WFT is turning to football's favorite phrase in midst of chaos


With a reserve/COVID-19 list that is now a ridiculous 21 names long, the Washington Football Team would be forgiven if it was feeling a bit sorry for itself this week.

That's not the vibe the organization's players and coaches are giving off as they prepare for their Week 15 showdown with the Eagles, though.

Instead, the group appears determined to not let the chaos distract them from their present goal, which is to beat Philadelphia and get back to .500 on the year. 

And to do so, they're leaning on football's favorite phrase.

"It's next man up," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio told reporters on a video call on Thursday. "That's what you do."

"That's just something that we were already prepared for, just knowing that you always have to have the next man up mentality," rookie linebacker Jamin Davis said in his Zoom press conference, one of four separate times he deployed the adage. "You never know who's going to go down."

"The next man's gotta step up and continue the standard that's already been set," safety Jeremy Reaves explained during his session with the media, kindly throwing a "gotta step" in the middle of the slogan to add more flavor to it.

In some cases on the depth chart, however, the maxim requires a good amount of extending.

Take center, for example, where Jon Toth is on track to replace Keith Ismael, who replaced Wes Schweitzer, who replaced Tyler Larsen, who replaced Chase Roullier. For the middle of the offensive line, Sunday very well could be next-next-next-next man up.


John Bates, who as of Thursday was one of just two tight ends who could suit up for practice, didn't actually utter the motto but did reveal on Zoom that he's a believer in it.

He estimated that the first time he heard it was in college at Boise State and, like his pro teammates, largely shrugged off what the franchise is presently experiencing.

"This is a professional job and you're expected — no matter what the situation is — if it's go time for you, it's go time for you and you're expected to perform at a high level," Bates said.

Davis' familiarity with "next man up" dates all the way back to rec league football, he recalled. When asked why those in his line of work are able to dismiss drama that would swallow up those with more typical careers, Davis offered this response.

"It's not about what the outside noise is saying about you or what they think about what's going on with your circumstances. At the end of the day, we're the ones that are putting on the pads and going out there and doing what we love to do. That's all that it really boils down to."

While offensive coordinator Scott Turner, like Bates, also failed to drop the three sacred words Thursday, he spent much of his presser espousing the benefits of backups (or backup-backup-backups) getting an opportunity to compete. It was truly an impressive display of positivity. 

"That's one of the pluses of this situation," Turner said. "Some of these guys that haven't had a chance to play, get a chance to show what they're capable of."

"The passion, the energy, the fuel, it's always been there," Reaves said, echoing Turner's stance. "Now you just get the opportunity to go do it, so you just do what you've always done."

The hope for Washington is that it gets a solid chunk of the 21 players on its reserve/COVID-19 list back in time for kickoff this weekend, and at the very least, it will receive a couple of reinforcements. Even so, the lineup for the Eagles contest will undoubtedly look different than the one that was used versus the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.

Just don't waste too much time waiting for the team to complain about that.

"We've still got a game we've got to play on Sunday," Bates said. "Regardless of who's there and who's not."