ASHBURN, Va., -- The Washington Football Team players surprised their coach, Ron Rivera, with a video and a donation to celebrate his one-year negative biopsy test earlier this week.
A three-minute video featuring comments from eight players was played during the team's meeting Friday morning. It featured highlights from Rivera ringing a bell at the hospital after his last cancer treatment. The head coach had his one-year biopsy Tuesday.
Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in August 2020. He endured seven weeks of treatments during the season, never missing a game and sitting out only three practices. His daily battles, plus the comeback of quarterback Alex Smith, helped galvanize the team. Many pointed to both men as inspirations that helped the team go 5-2 down the stretch and win the NFC East last year.
The video left Rivera visibly choked up. When it concluded, he mouthed the word, "Wow," and lowered his head. The players then told him they collected money from each position group, raising more than $25,000 for proton therapy research and treatment.
"As a coach, you always wonder if you can get the chance to get through to the players and touch them," Rivera said, before his voice started to crack again. "This was awesome. Thank you, guys."
Rivera was declared cancer-free on Jan. 29. But he has said he's still fighting the after-effects of what his body endured during the treatments. That means still getting fatigued early or taking naps at times.
"When you see what he went through last year, it really showed the strength of Coach," Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said in the video. "That's something everybody can gravitate towards ... when you don't want to do things the right way, or you're having one of those days where you have the 'poor mes.' You look at what Coach Rivera went through and it speaks for itself what kind of man he is and what kind of coach he is."
Seven of the eight players who spoke are captains. They all shared the same sentiment about their coach's determination.
"We consider this a job, but the fight Coach had to do was for his life," right guard Brandon Scherff said. "Seeing him overcome every obstacle is an incredible feeling."
Washington's players will wear black decals on the back of their helmets with the words "Rivera Strong" for Sunday's game at Atlanta. Like last year, Washington finds itself in a hole, albeit only 1-2. But with upcoming games against the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos later this month, a win would be helpful for Washington.