ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio apologized in front of the team Tuesday for controversial comments he made last week, in which he referred to the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as a "dustup."
Washington coach Ron Rivera said Del Rio's apology was "well-received" and added that his coordinator has met with several players to discuss his comments.
"Jack spoke to the team this morning during the team meeting and was very open and contrite and apologized and was open to questions," Rivera said. "He said, 'Guys, if you have any questions come see me and let's talk about that.' It was good. I'm about reconciliation."
Rivera also said he fined Del Rio $100,000 last week because his comments had caused a distraction for the team. Del Rio deleted his Twitter account Saturday, which Rivera said he did not ask him to do.
"This is not about the fact he exercised his right to free speech," Rivera said. "This is about what impacted this football team. I believe in the First Amendment very strongly.
"It's a very serious question and topic, but at the end of the day, it did impact us. That's why I did what I did."
Del Rio addressed the team for 10 to 15 minutes. After Washington's first day of mandatory minicamp, players said they weren't worried about a negative impact.
Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said, "Everyone makes mistakes. I'm not here to judge; I'm not here to condemn. Obviously he said something he shouldn't have said. He owned it to the team like a man and that's all you can ask for."
Allen also said that while it might be a topic for some players, it wasn't for him.
"I like to separate my political life and my work life," Allen said. "Yes we're a family; yes we're brothers. But this is a job and you can't forget that. You can't forget that no matter your political view we get paid to do a job and we don't get paid to share our political views. I'm not saying we can't use our platform to express our political views, but I get paid to play football, dominate double teams and sack the quarterback and that's what I'm going to do."
Fellow defensive tackle Daron Payne, when asked if the comments would have any impact on him, said, "No, man, I play football."
Del Rio used the term "dustup" when he defended a reply he made on Twitter two days earlier. In a reply to Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institute, who promoted a report in advance of the Jan. 6 hearings, Del Rio tweeted, "Would love to understand 'the whole story' about why the summer of riots, looting, burning and the destruction of personal property is never discussed but this is ???"
Del Rio's tweets and subsequent explanation did not help a franchise that has stayed in the headlines for much of the past two years for non-football issues. The organization has spent the offseason trying to rebuild its brand, officially changing its name to the Commanders, amid a congressional investigation into owner Dan Snyder. Congress invited him to testify at a hearing on June 22.
The NFL continues to investigate a sexual misconduct allegation against Snyder, and the attorneys general in Virginia and Washington, D.C., are looking into accusations of financial improprieties.
Rivera said he went back and reread the First Amendment and had a copy of it on his office desk. He compared it to when he was in Carolina and safety Eric Reid was kneeling during the national anthem, protesting police brutality.
"Eric and I talked about this because I asked him to help me understand," Rivera said. "He did. He showed me what it was all about. In Jack's case, same thing. But the thing we have to understand, with rights and freedoms comes tremendous responsibility."
Rivera said he met with Del Rio on Friday when he told him he was going to be fined. They met again Tuesday morning. Rivera said Del Rio was not told that one more strike would cause him to be fired.
"This was not communicated any other way other than Jack and I had a conversation that will remain between the two of us," Rivera said.
Del Rio also apologized in a statement Wednesday, saying, "Referencing that situation as a dust-up was irresponsible and negligent and I am sorry. I stand by my comments condemning violence in communities across the country. I say that while also expressing my support as an American citizen for peaceful protest in our country."
Allen also said it won't be hard for players to continue playing hard for Del Rio.
"You're playing for the name on the back of the jersey as well as the front," Allen said. "Some guys might have a problem with it but you get paid to do a job and that's what we're going to do."