After suffering a broken jaw in the first quarter of the team’s 38-10 loss against Pittsburgh on Oct. 19 when Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward blocked him with a blindside hit, Rivers is done playing football for the season. His mouth has been wired shut and will remain so for the next seven weeks, so all he can do for the time being is watch.
“I feel all right. It's not too bad, (but) it sucks not being able to be out here,” said Rivers on Wednesday as he spoke to the media for the first time since the injury. Rivers spoke for about seven minutes through his forcibly clenched teeth.“I come to meetings and to walk-through and stuff like that. Sometimes it's a little disappointing and depressing that I can't be with the guys.”
Rivers, the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft, finished his rookie season with 50 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble. He said he didn’t remember being hit by Ward but that he has seen the replay numerous times.
“I, mean, I would have did it,” said Rivers. “Honestly, whatever. It is what it is. You know. You reap what you sow. That's what happens. What goes around comes around. We'll see what happens. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow and that's all there is to it.”
The Bengals play at Pittsburgh on Nov. 20 but Rivers won’t get his chance to play against Ward again until next season. Brandon Johnson has taken over as the starter at weakside linebacker in place of Rivers.
“I was very pleased with what Keith was rounding into,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “The good thing about Keith – Keith had his jaw wired shut Monday afternoon, Monday evening, and he was in here Thursday and he's been here every day since. That's how important it is to him.”
Rivers was realistic about his own play through the first six games.
“The first game I missed five tackles and I missed one since then,” said Rivers. “I'm getting better. It was working to get the apex of my game, but my rookie season was cut short. I'll just continue studying the game and get ready for next year.
“I feel like I'm getting better. There's always room for improvement and in my case there's a lot and with Coach (Jeff) FitzGerald coaching me, I was on my way to getting a lot better. I have to continue using his coaching and get better.”
Rivers is attending team meetings daily and has been allowed to resume working out with strength and conditioning coaches but said he has lost 12 pounds in the past 10 days from his listed playing weight of 241 pounds. That’s thanks to a diet that consists of protein shakes and soups that must be put through a blender or food processor before being ingested.
Rivers will still be required to wear rubber bands on his teeth after doctors remove the wire keeping his jaw shut.
“I won't really be able to eat for a month or two after that, like eat steak,” said Rivers. “I won't have a steak after a month or two after I get the wires out.
“I like ice cream shakes. I did Progresso soups. But now I've got Campbell's. Campbell's is better… Chicken and beef noodle last night was really good.”