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Jack Del Rio, Washington players know time 'to step up' with Ron Rivera out

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ASHBURN -- One mantra above all else gets said in every NFL locker room: Next man up.

When a linebacker gets injured, the next linebacker takes the field. Same thing at running back. Same thing at cornerback.

No matter what the position, each player has a backup, and all NFL players understand they could be needed on the field at almost anytime. 

With head coaches it's not exactly the same, but this year in Washington, that will be the situation.

Ron Rivera has a new battle in front of him, fighting squamous cell carcinoma, and missed Tuesday's practice for treatment. The coach made the Washington Football Team aware of his cancer last month, and instituted a plan that Jack Del Rio slides from defensive coordinator to interim head coach on days Rivera can't make it. 

Tuesday was the first day, but for Del Rio, it was next man up. 

"Coach says 'I'm gonna be out,' it means he needs me to step in. I'm like, 'I've got you, Coach,'" Del Rio said after Tuesday's practice. 

"I'm just going to carry on his message. We're going to stay on point with what we're doing. I pay attention to what he's saying to the staff and what he's saying to the team and I echo those things," Del Rio continued. "Talking with the team, he's asked everybody to step up: assistants step up, players step up. Everybody has got to step up and do their part."

 

A coach fighting through cancer is not particularly comparable to a player missing time with a sprained ankle, but in NFL ethos, the response requires the same mindset. 

"We got all our plans laid out. We carried on as normal. I tended to the things that need to be tended to, but it was pretty much business as usual," Del Rio said. 

The team expects Rivera back on Wednesday, but it seems likely that he will miss more practices over the course of the season. 

For most players, the work went on as normal though cornerback Ronald Darby did notice Rivera's absence. 

"It did feel a little weird," Darby said, "but we got to keep pushing."

Keep pushing. Everybody step up. 

Rivera might not have been at practice on Tuesday, but his message sure was.