Ron Rivera shared surprising news with the Washington Football Team, revealing to his squad he has been diagnosed with lymph node cancer, the team released Thursday night. Rivera told his team the cancer was discovered after a self checkup, but is "very treatable and curable" and is in its early stages.
Rivera is establishing a treatment plan with the team and an outside specialist. The hope is that he will be able to coach uninterrupted through the 2020 season as he receives treatment, but Washington's "Plan B" will be for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to assume head coaching duties, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Rivera passed along his gratitude for the team doctors, trainers and health-care specialists for helping him through treatments in a statement released by the team.
"Coach Ron Rivera was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcimona (SCC) located in a lymph node and detected in a self-care check. This cancer is in an early stage and is considered very treatable and curable, providing a good prognosis for Coach Rivera for a full recovery. Coach Rivera has consulted with leading doctors and oncology specialists and is establishing his treatment plan in conjunction with the team's medical staff and his outside physicians. For now, Coach has asked that the team keep things business as usual and remain focused, but a "Plan B" is in place if it is determined that he should take some time off.
"Coach Rivera wishes to extend his thanks to team doctors and athletic trainers, and all the healthcare specialists who will be assisting him through his treatment plan. In addition, Coach Rivera wishes to extend his heartfelt thanks to the Snyders, coaches, players, staff, and fans of the Washington Football Team, as well as his family for the love and support during this time.
"The Washington Football Team wishes Coach Rivera a speedy recovery, and we will be supporting him every step of the way."
In a message to the team, Rivera mentioned "I'm going to be a little more cranky, so don't p--- me off." He also said some of his players "were stunned, but a bunch of them wished him well," per a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Rivera told ESPN he was stunned at the news because he felt "I'm in best health I've been in." He also thanked everyone for their support on his Twitter after the news was revealed.
The 58-year-old Rivera is in his first season as head coach of Washington after spending the past nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He has compiled a 76-63-1 record with three winning seasons -- all of which were double-digit win campaigns. Rivera led the Panthers to a 15-1 record in the 2015 season, winning the NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.
Rivera played 137 games as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1984 to 1992 before getting into coaching. He got his first coaching job with the Bears before coming to the Philadelphia Eagles as a linebackers coach from 1999 to 2003. He later served as a defensive coordinator for the Bears and San Diego Chargers, having a top-five defense in three of his six seasons in that role, which led to his hiring in Carolina.