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WFT Daily: Washington Equipped To Handle Uncertainty

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Head coach Ron Rivera looks on during Washington Football Team practice on Dec. 2, 2020. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.

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The Washington Football Team's next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, were forced to play in just the second NFL game on a Wednesday since 1949. As a result, Washington's Week 13 game was moved from Sunday afternoon to Monday evening.

Six days later, Washington will travel to play San Francisco...in Arizona. The 49ers were forced to move after Santa Clara County, home of their stadium, banned contact sports for three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their next two "home" games will now be played at the Cardinals' State Farm Stadium.

Not much has been normal during this pandemic-plagued season, and judging by Washington's upcoming schedule, the final stretch could be as unpredictable as ever. But do not expect head coach Ron Rivera to let the current conditions affect his team's play.

"You've got to talk about it," Rivera said. "That's really the only thing we've done is talk about the situation we're in and try to make sure guys understand how important it is to be adaptable. That's the biggest thing. I've told the coaches this and I've told the players this: we can't make a big deal if something changes. When you start worrying about that, what was interesting becomes important. That's not what we want to happen. It's not important. It's interesting, it's different -- OK, we deal with it and we move on."

Albeit on a much bigger scale, Rivera compared these circumstances to when his Carolina teams were forced to practice in inclement weather for one reason or another. If his players made a big deal out of it, their performance would suffer.

Now more than ever, Washington needs to put together quality practices. The Steelers are the NFL's only undefeated team, while the 49ers (5-6) are finally starting to get healthy and the Seattle Seahawks (8-3) are one of the best teams in the NFC. Washington (4-7) will likely have to win at least one of these games to have an inside track at the division title.

Fortunately, Washington has dealt with its share of adversity unrelated to the pandemic. Its head coach battled cancer without missing a game, while its starting quarterback -- the third of the season -- overcame 17 surgeries and a life-threatening recovery.

If any team is prepared to handle uncertainty, it's this one.

Whether it thrives or falters will largely depend on how it approaches the final five games, starting with a rare 5 p.m. kickoff on Monday night. Rivera is confident his team will focus solely on what's important.

"We'll be ready."

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QUICK HITS

-- Rivera compares Gibson to former Pro Bowler: Arian Foster was one of the best running backs in the NFL from 2010-14. During that five-year stretch, he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice and won the 2010 rushing title with 1,616 yards. His excellence resulted in four Pro Bowl appearances.

Rivera sees that same skillset when he watches Antonio Gibson.

"Again, I'll continue to say this, right now I compare his running style to Arian Foster. I like who the young man can be for us. I like the way he runs the ball. He's got good body lean when he runs. He's got the speed and burst and he's got good vision. He's learning to be the kind of runner that we hope he can be for us. His skillset of catching the ball in the backfield we really haven't gotten to, either."

-- From one QB to another: If anyone knows what Dwayne Haskins Jr. is going through, it's Smith. Both quarterbacks went 2-5 as rookie starters, with Haskins throwing seven touchdowns and interceptions and Smith throwing 11 picks compared to just one score. Over the next four seasons, Smith finished 17-26 with 50 touchdowns and 42 interceptions.

From there, Smith has made three Pro Bowls and been to the playoffs five times. Since coming to Washington in 2018, he's 8-4 in games he has both started and finished.

Everyone encounters "bumps in the road," Smith said; the key is continuing to improve and always being ready for the opportunity.

"I think the stability, coming to work every day for Dwayne and just a learning environment and environment where he can develop -- those are all positives for him to obviously continue to grow. I think time helps as well just getting back to football and getting back to learning and growing, which we're all trying to do."

-- Scott Turner defends Peyton Barber: It's easy to look at Peyton Barber's 2.9 yards per carry and deem him an ineffective running back. However, based on the scenarios in which Barber is being used, offensive coordinator Scott Turner is pleased with how he has handled his role.

"He's a short-yardage and kind of four-minute type back for us. Those yards are hard to come by in those situations. He's done a great job of moving the chains."

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