JagNation Press Pass: Jack Del Rio


"We have four more of these OTAs, that's one more tomorrow and three next week and that will really wrap it up. There are two things I want to share with you. One is that our rookies, the rookie program and all that, they've really been doing a lot of neat things. They've visited the hospital. They visited the military. Today they're going to go to the Suns game. I took them out bowling one day. We're going to go golfing next week. But they've been involved in the community. I think Bahati Van Pelt has done a great job, our player programs director, of kind of bringing events that we can utilize these young guys with and incorporate them into our way of doing things and kind of help them get out into the community. It's been really outstanding and I just wanted to make sure I alerted you to that, that that's going on and will continue. We have a schedule basically for this whole month where we get them out and about in the community and get them involved. It gives them a good head start."

(is this the first year of doing this for the rookies?)
"We've been doing it every year. We haven't really broadcast it much. We've built on it each year, improved it each year, added to it. We bring in financial advisors, everything. We make them aware of the things they need to be taking care of on the field and off the field. So, it's really been outstanding. Actually last year for the first time we started having…like Rashean (Mathis) spoke to the group about what his experiences were and now Maurice (Jones-Drew) will talk to the group this year about what his experiences were to kind of give them a veteran's opinion on it, so it's been really good."

"This is crunch time for us and I say that, we don't play for a long time but right now the last four practices and the last four weeks of our conditioning as a football team, to me this is where you really build your foundation. I think it's a vitally important time for the guys. We've got a lot of guys on the mend. Reggie (Williams), Marcedes (Lewis), Matt (Jones), they're all back practicing, so it's a really valuable time right now to be able to really condition your body, buy in to preparing yourself because when we go to camp, it's full speed ahead."

(how would you categorize last year's rookie group?)
"To put them all in one category would be difficult to do. I think certainly they're a year ahead of last year. Last year their heads were spinning, they're doing all the rookie programs, they're trying to find their way. This year they've gone through that. They had a year's experience. They understand what they need to do, how they need to be getting ready. So certainly they bring a different perspective. I think in many cases you're talking about guys Clint (Ingram) and guys like Maurice (Jones-Drew), guys like Marcedes (Lewis) - these are guys that showed last year they're going to be really good football players for us. They were able to help us last year and we want to get even more, as we go forward, out of them."

(commenting on the Daunte Culpepper rumors)
"No, we consider all possibilities. Right now he's on another roster. I don't think it makes any sense for me to sit up here and talk about something that's on another roster. We're pretty thorough in evaluating the league. Anytime we feel like we can upgrade our roster, we're not afraid to do that, but obviously it would be premature short of him no longer being there or any of that type of thing."

(are you ruling out that you won't talk to Culpepper?)
"We don't rule any players out. Obviously, I like our quarterback situation. I've been on record. I've said it countless times. If you watched today's practice, and you really watched, I think you can see number 7 (Byron Leftwich) is poised to have a big year. He threw some balls. We're firming up protection, the spacing, the distribution of people. I think today's blitz drill was as good a drill we've had in five years. I'm excited about what Dirk (Koetter) is doing, the way Byron has embraced it. I think he's poised to have a huge year. So anything we would do whether it's a guy like that or any other moves we make would be only as a supporting role for us. We're not looking for anything outside of developing the guys we have and we think we have a good group."

(on Byron Leftwich being more comfortable with the offensive scheme)
"Yeah, and I think part of that is the whole approach. What we're focusing on right now, I spoke to the team after practice, is this is the time of year when you get all the nuances down, make sure that the spacing, the alignments, the depth of routes, the timing, those are the things you're working on right now so that we build that trust and we know that you can count on that wideout to be where he's supposed to be and the balls come out early because you know he's going to be where he belongs. So those are the details that we're working on now to give ourselves a chance to separate."

(on creating space for the offense)
"We want to create as much space as you can. Obviously a big window to throw in is an easier window to exploit. Defensively, we want to close those windows down and certainly the timing of…you have a guy that's got flat control and he's suppose to get to the flat but if he's late and you're waiting on him to open up your curl, it doesn't work. So it's all the detail of how it all comes together and how it works together and I feel very confident in our approach, the way we're going about things and the things we're working on now are the same things we're going to be working on in September, October and November as we prepare for opponents and that gives me a lot of confidence."

(what is Leftwich doing to prepare for a big year besides staying healthy?)
"Healthy is a great place to start. If you take any team and take their starting quarterback out of the equation, they're going to struggle. We've actually been pretty solid because we have a really good backup, but ideally you have your starting quarterback. And you're talking about a guy now that's in the prime of his NFL career, of his playing career. He's a guy who comes in with a lot of talent, that has embraced the concepts that we're using right now. We surrounded him with weapons, and then the approach and the accountability is there. All of that to me, those are all positive signs. When you see that many positive signs, they generally lead to really good things."

(what specifically is Leftwich focusing on for improvement?)
"I just think the whole thing. I don't know that I would try to isolate any one part of it. I think there are too many components that add up to team play - blocking, protection, being firm, having a pocket, the spacing, the timing and certainly then the final piece of the equation, the quarterback delivering the ball on time, with balance, all those things, and then the receiver catching it and finishing the play. But there is a lot that goes into team offense and the passing game. I like the way we're approaching it. The energy that I see, the attention to detail, the commitment, those are good, positive signs for us."

