Changing the culture in Ashburn has been one of the biggest priorities for Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera since taking over last January.
After leading Washington to a division title in 2020 despite having to play four different quarterbacks, deal with multiple organizational issues and his own cancer battle, Rivera is certainly on his way to doing just that.
Pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan has spent the last decade in Washington and played under four different head coaches. Over that span, Washington had made the playoffs just twice up until this year. To be blunt, Kerrigan has seen more than his fair share of dysfunction.
Yet, it's only taken one season playing under Rivera for Kerrigan to notice major differences in Washington.
"He pressed a lot of the right buttons with us players and made us want to play for him," Kerrigan said on The John Keim Report podcast.
Kerrigan specifically pointed out the team's practice style, citing that Rivera did everything he could to keep his players fresh throughout the week and ready to perform their best on game days.
"The way Coach Rivera handled things this season, the way he took care of us as players, he really worked to make us fresh on Sundays," Kerrigan said. "As a player, you really appreciate that -- a coach that's not going to try and grind you into the dirt on Wednesday and Thursday."
Overall, the pass rusher said it was difficult to pinpoint one specific thing or moment that truly showed him culture change, but rather it was something you could just sense.
"You could just tell that there was good, positive energy around the locker room, around the building," Kerrigan said.
Despite Rivera undergoing cancer treatment that forced the head coach to miss significant practice time through the first two months of the season, Kerrigan said Rivera's energy when he was with the group made it easy to forget what he was going through -- in a good way.
"Obviously, he had his battle [with cancer]," Kerrigan said. "You would have never known he was going through that the way he handled himself."
For the first time in his career, Kerrigan is set to hit free agency this offseason. The 32-year-old has said he wants to be a starter, something that won't happen in Washington with Chase Young and Montez Sweat commanding the edge rusher position.
However, Kerrigan hasn't ruled out a return to Washington -- fully knowing that coming back to the Football Team would mean playing a reserve role similar to the one he had this past campaign.
If Kerrigan knows he won't get the role he wants in Washington, then why is he considering a return? Well, because he does truly feel confident in the direction the only franchise he's ever played for is headed.
"I do believe the team is on the up. I believe we got a good foundation," Kerrigan said. "I mean, hell, we barely lost to the Buccaneers and we didn't particularly play that well in that game. It shows you the kind of potential we have as a team."