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  • Erica Blackburn

Ron Rivera will play his starters in preseason

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera won’t speak for other coaches around the league, but he feels strongly that his team needs to play in the preseason.

Washington’s Week 1 opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, won’t be playing their main guys in preseason, wanting to avoid major injury in meaningless games. Rivera has a different philosophy. He wants to get his team out and “break them in”. He wants to make sure his players get acclimated to game situations during the preseason. He wants them to build up the “callousness” and see the different looks that they’ll experience in those matchups.

“You got to get used to it. If you can simulate that in practice, then that's awesome,” said Rivera. “That's great. Then that's what you should do. I don't know if you can truly simulate it in practice.”

“There were some really good things we got from New England the other night, and I really

appreciate them. I really did. I thought the no huddle that they ran, even though it was with their second bunch, was great for us. We saw some guys needed to get a little bit more conditioning, but those are the things that you would only see if they participate, so we got a chance to watch that. But again, if you know your team and you feel good about your team, that's your philosophy, then do it."

The theory of resting your starters in preseason isn’t a new concept, but it has picked up more steam in recent years. For example, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay first elected to sit most starters in the preseason in 2018, and the Rams have gone on to achieve plenty of success. Teams want to make it to Week 1 healthy.

You can understand the team’s cautiousness, but the data doesn’t necessarily support their claims. Every year, the NFL releases a preseason injury data report that includes statistics on injuries occurring during preseason practices, including concussions, ACL and MCL injuries since 2015. The total number of injuries, including MCL and ACL tears and concussions, during preseason practices in 2020 was similar to the numbers seen over the last five years.

"I know you want to be careful. I know you don't want to see anybody get hurt, and that's the unfortunate nature of this game. You can have a guy get hurt on the second or third play of the game. So, we just kind of want to get our guys out there, see what we have and then go from there."

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