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Ron Rivera on Coaching Through Cancer Treatments: ‘It’s a Struggle’

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Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera watches teams warm up before the first half of an NFL football game between the Washington Football Team and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera has been coaching through a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatments. On Wednesday, he missed a practice for a treatment and was seen during Sunday’s 31-17 loss versus the Baltimore Ravens sitting on the bench during television timeouts.

He also received IV fluids before the game.

“It’s a struggle,” Rivera said, per Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post (h/t Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper). “It’s a battle. … It’s interesting. I have my moments where I felt pretty strong and felt good enough to go get up and walk up and down the sidelines. There were other times I waned a little bit.”

Rivera added that he “wanted to be there for the guys” and wanted to continue coaching despite the difficulties he’s facing. Washington players wore “Rivera Strong” shirts during their pregame warm-ups, and the team had around 400 cardboard cutouts in the stands for the game bought by Rivera’s friends and family, per John Keim of ESPN.

The team called the section “Coach’s Corner,” and it featured cutouts of coaches like Andy Reid, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and two of his former players, Luke Kuechly and Steve Smith.

Rivera, whose brother Mickey died in 2015 from pancreatic cancer, spoke with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio about the support he’s received after his diagnosis:

“Someone once told me you don’t know about cancer until it touches you. That’s when it touched my brother, Mickey. There’s nothing like it. When it touches you, it’s overwhelming. But then you see things like this and people that support you and the notes I got and the letters I got, the notes I got from friends. Tremendous. It shows that you’re not doing this by yourself, that there’s a whole bunch of people helping you do this.”

His players have noticed what Rivera has been coaching through and have been inspired.

“It means a lot to see him come fighting,” cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “Not even just today but seeing him on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and seeing him fight. It motivates all of us to go out there and keep on fighting and never quit.”

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