Cancer survivor and Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday that he’s ‘beyond frustrated’ with the club’s disappointing vaccination rate, only to be criticized by former NFL safety TJ Ward, who thinks the 59-year-old should just mind his own business.
Rivera, who was successfully treated for skin cancer last year, said he believed Washington has more than half its players vaccinated.
Last week, the NFL announced that 80 percent of players have started the vaccination process and that 27 of 32 teams had at least 70 percent of players either receive one vaccination shot or both.
The Washington Football Team (WFT) is not one of them – actually closer to 60 percent – and that has caused Rivera to take extra precautions.
‘I’m truly frustrated,’ Rivera said at his camp-opening news conference on Tuesday. ‘I’m beyond frustrated. One of the reasons I walked in with a mask on is I’m immune-deficient, so with this new variant, who knows? So when I’m in a group and the group’s not vaccinated or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons.’
Washington was one of two teams under 50 percent vaccinated in mid-July and offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas was placed on the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list Tuesday.
Cancer survivor and Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday that he’s ‘beyond frustrated’ with the club’s disappointing vaccination rate
In response to a report on Rivera’s statement, ex-Broncos safety TJ Ward criticized the remarks in a series of since-deleted tweets: ‘Don’t blame the players for your life long health decisions.’ Ward’s ‘Riverboat’ reference is a nod to Rivera’s nickname, ‘Riverboat Ron,’ which he was given by Carolina fans after a series of successful on-field gambles when he coached the Panthers
In response to a report on WFT coach Ron Rivera’s concerns over the team’s low vaccination rates, former NFL safety TJ Ward (left) likened getting cancer to contracting COVID-19. (Right) Rivera pictured after his final skin cancer treatment back in October. Since beating cancer, Rivera is immune-deficient and needs to take extra precautions around unvaccinated people
In response to a report on Rivera’s statement, the 34-year-old Ward criticized the remarks in a series of since-deleted tweets.
‘Just park the Riverboat,’ Ward tweeted, referencing Rivera’s nickname, ‘Riverboat Ron.’
‘His health is beyond that of COVID,’ Ward continued. ‘Maybe it’s time to let it go. Don’t blame the players for your life long (sic) health decisions.’
There is no proof that Rivera’s personal choices resulted in his cancer diagnosis.
In a following tweet that was also ultimately deleted, Ward acknowledged that cancer can be genetic, while continuing to point the finger at cancer victims.
‘At some point you gotta pay for them vices,’ he said. ‘Cancer runs in my family like many American families. But also bad diets and cigarettes do as well. Except (sic) responsibility. Don’t blame and be disappointed in your 23 year olds cus they have they own bodies and opinions about their health.’
After deleting those tweets, Ward tried again and even offered an apology.
‘Gonna address this one time more,’ Ward tweeted. ‘I was not trying be insensitive to anyone effected (sic) by the cancer. I know you don’t chose (sic) to get cancer. And I tried to clear that up.
‘If you know me and my career you know what my support is for cancer people dealing with it. I’ve been effected (sic) myself closely. I didn’t mean to offend you. God bless.’
The subject has been a flashpoint around the NFL ever since Thursday, when the league sent out a memo explaining that an outbreak among non-vaccinated players could lead to forfeits with players on both teams forgoing paychecks that week.
‘It could be a huge, huge disadvantage,’ Rivera said, citing Denver’s virus outbreak last season that caused the Broncos to start a rookie receiver at quarterback. ‘Based on the rules, you’re risking not just your paycheck but other people’s paychecks, too, if there’s no game played. I think that’s something that we all have to think about.’
And it’s not like Rivera and his staff haven’t tried.
Washington brought in Harvard immunologist Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who helped develop the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, to speak with players during minicamp in June. Third-year pass rusher Montez Sweat at the time said he doesn’t support the team’s attempt to persuade players to get vaccinated and ‘probably won’t get vaccinated until I got more facts and that type of stuff.’
‘We have a group of guys that want more information and the frustrating part is we’re trying to provide it as quickly and as much as possible,’ Rivera said. ‘They still have to make their own decisions.’
While players are only encouraged – and not required – to get vaccinated, coaches, scouts, equipment managers and team executives must be fully vaccinated in order to work in the NFL.
That was a problem with the Vikings this week after offensive line coach Rick Dennison was reportedly on his way out of Minnesota after refusing to to be vaccinated.
ESPN reported Friday that Dennison, an offensive line coach and running game coordinator, stepped down, becoming the first position coach to leave a team because of vaccine guidelines.
The team, however, told DailyMail.com that Dennison remained an employee.
The two sides found a compromise on Tuesday, when the team announced that Dennison would serve as an offensive advisor this season.
For now, all of his collaboration with the staff must be virtual. He’ll help the other offensive assistants evaluate players and devise game plans, as in the past, but he won’t be able to have the hands-on work with the offensive linemen he’s drawn praise for throughout his years in the NFL.