A transcript of Raiders’ coach Jack Del Rio’s session with the media Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine:
Q: With all the off-field issues around the league, anything new teams need to do to make sure stay away from problems . . .
Del Rio: I think each organization has to handle their business in a way that suits them and you’re dealing with human beings and things happen. You just want to make sure you’re thorough in the research that you do and the work that you put in and obviously being here now, this is a part of that process, to get a feel for some of these young men. But it goes a lot deeper than that. I think you do the best you can to gather information. It think when you look at it as a whole, you look at the league in its totality, I think it’s a pretty good example of guys doing things the right way. I think it’s probably not said enough how a really high percentage of the people that are a part of this league are doing things the right way a large percentage of the time. But we will be thorough in terms of determining whether or not a person is a good fit for our organization.
Q: Is Jones-Drew anymore than a role player at this point? He didn’t play a major role last year . . .
Del Rio: No he didn’t, and I would say that’s something that we’ll continue to look at in terms of who is going to be on the roster, who is going to be challenging for spots on the roster, who is going to earn what particular role. I think it’s way too early in the process to start getting in to that. I think it’s all being evaluated. Certainly this is a fine young man that played great for me in our time together in Jacksonville. I have a lot of respect for him. We just need to find out. One of the things he came to see me to welcome me and say hello, and that was one of my questions. Can you be explosive again? We need to know whether that can happen again. We need to find out. Obviously I have a lot of respect for him, but that’s part of the process as we go through this, to make sure we’ re putting out the best product we can on the field.
Q: Why has it been so long since Raiders were on top?
Del Rio: I’m really not spending a whole lot of time worrying about what was. I’m really focused on what needs to be going forward. I’m very excited about what I think is a very strong staff that I was able to put together and I’m thankful that we were able to go get good people and that they were excited about being part of our effort there. I think it starts there. We brought in guys that were great teachers, with a lot of energy, and I think that is what we need. So going forward, what I’m looking to do is assemble a strong staff, we’ve done that. Evaluate the roster, that is continuous. This basically begins the new year. You come here, you begin your draft preparations or you really begin to bring the coaches in and close your draft preparations as you prepare for that day. You acquire that talent, and then you go in and compete. We’re going to have a very competitive mentality throughout our organization in everything we’re doing. We want to make sure that we’re competing to be the very best, and goal No. 1 is to win the division
Q: What does three years in Denver done to make you a better coach?
Del Rio: I think you grow from all your experiences you have as a coach. We spent three tremendous years in Denver. I’d like to think the last three years have been very beneficial, that we were able to do some superior things there on the field. You take that experience, part of it was going back and being the interim coach when John was battling his heart issues. As I told you then, it was good to be back on the bike, and it was a really good bike. We’re looking to make this is a good bike where we are now.
Q: With cap space, is the recruitment part of bringing guys in as important as what you’re doing at the combine?
Del Rio: It is very important. That’s why I think it’s important that prospective players out there understand that things have changed. Our fields have all been redone. Our weight room is being expanded. We have a steam room going in. There’s a freshness going on. Those are things I talked about in the interview process that were important and they’ve been followed up with actual commitment of capital, which I’m excited about. So as you go into this phase of free agency and acquiring players, we have cap space and we have cash and we have a new staff full of teachers and we have a good young quarterback and we have a good young man off the edge in Khalil Mack and we’ve got a good left tackle, we’ve got corners. The things that we need to be started, we have. We’re going to start adding good quality people that are fired up to be part of the Raiders. So I’m excited about that part of that process that we’re just getting in to.
Q: John Fox believed in putting players in best positions . . . .
Del Rio: Coach and I share a common philosophy in terms of making sure you get your players in position to do the things they do well. You want to minimize the exposure that they have in being asked to do things they can’t do well. that’s one of the fundamentals of coaching, is being able to relate to players, understand what they can and can’t do and make sure you’re creating opportunities to do things they do well. We’re looking for things guys can do. We’re not worried about the things they can’t do. It’s our job ot make sure we don’t put them in those situations. That’s basically the way I’ve always looked at it and the way Kenny Norton, my defensive coordinator, the way he looks at it. We’re looking for things guys can do. We’re excited about coaching these young men and teaching and developing these guys.
Q: Fox’ strengths in energizing a team?
