- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2020

Right after Ron Rivera expressed confidence the Washington Redskins were ready for a smooth, hitch-free NFL draft next week — the whole event will take place online due to coronavirus — the coach’s livestream where he was making those comments crashed.

Technical problems aside, Rivera took questions for about an hour Thursday as part of an online forum sponsored by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, telling those who tuned in that the Redskins — like everyone else in the country — are adjusting to the new norms.

Some takeaways from the session:

Virtual program coming

Rivera said his team will participate in the league’s virtual offseason program, which starts Monday and lasts until May 15. The program allows the Redskins’ coaches to host meetings online to teach players and host remote workouts.

Teams had the choice to take part in the voluntary program.

“When we get into this virtual coaching, our coaching staff is ready to go,” Rivera said. “They’ve got all the Zoom technology needed, so they can do their meetings as well with the players virtually. We’re in position right there.”

Rivera said navigating the 2011 lockout, his first NFL season as a head coach, was helpful as it taught him to be ready and adapt to the circumstances whenever necessary.

Draft board set

With the draft a week away, the Redskins have all but set their draft board, Rivera said. Washington hosted meetings with its position coaches and scouts to review each position of prospects, starting with the offensive linemen and ending with the specialists. Rivera added the Redskins also reviewed players’ medical information.

Rivera said he’s not a fan of the NFL cliche of picking the best player available.

“What you want to do is pick the best player on the board that fits you as a football team, and then you worry about the needs, in my opinion, as you go through it,” Rivera said. “You get to a certain point where sometimes the need may overweigh the best player, as long as those guys you are talking about are very close. You want to be careful with that, you really do.

“I’ve heard the expression, ‘You don’t want to shop hungry.’ Keeping that in mind, as we go through the board, we have to be really, really, really honest with our thoughts in terms of where we see players and what are needs are.”

Question Rivera likes to ask

Rivera spent eight-plus seasons as coach of the Carolina Panthers and has now been with the Redskins for a few months. In that span, the 58-year-old has talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of draft prospects.

Asked what his most important question is to ask those players, Rivera likes to find out who they consider a mentor in their lives.

“That’s one of the things I love asking,” he said. “It’s really kind of neat because you watch their eyes light up when they talk about somebody that really truly impacted him. They’ll talk about that person for a long time. That, to me, is really cool.”

For Rivera, the coach said his father, who served as an officer in the Army and served two tours in Vietnam, was his biggest influence in how he goes about being a leader.

Impressed with Peterson

Rivera said one of the things he wanted for his roster was a mix of veteran leaders and young players. Rivera sounded like he believed he had the former with running back Adrian Peterson.

Asked about the former MVP, Rivera said “it’s awesome” to have Peterson on the roster.

“Somebody told me a neat little story that last year, AP, when he broke one of the records, he gave the game ball to one of his teammates because he said if his teammate hadn’t done his job, then I wouldn’t have been able to break that kind of record,” Rivera said. “It’s just kind of neat that the young players see those things that guys like AP, who have accomplished so much in their career, don’t take all the credit. They credit their teammates.

“That to me is important. That’s a great example for our young guys.”

The story to which Rivera referred to is likely when Peterson gave the ball that he scored his 105th career rushing touchdown with — tying Walter Payton for fourth all-time — to rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin because of a key block the 24-year-old made to help get the running back in the end zone. On the ball, Peterson inscribed: “Great block youngster. You made this possible.”

Plan for 2020

Rivera laid out a simple goal for the Redskins in 2020: Be better.

“Be better can be whether you look at it by record, by performance, or by the way you play, but be better,” Rivera said. “I can’t sit and give you a gage (in wins and losses) or anything like that, but the expectation is to be better, is to improve and play the right type of football, the right style of football, the way football needs to be played.”

Those generalities might not be satisfying for some, but the Redskins are coming off a 3-13 season. RIvera’s main goal, he said, is to establish a winning culture — “more so than anything else,” he said.

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