Former Ravens assistant Del Rio directing Denver defense in Super Bowl

January 28, 2014 | WNST Staff



(on how practicing against QB Peyton Manning throughout the season has made the defense better) “Obviously, in camp it’s every period, but during the season we still maintain. Each day we have a competitive period where offense goes against defense. He’s the ultimate competitor. The guy’s very sharp so working on all the different things that we want to work on, you’re getting a true test each and every day.”

(on being a defensive coordinator after being a head coach) “When you’ve got control over the whole team, obviously, you have responsibilities and duties that go along with that. When you go back, take a step back, and you’re dealing with basically, roughly half the team it cuts that workload in half. I don’t deal with as much of the media issues, the marketing issues, and all those types of things. So, it’s just pure football and getting back to the roots of what I do and what I bring to the table teaching and coaching and having fun with it.”

(on what he wanted to implement into the defense when he started as defensive coordinator) “There are certain trademarks or staples that I believe in terms of playing great defense. So, you begin with some of those things. Building a mentality is first and foremost in terms of how you’re going to approach it. Being able to play with a seven man front against the run game and not having to blitz – those are things that we take pride in and that we begin Day 1 with. So, I’d say it starts there. Clearly in today’s NFL you’ve got to be able to handle space. You’ve got to be able to handle tempo in space. So, making sure that you have a design to handle that, and then to always make sure that you can keep the quarterback uncomfortable. Don’t want him to get too comfortable.”

(on having to shuffle players throughout the year because of injuries) “It’s been fun really to work at it and to be able to achieve what we have as a group of men. We’ve had a lot of challenges, a lot of guys go down, and we talk all the time about ‘next man up’ philosophy, which a lot of people talk about it, but we’ve actually lived it and done it. I take pride in the fact that our staff, we’re constantly working on guys, preparing our guys for the potential opportunity that may come, and then when it happens those guys don’t blink. They go and they play well. We’ve had those types of things throughout the year. It’s better when you don’t have to deal with that, quite honestly. It’s better when you’re just dealing with a talented group and they stay together and they gel throughout the year, but we’ve been able to gel and grow as a group despite all those injuries. I’m pretty proud of that.”

(on if he learned a lot from his years as a head coach) “I had that four-week stretch this year where I was the interim guy and there’s no question that the previous nine years that I spent as a head coach making decisions (helped). The wisdom that you gain when you’re doing it – regardless of how well you think you’re prepared as a young coordinator looking for an opportunity, when you actually go through the fire and go through the test of nine years of doing it, putting together the staff and all the different responsibilities you have as a head coach, there’s no question that at this point in time I’m much more qualified to do that kind of job.”

(on if there is anything he would do differently from his time as the head coach of Jacksonville) “Yeah, a bunch of things. There’s a long list. I think you’re constantly growing, regardless. I’m out each year trying to make sure that I am staying up to date with what’s going on in our game and in the college game. There’s a great opportunity to kind of share and learn and grow as a coach and that’s the way I approach it. I don’t ever sit back and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got this thing figured out’ because to me the game’s constantly evolving. When we go to colleges to scout players, I’m visiting with coaching staffs, invite guys in, and a little bit of give and take. Here’s what we’re doing and learn about what they’re doing and just kind of grow and learn football.”

(on what DE Jeremy Mincey has been able to bring to the defense) “He’s a veteran guy, a guy that I know comes with great energy every day. We appreciated him stepping in and being a guy that we can count on as we’ve gone down the stretch here.”

(on if Mincey fit into his system right away) “Yeah, for the most part. He’s kind of grown himself into a bigger-body guy. When we first had him, he was kind of a converted defensive linebacker that was moving into end positions and we play him a little bit now in end and tackle spots. He’s grown, got a little stronger, a little bigger. So, his role has changed since we last saw him.”

(on defeating New England in the AFC Championship) “It was good. We had a good plan. We went out and executed a good plan and got to advance and that’s what it was all about. Clearly, the combination of (New England QB) Tom (Brady) and (New England Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) has been a very productive combination and one that I hadn’t seen a lot of success against. I took a lot of pride in the fact that we were able to put together a good plan, go out there and execute, play well and advance.”

(on how preparing for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is different than the two previous quarterbacks they played against in the playoffs) “Definitely a little bit different. (San Diego QB) Philip Rivers, Tom Brady are both guys that are more field generals and not the athlete that we’re dealing with now with Russell, clearly athleticism at the forefront.  We have played against athletic quarterbacks this year, guys that do the read-option and some of those types of things. So, we’ve got to go back and dust off some of that stuff and make sure that we’re prepared for it and make sure that we handle it well.”

(on what happened after the loss to San Diego to improve the defense’s level of play) “As you go through the season, there are ups and downs. There are challenges that you face. We talked all year really as a football team about our goals were to be here. We planned for a championship and there are certain things you have to do along the way to earn that. Certainly after that San Diego game, for us it was like ‘OK that was a slap in the face.’ That’s an example of how it can go if you’re not on top of every detail. Basically, just challenge the guys, continue to challenge the guys like we had all year, but the urgency of the now, the here we are. I actually showed a calendar laying out the next six weeks and ‘OK here’s what it’s going to be. We’re going to have media day this Tuesday.’ Kind of laid it out there and said, ‘Look this is what we’re after. This is where were headed. This is what we have an opportunity to do, but it’s going to take right now, us doing our part.’ I think the guys bought into that message and we began to really kind of, I would say, focus and click at a higher level. I think it was pretty good throughout the year, but it went to a higher level. The last four games we’ve been a part of we’ve been very good.”

(on DT Terrance Knighton’s play this season) “I would say Terrance really responded at a time when we needed him the most. We lost five or six key guys throughout the course of the year. At the period of time we’re talking about, I believe (DT Kevin) Vickerson had gone down. So, Sly (DT Sylvester Williams) had to play more and with that Terrance… basically it became, ‘Look we really need you to step up and not just play well. We need you to step up and lead, help Sly be comfortable next to you, talk with him.’ He’s really taken that and run with it. He’s really embraced the role. He’s played well and he’s done more things behind the scenes aside from playing well, in terms of leadership and helping Sly, the young D-tackle playing next to him play at a better level.”

(on the defense playing well despite losing several key players to injuries) “We just continued to talk in terms of having faith that we had the guys in the room that were capable, that we had to step up, that if we played well together that we could do exactly what we’re doing now. We’ve got one more week to work at it that way. It’s a collective effort. It’s really been an effort all year where we have looked to play complimentary football and help our football team win – get the ball back for our offense, get the ball turned over, get off the field on third down, stop the run, all those kinds of things that you have to do – and that if we did that together we’d have enough and here we are.”

(on how CB Champ Bailey has handled his role in the defense changing throughout the season) “I think he’s handled it great. You’re talking about one of the real, classy, long-standing, great players in this league. His work ethic, the way he conducts himself, the way he carries himself – I think it’s a great example for the younger players. He’s been terrific. It’s tough because he hasn’t been completely healthy for large stretches of the year. Tried to come back and ended up getting nicked again and here we are now. He’s playing his best football and it’s a great time for him to be doing so. He’s an important piece to what we’re doing right now.”