Ron Rivera surprised by cutouts of family at FedEx Field during cancer battle

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera had a special surprise waiting for him at FedEx Field after a rough week while battling cancer.

His wife, Stephanie, and the team placed 450 cardboard cutouts of his family and friends in the stands for their game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4.

The cutouts include those of NFL personnel, coaches and players. Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly and Steve Smith Sr., all players Rivera formerly coached while with the Carolina Panthers, were there in cardboard form. There are no fans allowed at FedEx Field.

It’s the Crucial Catch game where the team raises awareness. Players were wearing “Rivera Strong” T-shirts ahead of the game and more than $30,000 has been donated to the cause. The team is also honoring women from the Inova Schar Cancer Institute with cardboard cutouts in the end zone.

Ron Rivera on the sidelines with players behind him.
Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera wears a 'Rivera Strong' T-shirt during warmups. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Rivera: Hope everyone has healthcare for cancer costs

Rivera is currently being treated for squamous cell cancer in his lymph nodes. He announced the diagnosis in August, calling it “very treatable and curable.”

The 57-year-old missed practice Wednesday and had to leave practice early on Thursday due to rough side effects related to chemotherapy. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio takes over coaching duties in his absence.

In a pre-game interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, Rivera spoke about his fight with cancer and the cardboard cutouts. He also discussed the need for good medical care in the United States.

“It speaks to the value and the need of proper medical for our country,” Rivera said. “Going through the things I’m going through and seeing what these things cost, you just hope everybody is protected and covered. You really do.”

Millions of Americans do not have healthcare and would face hefty bills if they received treatment for cancer. Average costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rivera’s brother, Mickey, died in 2015 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He said that was when he first realized the impact of cancer because it touched his family.

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