ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera viewed receiver Terry McLaurin as more than just a receiver who needed to be extended. He was a key player for an organization trying to rebuild its image amid a congressional investigation.
"He's an organizational signing," Rivera said. "It impacts not just the football side but the business side. It tells people we want to retain young men of this stature; we want young men of this magnitude out there representing our organization."
Congress has been investigating Washington owner Dan Snyder since October. It held a hearing on June 22, and Snyder declined to attend or to testify via video call. The House Oversight Committee's Democratic leadership continues to negotiate with Snyder's attorneys to get him to testify about Washington's workplace culture.
The drumbeat of the congressional story has drowned out other organizational on-field news. When McLaurin skipped the on-field voluntary OTA work and then the mandatory three-day minicamp, fans feared more bad news was headed their way. McLaurin worked his way from a third-round pick in 2019 -- expected to be a key special teams player and backup receiver -- to a guy with two 1,000-yard seasons in his first three.
Rivera stressed to McLaurin his importance to the organization in a phone call during minicamp -- when McLaurin was training in Florida.
"He emphasized the priority from ownership on down was to get the deal done," McLaurin said.
By the time Washington left minicamp June 16, there was optimism McLaurin would soon be extended. He agreed to his three-year contract worth up to $71 million -- with a $28 million signing bonus -- last week and signed it Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Rivera centered the McLaurin signing around how he said the organization has changed in the past two years, getting rid of others in key spots who have been accused of sexual harassment.
"As I ask, please don't judge us from, 'This happened at this point in time,'" Rivera said. "We're going forward. We're changing things. We're trying to do the best we can. I know some people don't think it matters, but it does matter. It shows you can change, you can adapt, you can make things better. You can correct your mistakes, and that's what we're doing. We're correcting our mistakes; we're getting a lot of support."
McLaurin blossomed in Washington despite having played with eight different starting quarterbacks. After finishing with 919 receiving yards as a rookie, he topped 1,000 yards each of the next two seasons.
In the past two seasons combined, McLaurin ranks 11th in the NFL with 2,171 receiving yards and 12th with 164 receptions.
That's also why he was a must have for Rivera as he juggles on-field planning with off-field news.
"We're doing the best we can putting the best players in position so we can build something we can all be proud of," Rivera said. "I get a little upset about it because I get it, it's a news item. What we do on the field is important; that's what we're trying to do. We're not trying to say what happened isn't important because it is. It's something we need to make sure societally going forward we don't let those things happen again so we're doing everything we can to make sure we are better."
McLaurin said he and other team leaders have tried to look forward.
"We trust Coach Rivera's vision and how he leads us," McLaurin said. "He does a great job handling it and taking all the pressure on from outside voices. ... We represent the organization the best way we can on and off the field. We take that seriously. It comes with work and, honestly, transparency and working hard as a collective group and building unity. Coach Rivera allows us to focus on the field. We understand what's going on outside; we want to focus on where we're heading."