ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was in Jacksonville longer than any stop in his athletic career. Del Rio the football player was never in one place longer than four seasons. He was Jaguars head coach for nearly nine years, a position he held for most of his 40s.
Del Rio considers it a time of tremendous growth, especially in his current profession.
Sunday’s game will be his first in Jacksonville since he was let go, though Del Rio says emotion won’t overpower.
“I’ve been in this league a long time, so I’ve gone back to a few places before. It’s not the first time going back to places where I’ve been,” Del Rio said Wednesday. “I think I’ll be okay.”
Del Rio had good times and bad in Jacksonville. He had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances. The Jaguars have been terrible since he was fired following a 3-8 start to 2011.
Things didn’t ended well for Del Rio in Jacksonville. When a head coach moves on, they rarely do.
Del Rio holds no ill will towards the Jaguars. He’s thankful former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver gave him the opportunity to become a first time head coach.
Weaver wanted someone with head coaching experience to replace Tom Coughlin. Del Rio won him over in the interview.
"I saw a bright light, a bright eye . . . a guy who was very organized, very detailed and full of confidence," Weaver said in 2003, via the Florida Times-Union.
Del Rio overcame a lack of experience with preparation. He brought a book full of plans for what he would do as Jaguars head coach, a comprehensive overview of how to bring Jacksonville back to prominence.
"Jack brought in a book this thick," Weaver said, holding his hands about 6 inches apart, via the Florida Times-Union. "It had every process, from building a staff to evaluating the roster to offseason conditioning, free agency, the draft, training camp . . . all of it."
Del Rio still has that book. It contains great information learned from mentors Brian Billick and John Fox while preparing to be a head coach.
“I credit Brian a lot for that organizational structure that I had and then John Fox,” Del Rio said. “He was the one that introduced me to putting all of that information into the book and rather than being power point or something because you’d be able to have that face to face with the owner.”
Experience has taught Del Rio so much more since then. He believes he’s a better head coach than he was before, especially reflection during three seasons as Denver defensive coordinator.
Del Rio comes back to Jacksonville leading a a 4-2 Raiders team on the rise. He’s found that there are some things not in the book.
“When you first get an opportunity to sit in this head coach seat, the amount of volume that you have to deal with, the decisions that you have to make, I don’t know that you’re really prepared for it until you get in there and start doing it,” Del Rio said. “I’ve gained an incredible amount of insight into what it takes in this profession. I feel much more prepared, obviously, having nine years of experience there and four games in Denver as the interim (head coach) and a year and a half here.
“Certainly, that experience, being in that chair and making decisions, running the staff, running the team, organizing practice, the way you travel, all the things that we do that lead up, the process that I talk about, the process of being a good team, all of it entails really, it starts with the head coach.”
Del Rio will be the opposing head coach on Sunday, and believes he’ll be received as all opponents are. That could bring some boos. He’ll be fine with it. There are few who know Del Rio then and now, though Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson is one.
The former Jaguar wouldn’t compare Del Rio's past and present, but said he wants to win in Del Rio’s return.
“It’s going to be exciting for him,” Nelson said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll put on a show. We know what’s at stake. It’s going to be a good game.”
ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray’s return was the primary focus of Wednesday’s Raiders practice. The Pro Bowl running back drew the camera’s eye during portions open to the media, as onlookers watched him run and cut for the first time since being diagnosed with turf toe after a Week 4 win at Baltimore.
Lost in the shuffle was hulking right tackle Menelik Watson getting back to work after a three-week layoff with a calf strain.
It’s uncertain how if he’s ready to reclaim his starting spot along the offensive line, one he earned with a solid preseason, in time for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. He was limited on Wednesday.
Murray was also limited in his return.
The Raiders have used five players at right tackle, a spot hit heavy by an injury plague. They’ve started three different players there already, though Austin Howard remains healthy after starting last week – he missed time with an ankle injury – and is the option if Watson isn’t ready to play.
Rookie offensive tackle Vadal Alexander remains out with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 5, after making his second start on the right side.
Special teams player Brynden Trawick missed practice with a shoulder injury.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio hoped that defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., on injured reserve with a hip injury, would soon be ready for side work. He did not start running during Wednesday's portion of practice open to the press. He is now eligible to practice, and is first eligible to play in Week 9 against Denver.
Raiders participation report
Did not practice: Vadal Alexander (ankle), S Brynden Trawick (shoulder)
Limited participation: Latavius Murray (toe), OT Menelik Watson (calf), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), OT Matt McCants (knee), C Rodney Hudson (knee), OG Gabe Jackson (knee) Jon Feliciano (calf)
Jaguars participation report
Did not practice: DT Abry Jones (hamstring), RT Jeremey Parnell (hip)
Limited participation: CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), S Johnathan Cyprien (calf), C Brandon Linder (foot), OT Kelvin Beachum (knee), DT Jared Odrick (hip), TE Neal Sterling (foot), WR Allen Hurns (shoulder)
Full participation: WR Rashad Greene (Achilles), RB Cory Grant (toe), S Tashaun Gipson (knee)