clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFC East notebook: Ron Rivera’s cancer fight, and a devastating injury in Dallas

Here’s the news you need to know from around the division this week

NFL: The Washington Football Team-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With teams around the NFL back at practice, it is easy to pretend that the world is relatively normal. Coaches might be walking around the field with masks on, but players are still in pads fighting for spots on a 2020 roster.

But then news breaks that serves as a reminder that even the new pandemic normal we’ve established for ourselves can be shattered.

The Washington Football Team announced on Thursday night that head coach Ron Rivera has early stage lymphoma.

Rivera told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the squamous cell carcinoma in his lymph node is “very treatable and curable.”

Rivera said that he found a lump in his neck in early July and visited the doctor when it did not go away after a couple of weeks. He said that he was told about the cancer two weeks ago.

At 58 years old, Rivera has consulted with numerous doctors and specialists in order to establish a treatment plan moving forward.

“I was stunned,” Rivera said to Schefter. “But I was angry because I feel like I’m in the best health I’ve been in.”

The Washington players were told in person about the news on Thursday night.

“Some were stunned. A bunch came up and wished me well,” Rivera said. “I said, ‘I’m going to be a little more cranky, so don’t piss me off.’”

For now, Rivera plans to continue his coaching duties as usual.

“I’m planning to go on coaching,” he told Schefter. “Doctors encouraged me to do it too. They said, ‘If you feel strongly, do it. Don’t slow down, do your physical activities.’ But everyone keeps telling me by week three or four, you’ll start feeling it.”

Though things are to stay business as usual for now, Rivera did say that there is a Plan B in place. He would not reveal the details of that plan. Of the other coaches on Washington’s staff, the team’s defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is the only one with head coaching experience, having coached for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-11) and the Oakland Raiders (2015-17).

Rivera became head coach of Washington in what has arguably proven to be the most tumultuous time in the franchise’s history. In July, The Washington Post released a report detailing the sexual assault allegations of 15 female former employees. Shortly after, the team announced that it would be removing the “Redskins” name and logo entirely, finally caving to financial pressure and societal demands.

For these reasons amongst others, Rivera has been just as busy off the field as on it. The culture shift that he preached upon arriving in Washington has proven to be a difficult undertaking. Yet throughout it all, Rivera keeps showing up.

“I’m going through the proper treatment,” Rivera said. “This will be fine.”

Rivera serves as a reminder, particularly during these trying times, that feeling normal and living in normalcy is a gift that we often take for granted.

Washington Football Team

Washington made headlines for a different, more positive reason earlier this week. It named Jason Wright as the team’s new president, making him the first Black team president in the history of the NFL.

Rivera was promised by owner Dan Snyder that the team would adopt a coach-centric approach when he was hired and that will remain the same under Wright. The 38-year-old will be be responsible for leading the organization’s business divisions, including operations, finance, sales, and marketing. He is only the fourth former player to assume the role.

“This team, at this time, is an ideal opportunity for me,” Wright said in a statement. “The transformation of the Washington Football Team is happening across all aspects of the organization — from football to operations to branding to culture — and will make us a truly modern and aspirational franchise. We want to set new standards for the NFL.”

Wright will be replacing former team president Bruce Allen who was fired following the 2019 season after 10 years with the team.

Wright entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern, where he is the seventh all-time leading rusher in school history. During his seven-year NFL career, Wright played for four teams before retiring in 2010 to attend business school.

In his life post-football, Wright has been a partner in the operations practice of McKinsey & Company, a global strategy and management consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. While there, he helped lead McKinsey’s anti-racism and inclusion strategy and played a role in creating the Black Economic Forum.

“If I could custom design a leader for this important time in our history, it would be Jason,” owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “His experience as a former player, coupled with his business acumen, gives him a perspective that is unrivaled in the league. We will not rest until we are a championship caliber team, on and off the field.”

Wright understands the example that his hiring sets for the league moving forward.

“What it tries to signal is that, at least in this organization, the hindrances that tend to be in place around Black talent in other places are breaking down,” he said, “and that should send a signal more broadly to the shift in culture that Dan and Tanya Snyder, Coach Rivera and myself are now trying to make.”

Philadelphia Eagles

The wide receiver position has long been a position of need for Philadelphia this offseason. The team got TCU’s Jalen Reagor from the 2020 NFL Draft, but was criticized by many for using its second-round pick on quarterback Jalen Hurts, seemingly sacrificing a short-term need for a potential long-term solution.

Yet the Eagles proved that they are not done with the wide receiver position this past week when they claimed Travis Fulgham off waivers.

Fulgham was waived by the Green Bay Packers last week, just nine days after they claimed him off waivers from the Detroit Lions. The Lions originally selected the 25-year-old in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Fulgham made the initial 53-man roster in Detroit, but was waived and re-added to the practice squad less than a month into the season. He did not make his NFL debut until December.

Fulgham did not record any receptions in the three games he played for the Lions, but did show signs of promise in preseason for whatever that is worth. He led Detroit in receiving with seven receptions for 147 yards.

Only time will tell if that preseason success can transfer to the live-game atmosphere.

Dallas Cowboys

The biggest news out of Dallas is this week is an injury to one of the team’s most highly-anticipated offseason acquisitions, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. McCoy had a season-ending surgery on his ruptured right quadriceps tendon on Tuesday.

In the wake of this news, the Cowboys released McCoy, saving $3.25 million in 2020.

McCoy can still sign with the Cowboys in the future, but it will have to be under the terms of a new contract. There was an injury waiver as part of the the three-year, $18 million deal McCoy signed as a free agent that negates the contract because of chronic tendinitis in his right knee/quadriceps.

A video was released earlier this week showing how McCoy frustratingly suffered his injury during a one-on-one drill. Regardless, this is a huge loss to the Cowboys moving forward.