Rivera Downplays Possibilities

With the Cowboys rumored to be interested in him and willing to wait until next week to make a decision on Bill Parcells' successor, Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera may get the last remaining head-coaching position.

For now, though, the Rivera-to-Dallas rumors are just that, which he repeatedly told waves of media at Thursday morning's interview session.

"It's speculation," the former Bears linebacker said. "I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody from Dallas, so I don't know. My wife (Stephanie) called me (Wednesday) night and asked me about it and I told her, 'Hey, I've talked to no one.'"

Rivera is one of just five Hispanic or Latino assistant coaches in the NFL and the most well known. If he gets the Cowboys' job he would be the only Hispanic head coach in the NFL, but he was in a minority almost as small during his playing days from 1984-92.

"It's kind of (like) when I played," he said. "I was one of the few Hispanics to play in the NFL. The one thing people have to understand, and it's true for any player, you're a role model, and a lot of people will look up to you and you've got to live your life accordingly.

Rivera has expressed frustration over the NFL policy that prohibits assistant coaches from interviewing with other teams while their present team is still playing.

In a whirlwind tour, Rivera interviewed for head-coaching positions with the Falcons, Steelers, Dolphins and Cardinals during the week prior to the Bears' bye in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

But he was prohibited from second interviews while the Bears were busy advancing to Super Bowl XLI. In the interim, teams anxious to speed the transition to a new regime filled all four positions.

"It's a little frustrating because I went through it with Pittsburgh," he said. "I was a finalist and unfortunately, because of the way things progressed, I didn't get that chance. But I'm here at the Super Bowl. It took me 21 years to get back -- I was here as a player, back in '85, and now I'm here as a coach. I really do appreciate the opportunity of getting back to the Super Bowl. I know eventually I'll get an opportunity as a head coach because it's just the way things progress."

Rivera has been aiming for the top of his profession since he started on the bottom rung of the NFL coaching ladder as a defensive quality control coach for the Bears under Dave Wannstedt. And, just as Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy have blazed a trail for African-American head coaches by becoming the first to lead their teams to the Super Bowl, Rivera welcomes the opportunity to do the same for Hispanics.

"It's a role that I would relish most certainly," he said. "I think it's very important for the communities to have different types of role models. Believe me, it would be very important and very special to me."

But with the Bears preparing for the franchise's most important game in 21 years, Rivera's immediate concern is avoiding any distractions that would take away from focusing on stopping the Colts' offense, the NFL's best in several categories.

"The bottom line is, it's speculation, and I think the players understand that," Rivera said. "I haven't talked to anybody about (the Cowboys job), so until that time comes, that's all it is; strictly speculation. We'll have to see what happens come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week."

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