Del Rio: My second time being with coach Fox. I think he’s really a great people person. He trusts his coordinators to do their jobs and he builds great relations with his players. I think those are basic hallmarks of what he brings. Good man to work for.
Q: Talk of relocation with Raiders, Rams Chargers, what were your discussions with Mark Davis in that regard?
Del Rio: Yeah, I asked, point blank, Mark Davis, what his thoughts were on potential relocation and he indicated to me it is his desire to keep the team in Oakland and that they’re working hard to do that. That’s his commitment to do it, to look at it that way. I’m from the area. I can coach anywhere, but I’m from there and it would be great to keep them right there and hopefully we can get that done.
Q: Do you expect Derek Carr to be your starting quarterback?
Del Rio: I would hope so. You’re not trying to jinx me, are you? Are we going to go down the roster now and try and determine who is going to be a certainty and who’s not. I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that needs to be talked about. I think most everybody out here would understand that right now.
Q: Decision to bring Rod Woodson in as assistant DB coach?
Del Rio: We’re excited to have Rod. Rod was a player in Baltimore when I was coaching as part of the Raven team that won the Super Bowl. I’ve seen Rod first-hand. He interned last year for us in Denver. He has coached before, was in Oakland once before. He has a passion for the game. He’s a Hall of Fame player, which doesn’t mean a whole lot in coaching other than he’ll get instant credibility and he’ll get that first five minutes, maybe it turns into 10 minutes, then he’s got to be about helping the guy be better. And it’s my belief he can do that. He can help us, he can bring wisdom, he can bring energy. He’s a good man and glad to have him on the staff.f
Q: Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, DJ Hayden on the roster . . how do you feel about the corners you ahve on the roster?
Del Rio: I feel like we have some solid young players that should develop in our system. Throughout the whole roster we’re looking for ways that we can create competition and make sure that we develop, and I see that position much like the rest of the positions on the team. I think it’s one that had some moments, one that will need to play at a better level, and I think you could say that throughout the roster.
Q: Assessment of Khalil Mack’s rookie year . . .
Del Rio: I think he’s a guy that last year at this time was considered one of the top prospects. He’s gone from that top prospect in terms of a guy who may be able to come in and a play and he’s established himself as a guy that can play. We’d like to take that performance to another level. He showed signs of being dominant in certain things, in particular stuffing people at the line of scrimmage and putting up that stop sign, and telling people they’re not coming that way, and some of the ability of finishing on the edge we think we can help him with some of those things and some of those opportunities when you get teams in must pass situations, we think he can flourish. Excited about a young talent like that.
Q: DJ Hayden a matter of consistency going into third year?
Del Rio: DJ has got great feet. He’s got special corner feet. The ability to transition, change direction. For DJ it’s all about staying healthy, and it’s hard to develop if you’re not on the field working. We’re going to work hard. We’ve got a new strength coach, Joe Gomes, and Joe and his staff, they’re similar to what Luke Richardson brought us in Denver in terms of being on the cutting edge in terms of technologies utilized, of the conditioning and the conditioning and strength of your football team. A lot of the regeneration and regenerative things that you need to be about to bring people back, so they can train harder and be fresher on Sundays and be part of our program, that’s all part of it.
Q: Denver DT Terrance Knighten, followed you to Denver from Jacksonville, is he still trending upward?
Del Rio: Yeah, I mean, obviously we drafted him, we thought at that time he was kind of a dancing bear type. Kind of a big powerful man that could stay on his feet and run down the line. This game is about big, powerful men, so that the guys that have the skill level can do their things. This big, powerful man played well in Jacksonville. We got back together, he played well in Denver and so I appreciate that, I respect that. We have to have those kinds of people in our trenches, in our offensive and defensive line, in order to play the kind of football we expect to play.
Q: Staying in the same division, no unknowns . . .
Del Rio: There’s a working reference point that I can draw on. I am familiar with those stadiums, I am familiar with those teams, having competed against them. Been a part of one of them. Played the others twice a year. I think that may benefit certain things, but it’s still about getting in, doing the work, and not taking anything for granted. I have a healthy respect for the division. I think it’s a good division. Our goal No. 1, as I said a little while ago, our goal, No. 1, is to win our division first. Everything that we’re about, every decision that we make, can that help us win our division. Once we accomplish that, we can talk about other goals. But the No. 1 goal has to be that.