Washington head coach Ron Rivera has been tasked with attempting to turn around the Washington Football franchise while fighting squamous cell carcinoma located in a lymph node (a form of skin cancer) at the same time. Each on its own is a difficult task. Doing both at the same time is even more daunting.
During Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Rivera was clearly struggling with his health at times. He would sit down on the bench during TV timeouts, something he said he normally doesn't do. Washington director of football operations Paul Kelly was constantly by Rivera's side, in case the head coach needed anything throughout the game.
"I had my moments where I felt pretty strong and felt good enough to work up and down the sidelines," Rivera said postgame. "There will other times where I waned a little bit, where I had to take a quick break, get some Gatorade in me and I was able to get back up and keep going."
However, the head coach fought through the entire game. Part of the reason why was wanting to set an example for his players, but Rivera also said he wanted to be smart with how much he pushed himself.
"Part of it is being the example, but I was trying to be smart about it, too," Rivera said. "So, I just wanted to be there for the guys, be around the guys, and let them know I was behind them."
Rivera, who took an IV at halftime during Washington's Week 1 victory over the Eagles, did not take one this week during the intermission. The head coach and his team of doctors had a plan entering Sunday for how they would handle the game, and they stuck with it.
"I thought I was OK enough to do so," Rivera said about being able to coach on Sunday. "We hydrated before the game. I took two bags of IV fluid prior to the game. Our direction of football operations was constantly handing me water and Gatorade. I would sit down at TV timeouts, I normally don't, but I sat down a couple of times just trying to pace myself through it."
After the game, Rivera, as fierce of a competitor as they come, admitted that if his doctors recommended he take time away from football to focus on his health, it would be something he "will listen" to.
This past week, the head coach was forced to miss all of Wednesday's practice and part of Thursday's session for his scheduled treatment appointments. On Friday, when Rivera returned to practice, he opened up about his struggles fighting through cancer.
"It’s been very disruptive," Rivera said Friday. "It’s tough because I don’t get a chance to pop into meetings like I’d like to. I don’t get a chance to bounce around from one position to the other. It’s where you give an encouraging note or a cross note to push a kid along to get them to do things the right way. I have a different impact when I say things to the players as opposed to the positional coaches or the coordinator. For me to not be able to be there—unfortunately, they’re not getting the full gambit of who I am right now. That’s disappointing on myself."
Washington's performance on Sunday, a two-touchdown loss to Baltimore, is not one Rivera will look back fondly on. However, reviewing tape from the loss is an issue for Monday and the rest of the week, as the head coach has one thing on his mind once he returns home.
"I most certainly look forward to getting home and going to bed early," he said.