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September 19, 2017

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Raiders’ Del Rio says Las Vegas fans fired up, Oakland diehards will be there

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Eric Christian Smith / AP

In this Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, file photo, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio walks on the field before the first half of an AFC wild card NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Raiders in Houston. The Raiders rewarded Del Rio with a new four-year contract Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, replacing the original four-year deal he received when he took the job in January 2015.

Raiders Fans Celebrate By Welcome to Las Vegas Sign

Laborers Union members, Local 872, cheer for a television camera by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign after NFL owners in Phoenix voted to approve a Raiders move to Las Vegas Monday, March 27, 2017. Launch slideshow »

PHOENIX — Raiders coach Jack Del Rio grabbed a cup of coffee and sized up the large group of reporters surrounding his table at the AFC coaches breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore resort.

“What might be on your minds?” Del Rio said jokingly.

Here are some excerpts of Del Rio’s hourlong discussion with the media the day after National Football League owners approved the Raiders’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020:

Q: What level of commitment have you had from your fans in creating the right environment to benefit your team in home games, and what can you reasonably expect under these new circumstances moving forward?

Del Rio: The Raider Nation travels well. From personal experience — I happened to be at (USC) the last time they left and it was kind of the same thing. It was mixed emotions then. It was sad for my family and friends that were back in the Bay that had the team leave, but I was pretty fired up when I was down at (USC) that my team was there. There’s mixed emotions with it.

We have some real diehards. We draw globally. I’m sure there will be some people that are angry and won’t or can’t get over it, and that’s understandable. But I think there’s a large contingent, a large group that are true Raider fans, and it really doesn’t matter to them where we’re playing. They’re there; they’re fired up.

Q: Was it meaningful to you yesterday that in anticipation of potential hostility, Mark Davis said to blame him, not to blame the coaches and the players?

Del Rio: Well, it is a fact that we had nothing to do with it. They don’t really take the opinion of the coach into consideration when it comes to that type of a decision. I’ll focus on the ones that I do get to make — whether or not I throw my red (challenge) flag, who I’m going to pay at right tackle. I think it’s important that we focus on the things that we have some control over. My whole career, I’ve learned to do that.

You know who really helped me with that? Jimmy Johnson.

Jimmy Johnson will help you with that because if you’re not worried about the things you need to be worried about, you’ll have a problem with Jimmy. He taught me that as a player, when I played under him in Dallas years ago.

Q: No coach has ever been in a situation like you in the history of this league, where the team’s going to be leaving (in three years.) How much will you talk about this with the players?

Del Rio: I will talk about it. Let’s hope it’s not — last time I heard a question like that was prior to the playoff game when we had a third quarterback getting his initial start, and that didn’t go well. So let’s hope it goes a little better than that.

Q: Derek Carr sent out a tweet. I believe you shared it. Can you expand on that?

Del Rio: It’s a great example of Derek Carr being exactly who he is. He’s authentic; he cares; he’s all-in. It was also echoed by Khalil Mack. The two of them, they came in and decided they were going to be a part of turning this thing the right direction, getting things going. I see examples of that throughout the year, and that’s another great illustration of what a tremendous young man he is. He’s wired right; he loves ball; he’s very appreciative. I thought his message was right on point. I thought it was an excellent message, and that’s why I retweeted it.

Q: What are your thoughts on Las Vegas? What do you know about the city and what do you like about it?

Del Rio: I don’t know a lot about Las Vegas. I’ve been two different times, golfed a little, gambled a little and saw some shows. I think shows are the part that my wife and I probably appreciate the most — some great shows go through there. For looking for the future, it’s exciting because the community there is super fired up about it. All of that is there, but that’s kind of down the road for me right now. I’m just going to focus on this season.

Q: Have you thought about if you’re going to have to institute certain rules when you move to Las Vegas with the players?

Del Rio: There will definitely be. There has been an initial thought about what may or may not need to happen. That will continue behind the scenes. Again, that is something that will need to occur in the future. There’s so much time between now and then to work on it ... The biggest difference is (Las Vegas) doesn’t shut down. Well, I played in New Orleans as a rookie. You have to learn that there, too. That city doesn’t shut down, either. New York stays open pretty much through the night. (Las Vegas) is not the only city that has a segment that doesn’t go to bed. Obviously, as a coach, your team needs to get rest, so that’s something you pay attention to. But I’m not sure when you really get down into it that it’s much different.

Q: Now that Las Vegas has happened, do you address it with the team once?

Del Rio: I think that’s a once. We’ll see if it need be more. For the last two years, I would address one time the idea of us going to (Los Angeles) because that was talked about for two years. It’s no different that way. The biggest difference is there is a destination at some point for the organization, so there will be constant movement, constant discussion. There’s that fine line between being where we are in the Bay Area and obviously the transition to going down and wanting to engage that community as well. There’s some things to navigate there that I need to spend some time on.

Q: Can you envision a Super Bowl (in Las Vegas?)

Del Rio: It would be a natural. I would think that would be almost an automatic. When you’re designing it, you’ve got all the things you look for — the infrastructure, the hotels, the restaurants, everything that you need and would want. Close proximity for all the events, the space to do all the events, the beautiful weather. I think it’s going to be a natural fit.

Q: From your perspective as a (former) player, what do your players need to do to focus in on this year and not the move?

Del Rio: The No. 1 thing you have to do as a player is talk to your wife and kids and educate them. Everybody needs to understand what the landscape is. Once you get that part settled, then you can settle back into your job and what you need to do.

I don’t think you can dismiss that aspect of it. There are wives at home right now that are asking their husbands and their husbands don’t have those answers. The first thing I want them all to know is to remember that 30 percent rule — 30 percent of the team changes (every year), so don’t be worried about what we’re going to be doing two or three years from now. Be worried about taking care of your job so you can be a part of that in two or three years.

It’s about the here and now for the actual coach, for the actual player, but you can’t be blind to the fact that there are families involved, there are people involved and they need some information. Part of that will be ‘not yet.’

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