Ron Rivera impressed with Ryan Kerrigan's handling of new role originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Entering the 2020 NFL season, the Washington Football Team featured a surplus of talent and depth along the defensive front. It was a great situation for the team to be in, but it also meant someone was going to be the odd man out when it came to playing time.
Veteran pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan was seen as a strong candidate for those circumstances given his age, and as the season has progressed, it's become the case. The 10-year pro has seen the fewest snap counts of his career in recent weeks.
Yet, Ron Rivera never doubted the importance of Kerrigan for Washington's roster. From Day 1, he understood that even if Kerrigan wasn't getting major opportunities on the field, his attitude and work ethic would directly rub off on the younger players at the position.
He's seen that through the first seven weeks of the season.
“That’s the importance of having a vet that sits there and accepts the responsibility and the role. And by doing so, you got Chase [Young] and Montez [Sweat] that sit there and they admire the guy," Rivera said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "First of all, they admire him because they watched him play when they were growing up. Second, they admire him for the type of leadership that he’s displaying. Every day he goes out there, he practices the way you’re supposed to, then when he gets the chances to play, he’s made hay. That’s the important thing.”
Kerrigan has "made hay" when he gets his chances on the field. He was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1 and has recorded a sack in back-to-back games despite playing a career-low amount of snaps.
That has impressed Rivera greatly, as even as Kerrigan's playing time decreases, the level of play and mindset has remained the same. Rather than lowering his head and sulking, the veteran has made the most of the situation and done everything asked of him.
“I know it’s tough because I know he wants to start,” Rivera said. “But you look at the young guys we have there, there’s a role for [him]. This is the role, is that you’re going to get your spot chances and when you get those spot chance, you’ve got to make hay. And he does. And that’s the thing that’s been perfect about this is when he’s been popped out there and we’ve needed to come up, he has."
Rivera understands that Kerrigan wants to start and play the amount he has in the past, anyone would. Yet, the head coach doesn't see his new role as a disservice to the veteran or an indictment of who he is as a player. Rather, he views it as the national progression for a veteran in the league.
“If a lot of guys in this league would recognize and realize the role that they have, these are serviceable roles," Rivera said. "These are roles that you can play after your 10th, 11th year, you can play this role for three, four, five more years and be a guy that earns it.”