Q & A with coach Rod Woodson

First-year Raiders cornerbacks coach Rod Woodson spoke with the media Monday on a wide range of topics, from his thoughts on some of the young players under his charge, to what it’s like coaching after a Hall of Fame career as a player, to what the Raiders defense is going to look like this season.

Woodson spoke for nine minutes after practice. Here is a transcription:




Q: What has it been like coaching so far?

A: “So far, so good. One-a-days is not tough on the coaches. It’s not really, really tough on the players yet. So far, so good. I can’t complain about it.”


Q: Has anything surprised you yet?

A: “Nope. No. Seven years removed, I’ve prepared myself for the worst. It hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but I’m ready for the long days when the season starts.”


Q: Are you a guy who isn’t very vocal when coaching?

A: “Well, I don’t think I need to scream and holler. Every coach has his own style. At the end of the day, the train is leaving. It’s going to leave with the guys or without the guys. My style is, if you want to get a paycheck, be on the train. I don’t need to tell you that. At the end of the day, if you’re not doing your job, you’re going to get cut. That’s the bottom line. That’s the reality of it. Throughout my career, my coaches never really yelled at me too much. I was a player that didn’t really respond to yelling. There’s some guys you need to push. There’s ways you find to push certain players. Other guys, you just tell them what to do, and they’ll do it. You have to find your way.”


Q: Which coaches influenced you during your 17-year playing career

A: “Gosh, all of them. Chuck Noll, Rod Rust, Tony Dungy, Dick Labeau, Dom Capers, Bill Cowher, Steve Mariucci, Johnnie Fox, he was a rookie coach when he was in Pittsburgh. All those guys who I coached under, I learned a little bit of something from them all.”


Q: What was it like watching the Pro Football Hall of Fame speeches this year? Enjoyable?

A: “Oh, yeah. They’re getting longer. It feels like they’re getting longer. But anytime you can go back and see the great classes that come back. I think there was like eighty-something guys that went back this year. It’s always good to go back and see those guys and see the guys that are getting enshrined that year.”


Q: What can you tell people about rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke?

A: “Well, DVD is his nickname. He’s going to be good. It’s the little things that he has to work on. He has to learn how to finish. He’s still learning the little things about playing corner in this league, playing the different coverages, when to do certain things, when not to do certain things. But if he keeps progressing in the positive manner like he has in the first week or so, he’ll be a decent player.”


Q: What is it about Van Dyke that caught your eye when you worked him out before the NFL draft?

A: “He has great hips. He reminds me of a player that I played with in Baltimore, Duane Starks. When he got drafted coming out of The U, and we were in Baltimore, he had great hips, great feet. DVD reminds me of him. He’s a little bit taller. His range, I don’t think too many receivers are outrunning him. So, he has to learn to break down, move his body weight and transition when he’s playing in space. If he does that, he can be a pretty good player.”


Q: What are your impressions of free safety Michael Huff?

A: “Mike’s a player. He’s a playmaker. He has a natural instinct, a natural gift. I’m also coaching the nickels. I coach more with the other guys than I do with him. When you don’t have to coach as much with a certain guy, it makes your job a little easier. That’s when you know he has that natural gift. You don’t have to tell him to do the little things. It just comes naturally to him.”


Q: Do your Hall of Fame credentials help you coach so many young players?

A: “It’s a start. But if I tell them to go the wrong way, it’s not going to last too long. I’m just trying to point them in the right direction. Each player is different. Every player learns differently. Some guys are audio learners, some guys are visual, some guys need to do the reps. The things that I did in my career, I can’t ask the same guy to do the same thing. It really depends upon their abilities. Each player plays within that ability. If they can do that and I can help them cultivate their tool belt, so to speak, in their craft, then I’m doing my job as a coach.”


Q: What kind of coverage does defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan prefer?

A: “Multiple. The great defenses that I played with, and I know Chuck has been around, have done a multiple of things. I don’t think you can do one thing and be good at it. What has to happen in this league is, you have to make the quarterback think after he touches the football. What Chuck is trying to cultivate with his defense is, to give multiple looks, make sure we have our disguises in the secondary and linebackers and from that we move to what we’re going to play in. If we can do that, then we’re headed in the right direction. Chuck, what he wants to do is, give multiple looks, multiple defenses and make the quarterback guess.”


Q: What is your impression of Stanford Routt after 10 days? Is he an elite cornerback?

A: “He can be. Stanford, he’s a work in progress. He has natural gifts. Every player that gets drafted in the NFL has those gifts. He has to cultivate those gifts. He’s had Willie here for so long, he has learned under Nnamdi. It’s his turn to learn how to play the game and learn to trust himself. The elite players learn to trust themselves on the field. Once he does that and he pulls the trigger when he has opportunities to pull the trigger, his game is going to elevate, his interceptions is going to go up and that’s when you’re going to start hearing his name more so than you have in the past.”


Q: Can pulling that trigger once and making a big play start that process?

A: “Everything’s a process. Step by step. What Stanford has done so far in this new system is, he’s learning the system, he’s learning how to trust himself, he’s learning how to work his eyes, his balance with his feet, all the things that you need to do as a defensive back, as a defensive player, as an NFL player, to trust what you have learned in the meeting room, on the field and apply back to the practice field and game day. Those are the elite players. He’s in the process of doing so.”


Q: Do the Raiders really play 90 percent man or however much?

A: “I know when I was here, we played multiple coverages. We played four, we played man, we played some zones. That’s what we’re going to do again. I don’t know what they did in the seven or eight years that I was gone, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is, this year, 2011 Raiders, that the guys buy in to what Hue is selling. All the guys are doing that. We’re learning that there’s a standard that we’re asking of our players when they step on the practice field, there’s a practice for when we step (on the field) on game day. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the first-team guy, second-team guy, the third-team guy, the standard is set. You have to live up the standard or you won’t be a Raider.”


Q: What do you think of Chris Johnson?

A: “Chris can play. I like Chris. He’s an old wily vet. He’s kind of the same way as Stanford a little bit. He has to start trusting himself and start pulling that trigger. All the film study, everything we’re giving him as coaches, everything he’s learned throughout his career and from other players, once he can apply that back to the field and not hesitate, those are the guys that you really look forward to see play. C.J. is in that process. He believes that he can do certain things and as he progresses this year, he’s going to have a good year.”


Q: Do those guys need to play better to compensate for the loss of Asomugha?

A: “Even with Nnamdi, if Nnamdi was here, I would tell him Nnamdi the same thing. He didn’t have a lot of picks. He was a shut-down corner but pulling the trigger gives you the opportunity to make picks. They have to start pulling that trigger. There’s certain things throughout the practice, there’s certain plays, you only get two or three plays as a defensive back to make plays. Once they start learning how to pull that trigger, and I’m talking about the safeties, the DBs, the linebackers, the defensive linemen, everybody, we’ll be an explosive defense.”


Q: Have you always wanted to coach?
A: “I thought about it for years but after playing for 17 years I was offered my first few years when I first retired, but I needed to get away. So, being away for seven years, I thought this was the best time to give it a shot, see if I like it, see if I don’t mess the guys up too much. If I can do that, then I’ll try to make a career of it.”


Steve Corkran