Ron Rivera knows what it’s like to feel invincible.
The head coach of the Washington Football Team spent nine seasons as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, winning Super Bowl XX in 1986 while playing a pivotal role in the middle of one of the most vaunted defenses in NFL history for nearly a decade. He played 137 games in his career, suiting up for all but seven games for the Bears between 1984 and 1992.
However, after being diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in late August, he learned what it was like to lose that feeling too. Rivera wrapped up his final round of treatments Oct. 26, ringing the bell at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute to celebrate the progress both he and his support system have made in their fight against the disease.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Rivera told NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay on Monday. “It was kind of a surreal and emotional moment for me last week. I finished both my proton therapy treatment and my chemo treatment on the same day so it was well-worth it getting the opportunity to ring the bell. Now, it’s all about the recovery and the recuperation part of it and hoping that the medicine continues to do its job for me.”
Washington is coming off its Week 8 bye with a 2-5 record that’s good enough for second place in the NFC East. Rivera very much believes Washington can still make a run at the playoffs and the team hopes to have him working at near-full capacity moving forward after he had to submit to an IV at halftime of a few games and missed a couple practices earlier this season due to illness.
The worst may be behind him, but Rivera credits the ordeal for teaching him a lesson on his own mortality.
“To be honest with you, it was a very humbling experience,” Rivera said. “It’s surreal because it kind of signifies you’re not invincible and…when you’re a professional athlete, when you’re a high-profile athlete, the tendency is to feel like you’re Superman and you’re really not. So when something like this happens to me personally, it was a very humbling experience.”