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- American football player and coach
One of the more underrated storylines of Washington’s 2021 season was the absence of head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion. Vermillion was placed on administrative leave back on Oct. 4, where he remains today.
Vermillion’s office and home were raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration in an investigation that was unrelated to the team. Washington coach Ron Rivera spoke about Vermillion shortly after the news, per NBC Washington.
“The only thing I can say about Ryan is, I know who Ryan is,” Rivera said. “Last year, I trusted Ryan with my health, and I would do it again.”
Rivera obviously couldn’t get into specifics regarding the investigation, only speaking on his experience with Vermillion. Vermillion was Carolina’s head athletic trainer for Rivera’s entire tenure with the Panthers and followed him to Washington in 2020.
Vermillion was placed on leave ahead of Washington’s Week 4 game at Atlanta. Washington would suffer several injuries in the game, creating a hectic situation for the WFT.
The team would bring back legendary former trainer Bubba Tyer and hired former Washington Capitals trainer Greg Smith, both temporarily to assist the team. Washington would also use interns to help in the absence of Vermillion.
In his season-ending presser Tuesday, local reporters questioned Rivera about hiring a new head athletic trainer:
No, that’s a fair question because we most certainly are looking at those options right there, those are things that we have to consider going forward. It’s been a very difficult situation. We hired Greg Smith, who obviously worked at one point for the [NHL Washington] Capitals and did a great job coming in to help us, but you know, that was a temporary thing. We brought in a couple of interns that had worked with us to help add some more bodies to it and it worked effectively. Was it ideal? No. But going forward, we will certainly have to look at that and we will, and we’ll address it because again, we’ll have the combine coming up very shortly and we’re going to have to have evaluations go through all of that process.
There’s never a good time for an NFL team to lose its head athletic trainer, but for Washington in 2021, it was the absolute worst time. There was the never-ending off-field stuff, a litany of injuries and a team-wide outbreak of COVID-19.
It’s wise of Washington to get ahead of hiring a new athletic trainer ahead of the offseason with free agency and draft season rapidly approaching.