(can you see a difference in Leftwich from his conditioning in South Florida?)
"Yeah, I do...I think what I was talking about earlier with this being crunch time, I think the next month really will say a lot about the whole football team, in terms of how we finish off this preparation here together, how we finish off our offseason conditioning in terms of leading into a great 2007 campaign. So certainly he's one of the key guys and he's one of many guys who are working their tails off trying to get it right."

(what do you think of Lester Ricard?)
"I think he has a strong arm. He's learning. He's showing some ability. Beyond that he's not getting a ton of reps."

"There are four OTAs left and then the biggest, when I say crunch time, is we're going to finish up our on the field work and then we have about four weeks before coaches will begin their vacations and players will begin to disperse throughout the country and get some down time before we come back formally as a team. So I think this is vitally important that this next month our team maximizes their ability to condition and to prepare for the rigors that are ahead, the rigors of training camp, the demands of the season and I really believe you build a foundation this time of year. These next four weeks are very, very important for us."

(on the rookie program, do you do a program for the wives?)
"We don't do as much for the wives. We do have some programs for the wives. Linda (Del Rio) continues to do some things for the wives and obviously there are opportunities with Delores (Weaver) and the (Jaguars) Foundation where they involve the wives and volunteer efforts and what not."

(what is the status of Bobby McCray's contract negotiations?)
"The only thing new at this point is that there is a date coming up when there's going to be a designation. Beyond that, obviously he's not here, we've talked about that in the past so there's not a whole lot to add to that. The June 15th date is looming. There could be some discussion on that date but between now and then there's really not a whole lot to add."

(have you sent the letter yet?)
"I don't believe so. That would be something that Paul (Vance) would be able to address."

(will a letter be sent to McCray by June 15th that says 'you're being knocked down to 110% of last year's salary?')
"Until we actually send the letter, I'd prefer not to comment on what we may or may not do. Internally, we've had discussions. There is only so much that we can do. There's only so much the player can do, and ultimately you hope to find that common ground where the player decides to be a part of the team and the team is happy to have that player, and we're working on that right now."

(have you had any conversation with McCray or his agent?)

(on Mike Walker not practicing today)
"Yeah, we decided to work him Tuesday and Thursday this week and strengthen and rehab in between. We want to give him every opportunity to continue to strengthen yet get time out there on the field and learn the offense and participate. I sat down with (head athletic trainer) Mike Ryan before the week started and we said, 'what is the ideal way to prepare him and yet not go have him go backwards from a rehab and strengthening standpoint?' So that's what we mapped out for him."

(are you ok with the way your quarterbacks are throwing? Are you ok with the way your pass offense is progressing?)
"The question was asked about a quarterback south of here (Daunte Culpepper) and of course the first thing I said was that first of all, you can't talk about players that are under contract on other teams. Obviously, we were very thorough in our evaluation of personnel around the league. We will continue to do that, and then the thing that I added is that anything we would do in terms of acquiring people or picking up people or looking at people would be in a support role. I'm extremely pleased with the quarterback group we have. I really believe that Byron is poised to have a big year for us. I think if you watched today's practice, if you watched the blitz period today, that's as sharp as he's looked, that's the sharpest we've looked offensively, and obviously there's a lot to be done. But I like the signs I'm seeing. I like the commitment. I like the attention to detail that Dirk (Koetter) and the offensive staff have brought us. I like the spacing, I like the accountability and I think right now we're just working on all the basic stuff you have to work at to be good. But the approach is giving us a chance. I'm pleased with Byron's approach. He's embraced our offense, where it is, where it's going, the things he needs to do to be better and the things he can do to help people around him be better. So I think a lot of positive signs. I don't want to overdo it because we have so much work to do but I think it's a good start. It's been a very productive offseason. We've got four more good days on the field before we get into that crunch time of conditioning. They're all very positive signs. Because I feel that way and I think our organization feels that way, anything that we would do would be in a supportive role. I know I can answer it that way, without speaking specifically to any particular player."

(on Marcus Stroud's rehab)
"He's been a man on a mission. He's really done a great job of working and doing the extra - being here consistently, bringing the energy and making the commitment, doing it the right way. And the crunch time, that month that I'm talking about, it applies to him. It's everybody. It's not just one position or another. It's the team. This is the time when you make those commitments. When that big red ball, when it gets really hot when it's up and it's high and it's bright, it just beams down on you. There are no fans around. There is nothing but you and a lot of hard work and a lot of sweat and that's what we need to do over the next month as a football team, we need to condition and prepare ourselves for what is ahead of us."

(on impressing upon Stroud to not come back too fast)
"We have been, I think, purposeful with the way we've approached it. The end result has always been at the forefront of what we've done in terms of designing the plan and then him working at it, and that is for him to come back supremely conditioned, fresh and ready to go. He's doing a great job strengthening. He's doing a great job with the conditioning aspects that he can do at this point. We've tried to stay away from some of the pounding. He's not doing plyometrics, he's not doing bounding and things like that, but he will soon begin all that. That's really the last hurdle for him. Everything that we've done up until this point has been the strengthening, the rehab of the entire body without going into the bounding and some of the things that would stress the ankle. So, I think it's been a very wise plan that's been laid out by Mike Ryan and his staff, and I think Marcus, to his credit, has done a great job of being here and being diligent."

(would any of last year's IR players not be ready to go by training camp?)
"At this point it looks like we're going to have everybody for camp. I get an update every so often from the training staff and the last update I got said everyone was on schedule to be there for the start of camp."

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