Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio: "There is real effort and energy"

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Q: Is it good to be back at it?

Coach Del Rio:"It's great to be back out in the grass with our players, yeah. Players and coaches going at it."

Q: What are your initial thoughts on some of the rookies?

Coach Del Rio:"I would say that they've done a good job of coming in here and working hard, kind of finding their way. I think there are some great examples of how we do things from the veterans that now that we're integrating them, they can learn some of those lessons from some of the veteran players. Want to make sure they learn what the Raider way looks like so they can come out here and we can have good, healthy competition, but take care of each other and understand that we're preparing for a season. Just do smart things like stay away from the quarterback, keep people up off the ground, things like that. I'm sure you heard me harping on that some today. So that's part of what we do. I think everybody we've added is… We've been able to add some guys whether they're veteran free agents or the draft class or the undrafteds, I think we've added good people. It's really a pretty good locker room down there and I think the guys respect and appreciate each other."

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Q: How fun is it for you to finally get everyone out here?**

Coach Del Rio:"Yeah, I mean it's just one step closer to real football. It's tough, I have to tell you, it's tough. The last couple of weeks, the Phase Two part, where you get to have meetings and you get to come out and coach, but you can't ever line up anybody across from you. It's pretty hard to play defense without being able to do that. The offense can run plays on air, but even they can't adjust to what the defense is causing them to adjust to. It's kind of an awkward time. But I love this part where we actually can practice real football and spend time developing our guys and our players and our plays and all the things we want to be good at."

Q: Is it good to see Menelik Watson back out there?

Coach Del Rio:"Yeah, of course. Guys that are able to return… In his case, he was a guy that was really having a great [training] camp and it was kind of a freaky injury. Great to get him back. I know he's excited to be back."

Q: With some many other Bay Area teams playing well and in the playoffs, is it time for the Raiders to step up to that level?

Coach Del Rio:"Yeah, what's wrong with that? *(laughing) *I'm good with that. I think that's a great idea."

Q: Where do you see your team fitting in during this incredible time in Bay Area sports?

Coach Del Rio:"Well, first of all, you have to take your hat off to the Warriors. What a tremendous season they have had to this point. Obviously, regular season record, reigning NBA Champs, two-time MVP with [Stephen] Curry. It's awesome. We feel the excitement and we're part of it because we're proud of them. The Sharks are doing well. Heck, I was at a game last week and they're playing really, really well right now. So to feel that excitement, to be a part of it, I think it's awesome. We're one of the pro teams here. We certainly take pride in representing this area. The fans that are here are awesome. So we want to do our part and play great football. We talked about when I got here last year in the opening press conference, talked about return to greatness, and that was the goal. Obviously, what they're doing right now is great and we want to be a part of that. I'm excited about it. I think it's awesome. I think it's awesome when it's going good in an area like it is here in this area and we want to be a part of that."

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Q: Does that inspire you?**

Coach Del Rio:"Yeah, I think it's inspiring for sure. Like I said, I take great pride in having been from this area. Even when it wasn't good, Warriors had some lean years, whatever. Different sports teams have lean years, if you're a true fan, you're still there. But there's nothing like it when you get it going and we're all enjoying it. That's what's happening right now with the Warriors and the Sharks, and we'd love to join that."

Q: Do you feel more confidence on the field now than you did a year ago?

Coach Del Rio:"Yeah. There's no question. We're gaining in confidence because of the work we're putting in. I think that's where it starts. There are a lot of things being said. This time of year, talk is cheap. I don't really spend a whole lot of time worrying about what is said, but I do pay a lot of attention to what is being done and the work that's being put in, commitment level. To me, that's where my focus is. That's where I want our focus to be, on how we're driving each other, on how we're committed to being here and doing the things we can do. Focusing on all of that is really where it's at. That allows you to have a chance in the fall to do your thing."

Q: Do you find you have to reign in the 'we are the paper champions' talk?

Coach Del Rio:"I think that's a nice catchphrase for somebody to write about, but that's not real. For us, we're about the work that we're putting in. It's real work. There is real sweat being put it. There is real effort and energy being put forth. A real commitment. That's where our focus is, not on words."

