Ron Rivera admitted Sunday it has been physically tough for him to stay on the sidelines amid his battle with cancer, but the Washington head coach explained the reasoning behind his ongoing presence.
"It's a struggle," Rivera said after his team's 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. "It's a battle. And I just don't represent me. I represent all those folks. All those people that are afflicted, all those people that fight, all those people that have fought."
Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer just a few weeks ahead of the 2020 season but was determined to fulfill his coaching duties in his first season in Washington.
Rivera said he felt "pretty strong" at times but there were moments where he needed a "quick break." The 58-year-old coach reportedly needed two bags of IV fluid before the game and could be seen constantly drinking fluids on the sideline throughout. As teams went to their locker rooms at half, Rivera was leaning on the shoulder of a staff member as they walked off the field.
Before the game, Rivera was surprised by 400-plus cardboard cutouts in the stands supporting his cancer fight. Washington Football Team employees, former players including Greg Olsen, Steve Smith, and Luke Kuechly, and fellow head coaches including Andy Reid and Sean McDermott submitted photos to be placed in the stands. But it was a certain cutout that triggered his emotions ahead of the game.
"I just feel honored," Rivera said. "It was really cool to come out early and see the tribute. It was very poignant at one point because my brother that passed away, they had his picture in the collage. So that was really cool, it really was. It meant a lot to me."
Up against the high-powered Ravens, the Washington Football Team held its own in a 14-point defeat. Young players like quarterback Dwayne Haskins, wide receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson put up career-high numbers while the pesky Washington defense continues to be its strength. All of which is an effort to fight by virtue of its coach.
"It really just shows you you're really not doing this by yourself," Rivera said. "There's a whole bunch of people helping you do this."