Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders added Vernon Stephens as the assistant strength and conditioning coach earlier this offseason, joining head strength and conditioning coach John Grieco. Stephens previously coached with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and most recently, the San Diego Chargers.
Stephens knew early on that he wanted strength and conditioning to be his career. “In college, I was studying exercise science and I decided that I wanted to gear towards athletes,” said Stephens. “A current strength coach in the league, his name is Tom Myslinski, he’s down in Jacksonville, was at my school as an intern and I saw what he was doing and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Since making that decision, Stephens has had almost 15 years of experience working with athletes. “I strive to try and be a better coach today than I was yesterday,” said Stephens. “I’ve done that the whole time I’ve coached. I think you take experiences from other places and bring them with you to the next place. You see a way to do things better, communicate better. I think lessons learned good and bad, you bring those with you.”
Stephens spent six seasons with the AFC West rival Chargers from 2007-2012. He has always recognized the history and grit of the Silver and Black, despite working for the opposing team. “The perception really is the mystique. You see the Raiders emblem, logo, the history that’s behind it, it’s just rare,” said Stephens. “It’s iconic in the NFL, so even though [San Diego] had some success against the Raiders, there’s a respect there that I think is across the league because not too long ago everybody wanted to be like the Raiders. It’s exciting to be on this side and have an opportunity to help the Raiders get back to where they were.”
The Florida-native wants to have a role in getting the Raiders back on track. “As a coach, I’m committed to helping us win,” said Stephens.
He plans to work closely with the players to make sure they are doing everything to be their best on the field.”I’m very hands on, instructional,” Stephens explained. “It’s very important that everything we do, we do it the right way. We want to be very efficient so if I can have somebody take two steps instead of three to do something well, then that’s what I want to do.”
Stephens will use this offseason to become familiar with the roster and give the players the best opportunity to be successful. “I want to get to know more of the guys. Certainly the roster has changed since the last time I was in San Diego and we competed against Oakland, so it’s a whole new group of guys and it will be more with free agents and a full draft. Just really getting that full complement of players into Coach Allen’s system, into what we do here, and helping them to take the next step to go win,” said Stephens.
The strength and conditioning staff has a short window to work with the players during the offseason to get them prepared for training camp and the 2014 campaign. “Its nine weeks and really about five of those weeks are strength and conditioning oriented and then it flips to practice, so really making sure the guys get as much out of those five weeks,” said Stephens on the staff’s goal for the offseason workouts. “They go by really quick.”
Stephens’ personal goal is to prepare the team physically and mentally for the rigors of an NFL season. “For me, [I want] to bring to this staff what I think I bring to any staff, which is integrity and commitment, just making sure the players are encouraged to do their best,” said Stephens. “The average span in the league is three and a half years for each player, that’s a very short period of time. I think the more we can help guys understand it’s a rare opportunity, make the most of it, and be the best you can possibly be in that given time, and then you look back and you either accomplished your goals or you didn’t, at least you strove for it. So I will try to encourage all of the guys to make the most of the opportunity.”
Stephens is looking forward to giving everything he has as a coach and person to the Raiders organization. “As a person, there’s a term called serve and leadership, that’s my coaching philosophy,” said Stephens. “My job is to set a good example, and then daily, show that commitment of how you can chip away at your goal day-by-day if you keep the same commitment. So just servicing these guys, servicing the Raider organization, trying to bring the best I can in my role and hoping that that makes some kind of impact.”
The strength and conditioning staff will have their first chance to work with the players beginning April 21.