverage. But again, he’s got a long way to go, a lot to learn, but he’s somebody we were interested in enough we wanted to take a second look at.”

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