Note: Some questions were “best guess” edited because they were difficult to hear. Some repeat questions were not transcribed.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio talked to reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings for nearly an hour. Part II from a transcription from audio recorded by the NFL:
Q: You played 12 years in the league?
Del Rio: I played a long time.
Q: Charles Woodson has played even longer . . . how do you a view guy who’s going into his 18th year, he’s 39, played all but 18 or 20 snaps last two years . . .
Del Rio: I just left the organization in Denver, where Peyton was the same thing, same guy in terms of a premium player that’s been able to play a long time, a high level at a long time. You’re talking about, I think they’re from the class. A pretty strong group to come out. Two guys with longevity and all that, it’s pretty amazing. Like Payton, I think it’s important for Charles that we’ve got to be smart about how we work him. We’ve got to be smart about how many snaps he’s taking. I think we’ll just have to work through that. We’ll try to make sure we take advantage of the things he can do, he’s got terrific instinct, he’s always been an active, play-making kind of guy. We just want to make sure that we’re doing things that take advantage of some of those skills.
Q: Raiders so often connected to Los Angeles, you played in L.A., but you’ re an Oakland guy . . .
Del Rio: Well, first and foremost, I’m an East Bay guy. I grew up in Hayward right there by Oakland. Throughout the whole process, when I asked Mark Davis, his statement to me has been consistent throughout and that has been, we want to stay in Oakland and we’re doing everything we can to stay in Oakland. So that’s really, I mean, what happens, what can happen, and all the different possibilities and stuff, I just refuse to waste time speculating and wondering what might be and all those things. Obviously I’m not blind to it. I’m aware that it’s out there, but for me, we’re going to make the most of where we are and right now we’re in Oakland and I’m just going to leave it at that and work my butt off to help this team be great and let the people that need to worry about those other things worry about those other things.
Q: Coming home can come with some distractions, got people haven’t seen in awhile pulling at you . . . any negative aspects or increased pressure? Or just a great feeling to have so much support, so many people excited to have you back?
Del Rio: I would look at the positive part, the support has been tremendous. Having family and friends, people that I grew up with, the outpouring of support, and the support from the Raider Nation has been great as well. I’m not big on the social media but my children are and it’s just been overwhelming. It’s been very, very positive and I’m appreciative of that. There obviously are, I have a job to do, if you’re an attorney in town, people don’t come out of the woodwork to go to the attorney’s office to talk to you. Same thing. We’re professional. I’m doing a professional job. It’s not like everybody is just hanging out at my office. But I’m close, instead of having to say high after the game we’ll actually be able to interact and spend time. It’s very cool to be back.
Q: What do you see from Malcolm Smith at LB?
Del Rio: It’s early and we’ll see. Sio’s rehabbing so Malcolm will get a lot of those reps in the offseason. I believe in making it competitve whenever we can. There are some guys that you could pencil at this point and say, yeah, that’s their spot, but even those guys are going to be pushed. Nobody’s just going to walk in. It’s not like we’re returning from the Super Bowl and have things figured out. We have a lot of work to do and competition is going to be a big part of it.
Q: How does Marcel fit in with the offense you want to run . . . the need for a fullback . . .
Del Rio: We’ll see where that goes. I would say there are good roles for good football players everywhere. We’ll let Bill and the staff, let them go through and start working with our guys. Let’s see what our staff can put together to utilize the talent we have and the talent we’re bringing in. I wouldn’t get too far ahead of the curve on that one.
Q: Chris Borland walking away . . . a moment where the NFL stops and re-assesses . . . .
Del Rio: I think every individual can make their own decision for how they feel and what they want to make of their potential career. I didn’t have the same reaction as a lot of people. I kind of feel it’s a shame that a young man came to a place where he doesn’t feel he can play. I feel bad for him. I played a long time and enjoyed every bit of it, I was very blessed. It’s unfortunate. I think’s a league of men and it takes a lot to come in and sacrifice and discipline yourself and do the things that need to be done to play at a high level. You’re talking about grown men that are trying to feed their families, so it’s a very competitive job. If you’re heart’s not in it or you don’t feel like you can continue, then you’re doing the right thing stepping away because it’s got to be miserable to come to work every day and spend the time that we spend if you’re not really dialed in or excited about being there.
Q: Cited long-term concerns over head injuries, you’ve seen how NFL deals with that from where you played to now. What’s the biggest difference in how it’s treated, etc.
Del Rio: I think the whole thing has taken a turn to help make safety an important part of it, in terms of, as coaches, we’re looking to help teach our guys to take the head out of it and how to make sure we’re targeting the strike zone and the way we tackle and how we tackle. I think we’ve been able to improve that. All of those things, as coaches we’re working on. I think the players have greater awareness, I think the doctors have greater awareness. I think statistics will continue to show that we’re doing an awful lot to minimize the risk. I think that’s an important step for the league and the league has taken that.
Q: How many concussions did you have?
Del Rio: I probably had one in college, and that was probably it. I don’t think I had any in the NFL. Of course my helmet never popped off either. These guys wear these helmets these days, I’ve never seen, I played four years of high school, four years of college, practiced every day played 11 years in the league, practiced every day. Not one time did my helmet every come off. Ever.
Q: Your theory . . .
Del Rio: They wear ’em for comfort. They put ’em on like their hats. I used to have to pry it over my ears and I put a little vaseline there to make sure it would go over. And the whole mechanic around the job was better. I just think, I think we’ve made a lot of different efforts, but I think some of the improvements for the helmets, in my opinion have gone to comfort and not necessarily safety. That’s my pet peeve. These things when they pop off, how do you have a helmet that pops off? It’s a violent game when guys are coming in, I always wanted to make sure my head had a shell around it. I didn’t ever want to be vulnerable and have my helmet off in a pile. That could be bad. that’s the one thing I would add to the discussion if you want to talk about player safety issues. Let’s see if we can stop the helmets from popping off.
Q: That would seem to be such a simple fix . . .
Del Rio: You would think. I know we’ll work hard in Oakland to make sure we have helmets that fit and stay on their head. It’s amazing, it’s amazing. It really is.
Q: Kurt Warner wearing helmet 7 years hold, loved the helmet,
Del Rio: That’s a tough one. I think that’s probably rare.
Q: Take your helmet?
Del Rio: No.
Q: Just to next team, gave you helmet?
Del Rio: Yes . . . we’re doing a lot of things to make the game safer, that’d be one I added in there. My two cents.