SAN DIEGO — On the San Diego Chargers’ first offensive play from scrimmage last week, fullback Derek Watt got just enough of Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden to spring running back Melvin Gordon loose outside for a 12-yard gain.
Watt said he has regular conversations with older brother J.J. and younger brother T.J., who plays linebacker at Wisconsin. J.J. Watt remains on the physically unable to perform list for the Texans after having surgery on his back.
“We talk all of the time, whether it’s a text or call,” Derek Watt said. “We have a group chat with all three of us. He’s [J.J.] been able to watch a couple of our games because he’s been out.
“But it’s been good. He’s been giving me a little bit of feedback and just telling me to hang in there, keep getting through camp, and when the regular season starts, things will pick up. It’s also good to talk and get away from football, talk about random stuff outside of the game, just to get away from it, because he knows it’s a grind.”
Coaches often turn to friends and others in their profession for advice. Rivera took it one step further, reaching out to a man he’d never met, retired Adm. William McRaven, the architect of the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
By no means was Rivera comparing a Super Bowl loss to a military operation in which lives were lost when he emailed McRaven. By no means did McRaven try to do the same. But both acknowledged that the leadership it takes to train soldiers in the military for a mission is not that different from the leadership it takes to prepare a player for a new season.
“There’s nothing worse in the world than having to deal with the loss of a comrade, or in some cases a hostage you were trying to rescue or people you were trying to help,’’ said McRaven, now the chancellor at the University of Texas. “But I do think the emotions and how you deal with these situations are similar.’’
Rivera reached out to a lot of people in an effort to address the “Super Bowl Hangover,” a term that has come into use over the years because no team that lost the title game has made it back the next year since the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills. Rivera sought advice from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden and former baseball manager Tony La Russa, among others.
Those choices all made sense in that each learned how to handle disappointment in sports.
McRaven spent three and a half decades working in U.S. and NATO Special Operations. His 1995 book “Spec Ops” is considered the standard text on the subject.