HENDERSON, Nev.--As Coach Josh McDaniels assembled his new Las Vegas Raiders coaching staff, he knew he needed a key cog for his defense leading the linebackers.
McDaniels had his eye on Antonio Pierce, and the new Raiders leader was able to get him to come with him to Las Vegas.
Recently Pierce spoke after practice and we have the video below for you to watch, or the transcript to read:
Linebackers Coach Antonio Pierce
Q: What are your first thoughts on the linebacker group just kind of watching them and getting to know them?
Coach Pierce: “Good. Eager group that's hungry to learn, a championship mentality just from the work ethic. Obviously, we got leadership there with (Divine) Deablo, Denzel Perryman and Jayon Brown.”
Q: What's the transition to coaching been like for you?
Coach Pierce: “Pretty simple. Played in the NFL, I was on ESPN talking about the NFL and then four years in college. Went back to school a little bit. And then being back here obviously with Josh (McDaniels) and Dave (Ziegler) and Pat (Graham). Obviously, Mr. (Mark) Davis allowing me to be here. Obviously for me, it's a blessing. I'm from L.A. So, when I grew up, the Raiders were playing in Los Angeles at the time. So, proud Raider fan here.”
Q: What are your impressions of Divine Deablo so far?
Coach Pierce: “Yeah, a guy who has a lot of talent. Obviously transitioning from that safety position to linebacker. But there's a lot of physical traits there that I can't coach, I can't give them. The mental aspect is where we're working on and he's doing a great job of that. What you see is a guy that's real eager and happy, loves being around the building, loves being in the building, loves ball. I think those are all traits that you want from a linebacker, especially a young guy.”
Q: Being a former player in this league, how does that help you when it comes to being able to relate to the guys and command their respect?
Coach Pierce: “I think, first of all, respect, accountability. Been there, done it. I mean, there's not too many plays or gap schemes or route concepts, especially from this offense because I played them when I played. So right away you get that respect from the group. But more importantly, it's your work ethic. Giving them the information, give them tidbits that maybe they hadn't heard before. Or physically doing it. I am in pretty good shape still. I can physically do it, so that's kind of a blessing for me to go out there and just walk them and talk them through it. But I think first and foremost, I think they understand and relate to me as a former player, but respect at the same time as their coach.”
Q: How has the linebacker position evolved over the years since you played?
Coach Pierce: “I was a small linebacker coming out, 6-1 and 228. I was considered small. Linebackers now, they're around 220 and that's OK. And I think just the ability for these guys to play all three downs, to be able to cover. Obviously, your elite tight ends, running backs and maybe a slot receiver, that's changed. When I played it was 21 and 12 personnel, downhill. I was going up against Larry Allen and Emmitt Smith my rookie year and I was like, ‘Wow.’ You don’t really see that anymore. The game is more perimeter, vertical, not so much downhill smash mouth football.”
Q: What are your impressions of Kenny Young so far? What does he bring to the mix?
Coach Pierce: “Kenny has played a lot of ball. He's traveled a little bit, but he's got experience. He's got a wealth of knowledge that he's bringing to the room that he's been in other places and little tidbits that we can all learn from. But I think more importantly, he's a guy that knows how to be a pro. He works at it in individual drills. He works at it in practice. He comes to meetings prepared. He's obviously giving himself a chance to be a good football player.”
Q: Are there some things that you learned you from your time coaching with Herm Edwards that you can carry over with you?
Coach Pierce: “Yeah, definitely blessed. Obviously, Coach Edwards gave me the opportunity to coach in college. When I played for the Giants, he was with the Jets. So, we got a long history. We worked together for eight years on ESPN as well. But him and Marvin Lewis being on that staff, obviously a lot of knowledge from different aspects. Obviously, Coach Edwards played in the league as well. So, when you got two guys like that with I think close to almost 30 years of head coaching experience, that's a wow factor. It’s a lot of information and I was fortunate to sit in those meetings with those gentlemen and learn just how to be a coach. Just like you learn how to be a pro as a player, learning how to be a pro coach is the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you're in college, but how you prepare yourself, how you detail, how you check all the extra notes, dot the I's and cross the T's, those are things that I brought here with me.”
