Cancer survivor and Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said on Tuesday he is “beyond frustrated” with the club’s disappointing vaccination coverage, only to be criticized by former NFL safety TJ Ward, who believes the 59-year-old just mind his own business.
Rivera, who was successfully treated for skin cancer last year, said he believed Washington vaccinated more than half of its players.
Last week, the NFL announced that 80 percent of players have started the vaccination process and that 27 of the 32 teams, including at least 70 percent of the players, have received one or both vaccinations.
The Washington Football Team (WFT) isn’t one of those — closer to 60 percent, actually — and that has led Rivera to take extra precautions.
“I’m really frustrated,” Rivera said during his press conference on the opening of the camp on Tuesday. “I am beyond frustrated. One of the reasons I came in with a mask on is that I’m immune so who knows with this new variant? So if I’m in a group and the group isn’t vaccinated or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do it for health reasons.’
Washington was one of two under-50 percent teams vaccinated in mid-July, and offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas was placed on the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday.
Cancer survivor and Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said on Tuesday he is “beyond frustrated” at the club’s disappointing vaccination coverage
In response to a report on Rivera’s statement, 34-year-old Ward criticized the comments in a series of since-deleted tweets.
“Just park the Riverboat,” Ward tweeted, referring to 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 lifelong (sic) health decisions.”
There is no evidence that Rivera’s personal choices led to his cancer diagnosis.
In a subsequent tweet that was also eventually deleted, Ward acknowledged that cancer could be genetic, while continuing to point the finger at cancer victims.
“At some point you have to pay for those vices,” he said. “Cancer runs in my family like many American families. But so do bad diets and cigarettes. Except (sic) responsibility. Don’t blame your 23-year-olds and don’t be disappointed, because they have a body of their own and an opinion about their health.’
After deleting those tweets, Ward tried again and even apologized.
“I’m going to discuss this again,” Ward tweeted. “I was trying not to be insensitive to someone who was (sic) affected by the cancer. I know you didn’t choose (sic) to get cancer. And I tried to clarify that.
“If you know me and my career, you know what my support is for cancer patients involved. I am (sic) myself effected up close. I didn’t mean to offend you. God bless.’
The topic has been a flashpoint in the NFL since Thursday, when the league issued a memo explaining that an outbreak among unvaccinated players could lead to forfeitures with players from both teams not getting a salary that week.
“It could be a huge, huge disadvantage,” Rivera said, citing the virus outbreak in Denver last season that caused the Broncos to start a rookie receiver at quarterback. ‘According to the rules you risk not only your salary, but also that of others if there is no game being played. I think that’s something we all need to think about.”
And it’s not that Rivera and his staff haven’t tried.
Washington brought in Harvard immunologist Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who helped develop the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, to talk to players during the mini-camp in June. Third-year pass rusher Montez Sweat said at the time that he doesn’t support the team’s attempt to get players to get vaccinated and “probably won’t be vaccinated until I have more facts and stuff like that.”
“We have a group of guys who want more information and the frustrating thing is that we try 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 be vaccinated, coaches, scouts, equipment managers and team managers must be fully vaccinated to work in the NFL.
That was a problem with the Vikings this week after offensive line coach Rick Dennison reportedly headed out of Minnesota after refusing to get vaccinated.
ESPN reported Friday that Dennison, an offensive line coach and race coordinator, stepped down to become the first position coach to leave a team due to vaccine guidelines.
However, the team told DailyMail.com that Dennison remained an employee.
The two teams reached a compromise on Tuesday, when the team announced that Dennison would serve as offensive advisor this season.
For now, all of his collaboration with the staff must be virtual. He will help the other offensive assistants evaluate players and come up with game plans, as in the past, but he won’t be able to have the hands-on work with the offensive linemen that he credits throughout his years in the NFL. has got.