Instead of spending Saturday heading to Philadelphia in order to prepare for a Sunday kickoff, members of the Washington Football Team were back at their Ashburn, Va. headquarters for the first of two weekend practices that were tacked on to the schedule following the COVID-19 outbreak that forced postponement of their Week 15 game with the Eagles.
Not surprisingly, the mood within the organization appeared to be more positive — thanks largely to some negative test results. Jonathan Allen, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill and Montez Sweat were all activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday with the hope that more reinforcements can soon join them.
In a Zoom press conference following his roster's time on the field Saturday, Ron Rivera explained how he reacted to the news that the Philly contest was being moved to Tuesday evening.
"Honestly, a little bit of, 'OK, cool, that's good, that helps us,'" Rivera said.
Washington's opponent, on the other hand, certainly doesn't seem to find the change "cool." Numerous Eagles players took to social media to criticize the NFL's choice to adjust the timing of the critical NFC East tilt, wondering why they had to "compromise" (as safety Rodney McLeod put it) their plans to accommodate the Burgundy and Gold.
When asked whether he found the whole deal to be fair, Rivera was rather diplomatic.
"I think it was what's best for the league," Rivera said. "It was stated in the policy that they were gonna help teams [in cases where] this came about because players that were vaccinated had a breakthrough and it got to that point and they were gonna try and keep it as fair as possible."
Allen later faced the same inquiry, which he responded to with his typical bluntness.
"I feel like that's a loaded question," Allen said. "As a player on Washington, well yeah, I'm glad they did it. I'm sure Philadelphia has different opinions. But at the end of the day, it's what the league thinks is best for the league and that's really their decision. It's not up to us and it's not my job to worry about that."
The team will once again practice on Sunday before taking an off day Monday. That means there's plenty more testing to come and the opportunity for additional contributors to exit the NFL's COVID protocol, something that Rivera came across as optimistic about in his press conference.
"We have several guys that are trending in that direction," Rivera said.
Of course, the most impactful development would be if Taylor Heinicke or, more likely, Kyle Allen is cleared and able to start at quarterback on offense. Without them, it could be the Garrett Gilbert show, which would make the postponement feel a bit fruitless.
But at the very minimum, the defensive line will be much deeper with Allen, Smith-Williams, Toohill and Sweat (whom Rivera complimented for staying in prime shape during his recovery from a broken jaw and his stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list) all expected to play against the Eagles.
Consider Allen quite relieved to be a part of that reinvigorated group.
"It was frustrating because it was the worst time of the season," Allen said about being sidelined. "We’re getting into divisional play now and just to know that I possibly might not be out there, that was kind of the worst part about it."