Q: Were the details tougher as a player, or as a coach for you?
Coach Pierce: “I would have to say as a coach because I think as player instincts take a little bit and kind of go into play as well. But just making sure you got everything, and all the questions asked for the players, especially when we got a new scheme coming in. There's a lot of things that maybe ran in from where they were at previously or a different coaching staff. So, I think just having the ‘why’ and answering the ‘why’ for the players is the biggest thing. So, that's the biggest challenge when you transition from a player to a coach.”
Q: When you think about the Patrick Graham system and how multiple it is, how much of a challenge is it for you to kind of prepare the linebackers for the different schemes that can come up?
Coach Pierce: “You got to be able to talk, got to be able to communicate. You got have your eyes open. It's one of those deals where you're in charge of a lot as a middle linebacker, or as a linebacker in general in this defense, and I think the backers overall have really taken on that ownership of the team being that vocal leader. And not just the captain part, I'm talking about getting guys lined up, fixing it when it's messed up. I think what Pat has brought to the table is something that's going to make all of us better because you're always thinking, right? You're always kind of just, ‘OK, what's next? What's next?’ And once that happens, everybody becomes a sponge, right? And everybody wants more information, and that makes the dialog in the room greater.”
Q: You mentioned Denzel Perryman. What kind of swagger does Denzel Perryman bring to this group? It takes a certain kind of person to wear a beanie in 100-degree weather.
Coach Pierce: “Have you not seen his PJs he wears to the morning meetings too? It kind of threw me off. He wears his hat. I mean, he's got swag. He's from Miami, right? He's a proud Hurricane. I've known him for a while obviously, maybe not on a personal level, but from afar. What he brings is not even just swag, but attitude and professionalism. I’ll say more importantly, leadership. When he talks the room gets a little quieter and you want that from somebody on your defense, and you really like that from the linebacker position. Being biased a little bit, you want the heart of your team in that linebacker room. And he really carries that and obviously he has fun doing it. I think that makes my job easier as well.”
Q: Having played the position at the highest level and you always hear about guys that have played the game at a high level but when they coach, they have a hard time because they go, ‘Why can't you do it the way I did?’ Or they don't see things the way you do. How hard is that to kind of cross that line? And the frustration of that and to coach rather than to try be the player?
Coach Pierce: “Well, I think when I played, I saw myself as a coach on the field. I think I was known for being a student of the game. Obviously, going up against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, teammates with Eli Manning, there were a lot of chess matches that we played with one another, Tony Romo as well. So, I really prepared myself when I played as a coach. I sat there and I probably did the hours like the coaches, but I was in the damn building as much as those guys and studying and preparing myself, making sure as a defense we saw things the same way. As a coaching staff, you could tell guys one thing, but when those guys get between the lines, they got to see it the same way. And for me, that transition I would say has been pretty fairly easy.”
Q: What’s it been like watching the offense out there the last couple days?
Coach Pierce: “Some speed out there. There’s some speed out there. We got some big boys who can run. And I think more importantly, what Josh has given us with all the different looks and movements. Again, you watch what they've done in New England's previous team, what they do, and I think the one thing about it is you're not going to be stagnant, right? You're not going to be stagnant. I think that's the best thing about it. It’s making us think, it’s keeping us on our toes. It's making us alert and always checking. Like I said, our checks, our alignments and our adjustments. And again, if you're not dialed in, he's going to exploit them.”
Q: You brought over a guy from Arizona State with you in Darien Butler. What are you seeing for him so far? What is it like just having a guy you have experience with already?
Coach Pierce: “Yeah, obviously, I was with Darien for four years. Same thing I saw in college, a guy who's eager, has been through adversity his whole life. This is nothing new, undrafted, chip on his shoulder, fiery. Eager to play, eager to learn, take every rep that he can possibly mentally and physically, giving himself a chance to hopefully make this team.”
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