RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Under normal circumstances, Washington’s NFL football team would be preparing to open its eighth year of training camp in Richmond this week. But as we’ve learned all too well, 2020 has been anything but normal.
Players reported for camp on Tuesday at the team’s headquarters in Ashburn to begin a training camp like they’ve never seen before. The first six days will be COVID-19 testing, physicals and equipment distribution. With no offseason programs, such as mini-camps or OTA’s, new head coach Ron Rivera is getting his first chance to see some of Washington’s newest members.
“We didn’t get the chance to have any OTAs or mini camps and be with our players in person,” Rivera pointed out. “We had guys who were coming in for their COVID tests this morning and, you know, I didn’t recognize them. They had their masks on, too, which made it even harder to recognize. That was probably the hardest part.”
Now that his players are in the building and together, he’ll be stressing that they should all be following the protocols, such as face coverings, hand washing, and social distancing when possible.
“That’s why the emphasis will be we’ve got to follow the protocols and be very diligent with them,” stressed Rivera. “That’s the thing that we’re missing right now as a society is that we’re not very diligent, we’re not very strict and unfortunately it’s still kind of rampant right now.”
Of course, plenty has happened away from the field when it comes to Washington’s football team. The franchise is going through a name change and the Washington Post published a damaging report on the team’s culture, documenting years of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. None of those incidents happened while Rivera was with the organization, but now that he’s with the team, he wants to make sure a permanent culture change takes place, and it starts with an open-door policy where nobody is afraid to speak up.
“I hope that we don’t have that kind of culture here, you know that people are afraid to speak up,” the head coach said. “I think that if something happens or if there’s concerns, people should reach out and pass it on and hopefully we can get it to the right people to get things corrected, get things worked on so we can go forward. That’s what I want. I don’t want an atmosphere where people are afraid to tell the truth.”
Rivera also applauded the Black Lives Matter movement and said that’s been a topic of discussion with his players.
The schedule for this year’s camp will be a gradual introduction to football activities. After the initial six days, a introductory period takes place beginning August 3. Players can do limited weight training and conditioning. August 12 is the first day the squad can have a full team workout on the field, with August 17 marking the first full-contact practice. With no preseason games, Rivera said that it will be more difficult to evaluate the rookies and new players, but that all will have a chance to prove they’re deserving of a spot on the roster.
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