Jack Del Rio is planning on fielding a very different Raiders football team as he enters his first season in Oakland. Recently, at a post practice press conference, he boldly offered some raw insight into how he approaches ongoing preseason evaluation of his current players.
Here’s the gist of what is going on inside Del Rio’s head as the team reached mid-week 3 of preseason. If you’re an injured player, no matter who you are, you are not in any way on easy street or guaranteed to be able to simply return to the spot on the roster where you were prior to the injury. That’s regardless of whether or not you were a starter.
If you had a standout season last year too bad. You need to show the new sheriff in town that you are worthy of becoming or remaining a starter. Quite simply your status here must be earned and merit built. Obviously a coach knows a players capability and draws from what a player has proven in the past but at the same time he’s made it clear nothing is assumed.
Del Rio is not shy about being specific that there are some players “running on short time,” although his message was an overarching one making it clear that everyone dealing with injuries should take note.
Case in point: Would linebacker Sio Moore return to action as a starter once he’s healed from his hip surgery? It doesn’t appear so according to Del Rio. Sio Moore was a talented impact player inn the past but hasn’t played yet this preseason and the regular season is fast approaching. Del Rio isn’t about to save a spot for anyone. To some it may seem harsh but to those who get the level of competition in the NFL and the need to put the best players on the filed no doubt fully understand reality of being in this league. You don’t produce, you don’t see time on the field. Period.
When asked about Moore, Del Rio said, “He’s competing to be a role player somewhere.” Reality bites right? Moore along with any other athlete knows the terms and the pressure that accompanies such a high level of competition.
Good coaches also know the power that the unknown and how it can test, motivate and ultimately filter out players who cant rise to the challenge. at the same time the unknown drives the really good ones to excel. With that being said Del Rio offered a public compliment to linebacker Malcolm Smith. He has been starting and Del Rio recognized the strides Smith has made as a player and a leader. No doubt Del Rio is being sincere but he also knows the unabated comments will challenge Moore to rise and compete.
Some injuries keep a player from ever returning to their full potential even when those players hearts and talents are not in question. Such nagging injuries can permanently sideline even the most driven and capable players. Assuming Moore makes a full recovery it’s a good bet he’ll be back as a regular and taking it to the opponents of the Oakland Raiders.