By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
No NFL player wants to lose an entire season to a major injury. But for Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers, he sees the positives in his lost rookie year. And it may have actually helped him become a better player in the long run.
Going down during his first career training camp with a torn ACL that robbed him of his entire 2017 season, Rivers essentially had a redshirt season as a rookie. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the 24-year-old edge rusher out of Youngstown State discussed his excitement to finally make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Texans. He also explained how his injury, while pushing back his on-field experience for a year, benefitted him in other ways.
“It was a blessing last year, what happened, because it gave me an opportunity to still learn the defense and see how it goes, learn in the classroom and stuff,” said Rivers. “[My first game] is almost like a surreal moment, but every game’s meaningful, and I’m excited.”
Rivers had his moments in his first preseason action in the NFL, at times looking every bit like the explosive pass rusher the Patriots felt they were getting in the 2017 draft. He’s also earned the highest of praise from head coach Bill Belichick, who dropped a “Nobody works harder” when referencing him and teammate Deatrich Wise.
Other 2017 rookies, including defensive tackle Adam Butler, have already gotten their NFL debuts out of the way. But edge rusher Keionta Davis and Rivers are in the same boat. You may think Rivers is getting those first-game jitters as he gets ready to officially notch his name in an NFL box score in a game that counts.
You’d be right. But Rivers explained that it’s nothing out of the ordinary. When an entire week of preparation comes down to three intense hours on Sunday, it’s hard not to get that good kind of nerves.
“It’s just something that happens playing football, from high school to college to this level,” said Rivers. “You still get [butterflies in your stomach] every game day.”
Rivers is expected to be a big part of what looks like a revamped front-seven and pass rush for the Patriots. Sunday marks his first opportunity to reward the Pats for making him their top draft pick a year ago.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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