Football Team

Hailey: What Michael Jordan has to do with WFT's opener

Football Team

The Washington Football Team held its final training camp practice before taking on the Patriots to open up the preseason on Thursday, and after the session, head coach Ron Rivera was asked about what he wants to see from his players versus New England.

At least initially, Rivera kept it straightforward.

"Consistency," the boss told reporters. "You know, you want to win them all, but I'm not concerned with winning them. I'm concerned with going out there and playing hard and doing things the right way first and foremost."

That's a perfectly fine answer, right? Like, it's not exactly awe-inspiring, but Rivera identified the thing that matters most to him when it comes to Thursday, which was the point of the inquiry. All good there.

But then, just before the conclusion of his time with the media, Rivera circled back to the topic. And in this instance, he casually name-dropped someone who is rarely, rarely name-dropped in a casual fashion. 

"What'll happen is when it becomes game speed, that kind of pace, that's when you really begin to notice some guys do some things," Rivera said. "It's interesting because Michael Jordan told me this one time, a long time ago, when we were back in Chicago. He used to say, 'You watch when it comes down to clutch time, who comes to the ball hard, who doesn't seem to come off that pick as hard as they should.'"

 

"It's just interesting," he added. "So, when we get into the games like this, you really watch for those things and it tells you."

The two were professional athletes in Chicago at the same time, so it makes sense they have spoken before. But once you get past the fact that Rivera coolly mentioned Michael Jordan as if he was Rivera's accountant, you come away with an appreciation for what MJ told Rivera. 

At camp, it's one thing to read and react to your own teammates' moves and put yourself in position to block them/tackle them/race by them, etc. In those situations, you're battling with someone who ultimately wants to wear the same jersey as you, who isn't necessarily running at 100 percent and who may not even be wearing pads.

Once another NFL squad is introduced, though, and action from practice is transferred into a legitimate game situation — and yes, for many, a preseason matchup qualifies as legitimate — the intensity multiplies. That's what Jordan was getting at in his conversation with Rivera, and that's what Rivera will be monitoring come Thursday.

Then, maybe Rivera will reference something he learned from Denzel Washington or Taylor Swift or Tiger Woods, just to keep things lively when he's behind the microphone next. That'd be neat.

Washington's preseason game against New England airs at 7:30 p.m. on NBC-4 and NBC Sports Washington. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Washington Football Kickoff Live on NBC Sports Washington.