Q: Does it feel different for you in Year 2 to get out here with a year down with your staff?

Coach Del Rio:"Absolutely. Obviously, in Year 2 there is a core of leaders that understand how we do things and what we're looking for. There is a staff that's returning intact that understands how we want to do things. I think with that, that puts us significantly ahead of where we were last year at this time."

Q: Why did you make the switch for Keith McGill from corner to safety?

Coach Del Rio:"I think the biggest thing is to give him the opportunity to do what he may be best at. He played both in college. We just really felt like it was going to be hard for him at corner. We feel he has his best opportunity to contribute on special teams and as a safety. We like his length. We like a lot of things about him. It's just a matter of how far we can bring him, in terms of developing him, but that's largely up to him. We're going to give him every opportunity, knowing he can do some things at corner but we feel like his long-term future would be best served with him at safety."

Q: What is he best at? 

Coach Del Rio: "I would say he's got great range. His ability to track the ball. There are some things that are not going to be quite as natural but we'll work hard at that going forward. I think he's comfortable back there. In his mind, he likes this opportunity. He can speak for himself, but in talking with him he was kind of excited about getting this opportunity."

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Q: Sean Smith looks massive out there with the other corners, maybe a head taller than everybody else. Physically, do you want him to lose weight?**

Coach Del Rio:"Sean is doing a great job, working hard. He's a big man. We knew that when we signed him. We like his size, we like his competitiveness. He's going to be a terrific addition to our football team."

Q: Leadership-wise, what have you seen from Sean so far?

Coach Del Rio:"Good things, because the first thing you have to do is be here doing the right things yourself. He's been here doing all of the right things like spending time with the younger players at his position, coming in here and being a great teammate. It's really been very positive. The guys that we've added like Sean, like Reggie [Nelson], like K.O. [Kelechi Osemele], these guys have come in and they've been really embraced right away by their teammates. That's a great sign for us."

Q: I know you don't want to talk about injuries, but is it safe to say that Mario Edwards Jr. is being brought along slowly?

Coach Del Rio:"I wouldn't say that. I don't say much about injuries, you know how that goes. I would just say that the guys that aren't working right now are doing everything they can to get back, to be back, to be a part of this. They're all chomping at the bit. They all want to go. There's a process that has to take place for each of them to return. They're all different. Because I don't spend time going through any one, I'm not going to make Mario an exception. I would just say that they're all here, they're all working hard and eager to return. I think we feel good about being able to have all those guys join us at some point in, hopefully, not too far away." 

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The Oakland Raiders Organized Team Activities phas of the offseason got underway at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility.

Q: Do you guys err on the side of caution at this point?**

Coach Del Rio:"I wouldn't say we err on anything. We're doing what we need to do and being smart and just taking care of business. With each player, what they can do, we're doing. What they can't, they're not. It's really pretty simple, cut and dry. Everybody is here. Everybody is eager. Everybody wants to go. The guys that can, will go. That guys that can't will keep working with [head strength and conditioning coach] Joe [Gomes] and the trainers until they're ready to be let loose with us."

Q: Is there as much internal competition this year as there was last year? It seems like the roster might be a little bit more solidified.

Coach Del Rio:"I don't know that I would look at it that way. I think, first of all, when you have 90 men that are on the team at this point, if we don't think they have a chance to be here to be part of the 53, they're not going to be here long. We try to make it as competitive as possible. Certainly, you can pencil in Khalil Mack, but a couple more guys are going to be here. There are a number of positions that are in play, whether it be starting roles or backup roles, special teams role. How can you help us on Sunday win games? How can we get you activated? The 53, who is going to be inactive? Those thoughts are part of what we're doing now. We're going to try to build the flexibility and the role on special teams. It's all a part of it. I would say there is still a lot to be settled. We expect it to be a real competitive camp. We'll sort through a lot of work and sacrifice. We'll sort out who the best 53 are."

Q: Is Reggie Nelson one of the guys that wants to go but can't quite go yet? Coach Del Rio:"I would say they all want to go. Anybody that you didn't see out there in a full uniform participating would be in that category of wants to go but we're doing what we need to do with them."

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