Ron Rivera's cancer diagnosis came as a surprise, but the coach said Friday he's ready to embrace the "opportunity to take care of this and be able to go forward."
The Washington Football Team confirmed to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo on Thursday that Rivera had been diagnosed with squamous cell cancer, a discovery that Rivera said on Friday upset him because he'd been paying closer attention to his health recently.
"Honestly I'm a little bit angry," Rivera said. "I'm not quite sure how this happened. This is the healthiest I've felt in a long, long time. Honestly. I've lost some weight. I've been working out and doing things the right way.
"[I] had a great summer. I really did. We took about 20 days off. [We] went out to California to visit my family. Got COVID tested so I could go see my parents. Saw my brothers and their families. So really just got into a really good place and then got home and unfortunately, I was diagnosed with this.
"But physically I felt good. I thought practice have been going well. I had good energy with the players. We've been practicing at an up tempo. I've been doing the things that I normally do. So, I was really disappointed and surprised, concerned, scared at times. But truthfully, I feel good. I'm looking forward to getting into the therapies and following the protocol and getting this taking care of."
Rivera said his therapies will consist of five days of treatment per week for seven weeks and will include proton therapy and "some other stuff involved." He also said doctors recommended he continue to work "at a good pace, a smart pace" while still following all health protocols and receiving treatment.
The coach first discovered something might be wrong when he was shaving, he said, before consulting with Washington team doctors. After feeling as if he'd strained a neck muscle, the pain didn't subside a week later, prompting further examination.
"He took a look at me. He said let's keep an eye on it and I'll see you next week," Rivera explained. "Then I came back next week and it hadn't come down like we had hoped. So, he went and got me checked and after a couple of other follow-up checkups it was determined that I was stricken with cancer."
Despite the frightening nature of a cancer diagnosis, Rivera remains positive and ready to win his battle while also preparing his new team for a regular season unlike any other. That's part of why he was quick to acknowledge his illness and thank those who have reached out to express support for him in a trying time.
"We wanted to make sure people understood what I'm inflicted with right now is most certainly is a very treatable, very curable disease," he said. "I'm very fortunate."
Rivera is no longer in Carolina, but the phrase that became the Panthers' rallying cry rings truer than ever for him right now: Keep pounding.