In an offseason of change in Washington, one small move that did have an impact on the locker room was Ron Rivera's removal of the wildly-popular ping pong table.
The new head coach's decision to eliminate table tennis was just another example of his desire to establish a new, more serious culture within the organization. Though it turned some fans' heads, it was something that avid players like long snapper Nick Sundberg respected.
Punter Tress Way, another dedicated ping pong player, was also understanding of the decision by Rivera. In fact, while he'll miss working on his craft with the paddle, he says he actually needs to thank Ron Rivera.
"I think I even need to do a hand-written letter or just a person-to-person conversation," Way said during a Washington Football Team virtual happy hour. "I owe him a thank you.”
Why exactly is Way so thankful? Well, it turns out that prior to the removal of the table, he was in jeopardy of losing his title as the best ping pong player on the roster.
After dominating other players day in and day out, Way has turned his passion into a skill that put him at the top of the locker room rankings.
“As a specialist, I punt and work out, play some ping pong after practice with the guys," Way said. "When the table was removed I was number one in the locker room.”
But, toward the end, Way became nervous that others were coming for his crown. Tired of losing to him, the punter explained that some talented individuals were preparing to take him down when they returned for the 2020 season.
"Some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen in my life decided at the end of last year that they were going to start playing some ping pong," Way said.
Then, Rivera swooped in and allowed Way to retire on top.
“I think coach may have bailed me out," Way said. "I think because he removed it I get to walk out number one and so I think I owe him a sincere thank you.”
Not having ping pong will surely be an adjustment for Way. As a punter, getting in some reps on the table was part of his daily routine, and he was clearly very good at it. He still has one at his home, and is willing to have challengers come take him on in a socially distant manner.
But, when it comes to the locker room in Ashburn, Va., he gets to be remembered as one of the best to pick up the paddle. That makes the loss a little less tough.
“I’m immortalized as the number one ping pong player in Washington," Way said. "So I don’t mind it.”
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