Ron Rivera feels like his players and training staff are in sync


The words "turbulent" and "tumultuous" are used so much when describing Washington's thrice-named NFL franchise that their meaning can begin to fade. When it comes to reviewing what the team's training staff has been involved with recently, though, they absolutely apply.

From the complicated Trent Williams situation that featured a nearly-fatal, botched cancer diagnosis to last year's raid on the organization's headquarters and ensuing DEA investigation into then-head trainer Ryan Vermillion, that part of the club has generated massive negative headlines in the past couple of years.

Then, when Chase Young was absent during the Commanders' first round of OTAs last week, it was easy to wonder if Young — who's spending much of his rehab from a torn ACL in Colorado — perhaps had trust issues with the training staff, too. Was another problem be brewing?

Fortunately, Young made his return to the Commanders this week, which quelled that speculation. And after Wednesday's practice session, Ron Rivera told reporters that he feels as if his players and his training staff are in lockstep with one another.

"I’d like to believe we have them already right where we need them," Rivera said. "The only guy that went somewhere to work out with somebody was Chase. But for the most part, we had everyone else here. To me, it’s solid."


That assertion by Rivera was backed up by Young, who held his own press conference and relayed that his choice to largely recover far away from Washington's facility was widely discussed and well-communicated.

"It was really just my plan that we had with [noted surgeon] Dr. [James] Andrews, my trainer in Colorado and the trainers here," Young said. "Just the best plan to bring me back to 100%."

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How Carson Wentz fits into his third offense in three years and whether the defense can get its act together are two storylines that will impact 2022 far more than the relationship between those who suit up and those who help them stay healthy enough to suit up.

Still, those quotes from Rivera and Young are encouraging and important to discuss.

Though Rivera was the one who ultimately traded Williams to San Francisco, he wasn't the head coach during the bulk of that contentious saga. Also, Larry Hess, who was the head trainer when Williams' health scare occurred, was fired after the 2019 season.

However, those facts don't do anything to change the perception that Washington almost cost Williams his life by not taking his complaints about a lump on his head seriously enough. That's a difficult notion to shake.

In order to improve the staff's reputation, Rivera replaced Hess with Vermillion, who worked with Rivera in Carolina for years. Yet Vermillion was placed on administrative leave just a few weeks into the 2021 campaign for "possible diversion of prescription drugs" to people who didn't have a legitimate reason to get them. 

So, once again, Washington's training staff was at the center of a notable controversy.

With Vermillion gone, Al Bellamy, who was once an assistant trainer for the then-Redskins for 12 years and is coming off a lengthy stint at the University of Temple, is now overseeing the operation. Bellamy was hired in April and is someone that both Rivera and General Manager Martin Mayhew respect.

"Al Bellamy is one of the finest men I’ve had the privilege of working with in the NFL," Mayhew said when Bellamy joined the Commanders.


"His experience and professionalism are both traits that we were looking for," Rivera said. "I’m looking forward to working with Al here in Washington and I know his knowledge and expertise will be invaluable for our players and coaches."

Bellamy, the rest of his group and the Commanders are only at the start of their partnership, and actual gameplay — where new injuries will pop up — is still months away. In other words, the strength of that partnership hasn't been tested all that much. 

But if Rivera's right in his assessment that both sides are already gelling, and if Young's rehab is eventually a successful one, then there should be a solid foundation for this iteration of the training staff to build on.