Sunday, October 4, 2020


The cameras showed Washington Football coach Ron Rivera sitting on the bench at moments during Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

It was reported that as he came off the field at halftime, he was leaning on the shoulder of one of the team’s public relations officials while talking to a network reporter on the phone.

For what? A 31-17 loss to the Ravens? Or last week’s 34-20 defeat, or the 30-15 the week before?

Is coaching the Washington Football Team worth Ron Rivera’s life?

I mean, that’s what we are talking about here — Rivera’s life as he undergoes difficult treatment for squamous cell carcinoma and trying to coach an NFL team in this age of COVID-19.

Dealing with the treatments that Rivera has to go through — chemotherapy and proton radiation — wears down people under normal conditions. These conditions are anything but normal.

In case you haven’t notice, COVID-19 is still out of control and showing no signs of slowing down.

If anything, the virus is starting to spike again. There were more than 54,000 positive cases of coronavirus reported on Friday, the highest single-day in nearly two months, according to information released by Johns Hopkins University, USA Today reported.

And now the NFL is dealing with a COVID-19 crisis. The Tennessee Titans have an outbreak that includes at least 18 players, and their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed until presumably later in the season.

New England is down a starting quarterback after Cam Newton tested positive.

The Kansas City Chiefs, which had been scheduled to play the Patriots on Sunday, also had a positive (a practice squad quarterback). Their game was postponed a day and is now set to go Monday night.

The virus has reached all the way to the White House, with President Trump hospitalized and other government officials and colleagues in the Trump circle testing positive.

For people with any level of intelligence, these fall and winter months were always going to be the biggest challenge in containing the virus — the time when people normally fall ill from viral diseases. And this is the problem facing the NFL — the heart of their schedule comes during this most vulnerable time on the calendar.

This is the time that Rivera is facing therapy that will only make him more vulnerable. Chemotherapy and radiation kill cancer cells. But they also attack healthy cells as well, which reduces your immunity to fight illnesses such as coronavirus.

Rivera — wearing one of the “Rivera Strong” T-shirts that were handed out to the entire team — told reporters after the game that he thought he was “OK enough” to coach. “I took two bags of IVs prior to the game,” he said. “I sat down a couple of time to pace myself through it and look forward to getting home and going to bed early.”

Home is where he should stay until he has become strong enough to at least have a fighting chance to do what the rest of us — those of us with a healthy respect for the deadly nature of this virus — are doing every day: fighting off COVID-19.

I know Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — himself a cancer victim — gave Rivera words of encouragement when the news surfaced during the summer. But Hogan, who recovered and said he has been 100% cancer free, wasn’t undergoing treatment during the dire time of a pandemic.

Rivera has a football player’s mentality, having played nine years in the NFL, but he needs to take a look at the playbook right now and the risks and rewards.

He is being lauded for the courage it takes to carry on in this job in the face of the struggle he has before him. It was a heartwarming moment when his wife Stephanie and the Washington Football Team had 450 cardboard cutouts of his family and friends in the stands for Sunday’s game. Rivera was choked up after the game talking about the gesture.

But we are talking about coaching a football team. Not just any football team, but this football team. The only life on the line is Ron Rivera’s.

This Washington Football Team can just as easily chalk up double-digit losses under defensive coordinator and former NFL coach Jack Del Rio. The holes in this organization that Rivera desperately wants to fill?

Those holes — a franchise-wide need for real growth and real culture change — will all still be there for Rivera to tackle when he is fully Rivera-strong. They’ve been there for more than 20 years.

• Hear Thom Loverro Tuesdays and Thursdays on the Kevin Sheehan Show Podcast and Wednesday afternoons on Chad Dukes Vs. The World on 106.7 The Fan.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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