Ron Rivera evokes the late John Madden to explain why Chase Young should attend OTAs


Chase Young has yet to verbally commit to showing up to voluntary OTAs next spring, at least not publicly, which as last offseason proved isn't a thing until it becomes a thing.

Coming off a standout rookie season, Young declined to participate in OTAs last spring, which was somewhat of an odd decision for a team captain and yet, still slightly understandable at the time, when he cited a busy offseason calendar filled with commercial shoots as reason for his absence.

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That is, until Young failed to deliver the on-field production everyone expected of him once the regular season arrived. Instead of leaping forward in year two, the 2020 second overall pick took a clear step backwards in 2021, which was obvious to anyone monitoring the stat sheet or the game tape.

By that point, as Young was exposed all season for possessing limited pass-rushing moves, critics started to point to his absence from OTAs as a time when he could have been working with Washington teammates and the coaching staff to develop a more diverse interior presence.

As pressure mounted on Washington and Young's season, the second-year pass-rusher doubled down, delivering a soundbite that was alarming to anyone who was already worried about his current downward trajectory.

Now recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 10, Young still hasn't committed to attending OTAs this spring, which has many of those same critics doubling down on their criticism of the captain's commitment to his team and to improving at his craft.

Ron Rivera has said he'd like to see Young at OTAs, just as he would all of his players. Washington's head coach was asked to elaborate on this during his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies on Tuesday, presented by F.H. Furr.

"I don't like some of the answers," Junkies host Eric Bickel said of Young. "When you say, 'Hey, I need Chase to be there at OTAs,' I need Chase to say, 'Yeah, I'm gonna be there.' I don't need him to say, 'Yeah, we're talking about it, we'll see.' What's going on? I don't like that answer."

"Well that's alright. I'll deal with the answer," Rivera said. "Just remember that. That's on me. That's not on you guys. So you don't have to get upset about it. We'll be fine. And again, this is about developing growth and we're working on that."

Asked if he believes Young will be in attendance at OTAs this year, Rivera said, "Oh yeah."

When asked to explain the importance of OTAs, Rivera pointed to the role it plays in teammates familiarizing themselves with one another, on a personal as well as a more cerebral level.

"Oh, for the most part, the biggest thing more than anything else is really just about building the team, the organization, the group of guys," Rivera said. "One of the things I told our guys yesterday when we were saying goodbye, I said, 'Guys, the one thing I want to make sure we understand, and we've been through a very difficult situation with Covid, is not being able to do the things that you really, truly need to do in terms of team building.'

"This offseason more so than any will be important because I don't want these guys to be just fellow employees, co-workers. I want these guys to know each other a little bit more. We had a number of guys that know each other, but they don't know. And I think that's the big thing that we've got to get across to everybody, that as you go through this and you build and develop your team, there's a lot of things that will help. One of them is familiarity. And so being here, getting familiar with each other, knowing how each other thinks, knowing how each other works, and then showing each other you're here, is as important as it gets."

Rivera called upon a lesson he learned from the late, great broadcaster and Super Bowl-winning head coach John Madden.

"You know, one of my favorite things I learned from John Madden was: if you're on time, if you're where you need to be, if you're early sitting in that meeting ready to go, you're telling the guy next to you that this is the most important thing I have right now, and that's this meeting right here and now," he said. "And that's what being at OTAs I think helps our players understand, that who's here is saying: 'This is very important to us, very important to our team.'"