The Washington Football Team fined quarterback Dwayne Haskins $40,000 and rescinded his captaincy as punishment for partying while not wearing a mask after the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
“We’ve been working with the NFL the past two days, and they have been assisting us every step of the way,” Rivera said in a statement before taking questions from reporters. “Although we are extremely disappointed in the decision that Dwayne made, I’m glad that he had told the truth and was up front about the entire situation.”
Haskins said he attended a private birthday party for his girlfriend Sunday evening and was not at a strip club. Photos and videos that were posted on social media showed Haskins at an Oceanaire Seafood restaurant and later in what appeared to be a club-like setting with a large group. According to one person with knowledge of the situation, it’s believed that the party was in a hotel in Northern Virginia.
By being a part of a social gathering of more than 10 people while not wearing a mask, Haskins was in violation of the NFL’s covid-19 protocols, as well as the state of Virginia’s. NFL clubs have discretion in disciplining players for violating coronavirus protocols as conduct detrimental to the team. Rivera said he does not anticipate the NFL disciplining him further.
“There were a lot of things I could have done,” Rivera said. “But again, in conversation with the league and then looking at what had been done around the league, we felt that we would fine him and we were going to move on.”
Rivera said he contacted Haskins on Monday after learning of the incident and has since had multiple discussions with him about it. Haskins also apologized to his teammates.
“He and I have actually talked probably, gosh, five or six times in the last two days, and we’ve had some really good conversations about it,” Rivera said. “The thing that I appreciated is that he took responsibility and was very forthright. I think as we go forward, that’s the thing that we’re looking for, is that if you make a mistake, you’ve got to step up and you have to take responsibility.”
Starting quarterback Alex Smith was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, working to the side with a trainer while Haskins took first-team reps with the offense. Smith said his calf “felt good,” but his progress throughout the week will dictate his availability.
If Smith is unable to play, Haskins will start in his place, Rivera said, and either Taylor Heinicke or practice squad quarterback Steven Montez will serve as his backup, barring a late-week signing.
Haskins asked to speak with reporters following practice “to let the fans and people who care about me [know] that I’m sorry I disappointed them.” He said he made a “bad decision” and that he “shouldn’t have put the team at risk.”
“I know my team needs me,” he added. “I need to step up to the plate, and I can’t be selfish, and I need to stop getting in my own way. I’m putting things in motion as far as a plan for myself to be a better teammate and be more accountable and fix my issues that have brought me to this situation.”
The situation drew Rivera’s ire Wednesday because it shifted the focus away from the team’s upcoming game against the Panthers. About midway through his video news conference, Rivera cut off a reporter and raised his voice to declare: “I’ve answered enough questions on this. You guys have had enough opportunities to get enough information about this, okay? We are playing Carolina. If I don’t get any more Carolina questions, I’m done.”
Haskins’s off-field transgression — his second of the season that has resulted in a fine for violating the league’s covid-19 protocols — came at a significant time for the franchise as it looks to return to the playoffs for the first time in five years. With a win on Sunday, plus a New York Giants loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Washington will clinch the NFC East and earn a postseason berth. Should Washington lose, however, its path to the playoffs will be complicated and reliant on the help of other teams.
All the while, Smith, the quarterback who helped Washington get back into playoff contention is still recovering from a calf strain that sidelined him last week and is uncertain for Sunday.
“For me, I’m absolutely planning on being out there,” Smith said. “I’m doing every single thing I can to make sure that happens. … To be playing meaningful games this time of year, you’re doing everything you can to get out on the field and play through whatever you can.”