By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, August 9th, 2009 at 11:07 pm in Oakland Raiders.
A transcription of the first meeting with the media for first-year wide receiver’s coach Sanjay Lal:
Q: How are the young WRs coming along?
Lal: Very good, extremely hard working core. They want to be great. They’re hungry, they’re young. A coach couldn’t ask for more.
Q: How about the rookies?
Lal: Every one has done what’s been asked of them and more.
Q: Darrius Heyward-Bey had a rough start, but seemed to turn it around, what went in to that?
Lal: All summer he’s been working on a key set of techniques in terms of his catching, concentration, routes and it’s just a matter of time. It needs to come together for him. We just need to get him reps. More reps, more reps, more reps and that’s where it’ll take him to where he needs to go.
Q: No experience outside Javon Walker, but do you like having a clean slate to work with?
Lal: I’ve always had a vision of how I would want the receiver corp to be and with a clean slate like you said, you can implement everything from Ground 1 how it should be done. And speaking of Javon, he has echoed every one so it’s been great to have a clean slate with a veteran who wants them to be great also.
Q: How does it help to get Javon added to group?
Lal: It gives us the bell cow that we haven’t earned yet. If he comes in and plays like the Javon we know we can be, then they’ll have a leader who can apply what we’re teaching and make it real for them.
Q: Last year’s stats were NFL worst, but with strong finishes by Schilens and Higgins, did you have a good feeling about what you had coming back?
Lal: Yes and I wouldn’t correlate it to the stats. Those guys are getting better every day. The run game took off at the end, the defense played better, JaMarcus played well so it’s a combination. It was everything starting to jive and that’s what we feel will happen this year.
Q: You got to learn under James Lofton, how much did that help you?
Lal: What he did was he gave me confidence to stand up for what I believe as a coach. He and I really thought alike on a lot of subjects. It was nice for me to see, here is how I would handle it, how is James will handle it. And it reinforced a lot of my beliefs. Stand tough, don’t back down. You’re teaching them the right things. They will respond, maybe not at first. But if they trust you and you can show them one technique or one move than can help them, then they will listen to you.
Q: Guys said in OTAs that you used round table for meetings instead of rows, is that still in place?
Lal: We can’t do it at training camp but we replaced our classroom style for a conference table. Because we are all in it together. We’re going to make each other better. I’m the facilitator. We all watch film together. I ask Johnnie Lee what Chaz did wrong or what he could do better on a route. I’ll ask Chaz himself. We all talk about each play together.
Q: Is that something you had done somewhere else?
Lal: Like I said, I always had a vision of how I wanted it to be and how I was not coached and how I wanted to be coached. I took it from my book of do’s and don’ts.
Q: What led you into coaching?
Lal: It really stemmed from … I always thought I wanted to be a coach at some point and I really tried and tried and tried and probably over-tried to make it into the NFL and I didn’t. When I didn’t make it into the NFL, I coached high school football. At first I thought it was just high school football. But then I got into it. There was one player, a receiver, and I taught him a move and he used the move and scored and came back and hugged me on the sideline and said, ‘Coach, I wouldn’t have scored if it wasn’t for you.’ And right then I was hooked.
Q: Was that at Miramonte?
Q: Was it Drew Bennett?
Lal: It wasn’t Bennett. Bennett was the quarterback. None of the big time guys. Phil Wagner actually. It was Phil Wagner and I was hooked because I could live my dreams through them.
Q: Does it put pressure on you because they used first round pick on receiver?
Lal: Not for me personally. I just take it as I’m privileged to have this job. I told Coach Cable and Coach Davis that ‘You’ve given me my dream job and I will coach every day with that attitude.’ It’s like a gift to me to have these young guys to mold.
Q: How cool to have a job in NFL and for it to be with Raiders with you having some Bay Area roots?
Lal: To be with the Raiders is a dream. It’s one of 32 jobs but it’s with the Raiders. So you have your dreams and this comes true and you look back and say how did I get here. If I could have written it, I wouldn’t have been able to write it or believe it. But it happened and I’m not going to let go of it.
You’ll notice Lal referred to “coach Cable and coach Davis.” Calling the owner “coach Davis” gives Lal something in common with Bill Belichick.
As he began his interview, Cable walked past and said, “That’s a fine,” with Lal joking that perhaps he should have waited until the coach had cleared the area. Lal was approached a few days back when Cable gave the green light for talking to assistants, only to have the P.R staff insist on 24 hours notice. John Marshall and Ted Tollner talked in the meantime.
Lal needn’t worry about a fine. He said all the right things, paid respect to all things Raiders and has held steadfast to what is so far company policy to not single out or criticize one receiver as opposed to another.
Burgess talks to New England media
Derrick Burgess spoke to the New England media for the first time since being traded from the Raiders, and not surprisingly revealed little or nothing about the process.
He did have one good line when asked by a reporter if he could play standing up, a reference from moving to outside linebacker after being a defensive end.
“I’m standing up right now,” Burgess said.
Burgess didn’t criticize his former team, just as they didn’t criticize him, and said there has been no agreement to extend his contract.