Rivera explains releasing Hopkins, what he told his new kicker originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Just two weeks ago, Ron Rivera backed Dustin Hopkins as Washington’s kicker, which is something he’s had to do a lot as head coach with the franchise.
The veteran’s job status came into question once more after he missed two extra points against the Falcons in Week 4, yet Rivera showed faith in him by telling reporters, “If you quit too early on a guy, it comes back to get you.”
But on Wednesday, Rivera and the Washington Football Team made the decision to drop Hopkins, who had been with the Burgundy and Gold since 2015.
To replace him, Washington elevated Chris Blewitt, who’s never attempted a kick in the NFL, from the practice squad.
Since his rough outing in Atlanta, Hopkins had gone 5-of-6 on field goals (he missed a 42-yarder versus the Chiefs on Sunday) and hit both of his PATs. Despite that relatively clean sheet — he even drilled a kick from 50 yards away, something that his detractors often criticized him for not being able to do — Rivera believed a switch was necessary.
“Just felt that we needed to do something going forward,” he said in a press conference. “I just think going into Week 7, after having gone through the first six, that it was time. There were a couple opportunities that we had, opportunities to score and we didn’t, and you’d like to be more consistent that way.”
Perhaps the most damning moment for Hopkins came when he wasn’t even called on.
In Washington’s meeting with the Saints in Week 5, Rivera opted to go for a fourth-and-10 instead of sending Hopkins out for what would’ve been about a 52-yarder.
At that point, it became clear that there wasn’t much trust between Washington’s boss and its specialist.
“Really appreciate everything Dustin has done for us,” Rivera said. “He’s a solid football player. He’ll get an opportunity to play again. I just felt at this time it was something that I felt we had to do going forward. This was my move, my decision and I’ll live with it.”
The second half of this transaction relates to Blewitt, who’ll get his first professional chance this weekend at Lambeau Field. He first joined the organization’s practice squad following that Falcons win where Hopkins struggled but was cut soon thereafter. He re-joined the practice squad on Tuesday and now is the guy for Rivera.
“I feel ultimate confidence in myself,” Blewitt said in his own press conference.
Blewitt’s journey has been an exhausting one. He kicked for the University of Pittsburgh for four years from 2013 to 2016, and since then, he’s had trouble finding a spot in the league.
So, as Blewitt’s continued to pursue his football dream, he’s held jobs as a trainer and at places like UPS and Home Depot. Throughout all of his failed auditions and side gigs, however, he refused to be discouraged.
“I could see myself there and I could see all the work I’ve put in again and again, going out to all those [workouts], making the rounds and ultimately seeing that I belong in here,” Blewitt said.
As for his last name — his very, very ill-fitting last name — yes, he was asked about it on Wednesday. And yes, it’s a topic he’s been approached about many times before.
“Make all your jokes, it’s all good, it’s all in good fun,” Blewitt said. “No big deal.”
What is a big deal, though, is the opportunity that’s in front of the hometown product from Alexandria, Va. and West Potomac High. Getting off to a hot start could be the difference between him sticking with Washington and him having to return to the real world and bide his time until another chance — if one ever comes, that is.
And that’s exactly what Rivera reminded him of in a conversation the two had shortly after Hopkins was released.
“‘You’ve been working for this your whole career, so now is your shot,'” Rivera said to Blewitt. “Go out and make the best of it.”