Q: Greg [Olson] has said that you came back to him with more swagger, did you do something during that dead period where you felt more in shape? Did you do something special at all?
Rivera: “I worked out every day and I kept my mind on football every day. I used the 4-12 season as a motivating factor. I want to win in this league, that’s a goal of mine. I want to win in this league and I want to be one of the best tight ends in this league, and I see that that’s attainable. I can get that.”
Q: Dennis [Allen] talked about how you have a feel for the passing game. Some guys can look at tape and playbooks a ton, and not get that. Is that something you’ve always felt you’ve had, that you’ve always felt pretty comfortable, knowing how to get open?
Rivera: “Dating back to my high school days, I just love catching the ball. I have a knack for when the ball’s in the air, go to the ball, and when there are guys around you, you just find that little empty space. You don’t need much of an empty space to get two hands on the ball. So that’s how I put it.”
Q: How would you describe the process of becoming a better blocker? Is this something you embrace? Has it been tough, or challenging?
Rivera: “Definitely challenging. I got to keep up my technique. It’s all about technique and leverage, and also doing advanced ball, and knowing how the defense is going to move, where they are going to go, and be there before they get there.
Q: The fact that they do so many different things in terms of motion, and slot, or sometimes tight end, is that challenging too, knowing where you are supposed to be on every play?
Rivera: “Yeah it’s really challenging. I tell people all the time I play four or five positions. I go through the playbook as an offensive lineman. Then I go through a playbook as a receiver, and then as a fullback. Then you have to go through it as the quarterback’s eyes. So that’s the difficult part but you have to stay in the playbook all the time.”
Q: So the next contract, what do you negotiate as?
Rivera: “We’ll see.”
Q: How much of blocking is just knowing where to be, and how much of it is actual desire?
Rivera: “You know, I’d say 50/50. You can have all the desire in the world, but if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to block the right guy. If you know what you’re doing and you got the heart to do it, you can block anybody.”Q: This is obviously a different offense then what Houston runs, but
Rivera: “Yeah, me and Matt [Schaub] have been working together a lot. He’s been working with the tight ends a lot; he’s really vocal. He’s a leader on the team. For the past couple weeks he’s been grabbing us after practice, running routes, just trying to get better at our chemistry. I just can’t wait to see what Matt does with us and the tight ends.
Q: But when he did sign with the Raiders, did you have a big smile on your face?
Rivera: “Yeah, I did. I knew that we were going to make a quarterback change and things were going to happen, and when Matt Schaub was that guy, the first thing I did was look at how many tight ends he’d thrown to, how many times. The sky’s the limit with this offense.
Q: What kind of tempo did he set in terms of the playbook and knowledge and everyone being on the same page?
Rivera: “Like I said, he’s a real leader. He’s vocal, he’s always the first one in, and the last one out. He stepped up in the team meeting recently and told everybody, ‘Last year wasn’t good enough, and we’re here to win.’ That’s all that matters. We’re all in.”
Q: Now that you have [David] Ausberry back healthy, it’s pretty much a daily competition for reps, going towards the season. Is that a situation you like, that you always have to play your best because of that competition?
Rivera: “Always. That’s what the NFL’s about. The NFL’s about competition. If there was no competition, you would never be pushed to be better than you are now. The competition that me and Ausberry are having, that’s part of the reason why I’m doing good right now. Competition brings out the best in everybody.
Q: Do you have set goals in mind, for what you want to accomplish statistically this year or are you just looking at team goals?
Rivera: “You always have team goals, team goals, make the Playoffs. You want to go to the Super Bowl and win that ring. You always have personal goals in the back of your mind, but really, I’m just focusing on the team goals right now.
Q: Do you and David [Ausberry] talk about the competition? Do you discuss it?
Rivera: “No we don’t discuss it that much. We’re all about business. Me and Ausberry are real cool; we go out here and we work. That’s all we’re about. We’re about working.”
Q: It seems like in your system, there are plenty of times when both of you can be on the field anyways.
Rivera: “Yeah, and you know what I look at the situation the Patriots used to have with Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and [Aaron] Hernandez. Those two guys did really good, and those are two tight ends. We could do the same thing with this offense.”
Q: Then when you throw in Marcel [Reece] and Darren [McFadden] and MJD [
Rivera: “Like I said, we’re setting team goals here. If the team is going to be great, if the team is going to be better, I want everybody to get the ball.”