The following is a transcript of Head Coach Jack Del Rio's press conference immediately following the 2007 NFL Draft.
"OK, we're still busy at work, even though the draft is now over, but there is still work to be done tonight signing the college free agents, and if you've seen each of the last few years, I think this is the time when the scouts really shine. I think it's the time when they will bring players to you that were not selected that they really believe in and we feel like we have a strong scouting staff. I think Gene Smith does a great job and deserves a lot of credit for the work he and his staff put in. There is no doubt in my mind when you find Richard Colliers and Tony McDaniels and Montell Owens, guys like that that made our team last year, it's a result of the work Gene and his staff do for us. So, they're busy right now and we're working on that and we'll sign a few of those guys and as we get them signed and on board we'll get that list to you."
(you went into the draft with a strong roster. How would you describe your roster now?) "Strengthened. We definitely made our roster stronger, faster, more competitive. The one area that we absolutely had to address was safety. We feel like we were able to get two really good football players, productive college players that have athletic ability that are going to play well in this league, so that makes that position competitive. I think when you look we were able to add two linebackers that both run in 4.5s. I mean, these guys can run. I know Joe DeCamillis is very happy as a special teams coordinator because one thing you're always looking for is speed on special teams, and certainly these guys will be in the mix for teams, for jobs and for opportunities to cover kicks and help our overall team speed as a coverage unit. We got two receivers. Both of them are in the 4.3s. They both can run. So we acquired some speed. We targeted certain positions and we were able to get them throughout the draft. We got a couple big, tough offensive linemen to add to the mix. So all in all it was a real productive weekend for us. The fact that we came in with a strong roster means it won't be an easy task for these guys to make our football team. But as you have seen over the last four years, I preach competition and I preach the fact that we're going to give everybody a look and an opportunity and the fact that we have street free agents make our team every year verifies that, I think. I look forward to getting these guys in here and having them join our football team and getting to work."
(what position do you project Chad Nkang will play?) "Linebacker."
(inside linebacker?) "We'll see when he gets here. I guess all of our linebackers for the most part are guys that can play in space and that can play off the ball stacked behind the defensive line. Some players are more suited to being over a tight end. He would not fall into that category. He would not be an end of the line, Sam linebacker prospect. So, he's more of a stack linebacker, space, nickel linebacker, special teams type of guy. A very productive player in college. He did well in the All-Star game and like I said, he can run."
(on staying away from high profile positions, quarterback and running back. You must be very comfortable at where you are at those positions.) "We didn't purposely stay away from quarterback. Now running back, a little bit different. We didn't totally stay away from it. It was a lean year really for running backs. Maybe the leanest year I can remember in some time. So there really wasn't a position that we wouldn't have taken in this draft. It just didn't marry up with those two positions. I know we're working hard right now to acquire some free agents, so we're going to bring at least a guy at both of those positions in to camp with us. We were not opposed to selecting a player at either of those positions. I think for us we also did not feel naked at those positions. We feel like we have good players at those two positions. We didn't have to try and force anything, and so we didn't."
(you took a wide receiver in the seventh round. Was there any consideration to take David Ball from New Hampshire?) "I can't speak specifically to him. Like I said, late in the draft, that really is the time when the scouts shine and their influence is the greatest. It's very difficult for a head coach or many of the position coaches to see the country. The scouts have scoured the country so we lean on them quite a bit late in the draft."
(what are the chances that the two wide receivers you took end up being the wide receivers you've been trying to take for four years?) "I like our guys, I've said that. I like our guys and we just added a couple football players to that mix that are going to be competitive. I wouldn't try and put any kind of pressure on these players to come in here and be anything but what they can be and be their very best. We want them to come in here and we'll give them an opportunity to compete and learn our system, embrace our way of doing things and see where they fit and I think nothing more than that."
(on putting pressure on the current wide receiver core) "I think any time you add competition, you add talent. In my experience that brings out the best in everyone involved."
(you went into the draft a better football team defensively but you also took more defensive players in the draft. What was your thinking there?) "(Defensive Coordinator) Mike Smith finally was able to get a defensive guy from the first round. He's been trying for five years and he finally got one. We took a few defenders. We wanted to strengthen our football team and we feel like we were able to do that. It's really about selecting people you think can come in here and help your football team, and we feel like we've been able to do that."
(on OT Andrew Carnahan) "A big offensive tackle, he's really probably more right tackle than left tackle; he has played both. Has the ability to swing. (Offensive coordinator) Dirk (Koetter) describes him as a very tough guy, a very dependable guy. He spoke highly of him in terms of his makeup and his character and his toughness. He's a big man. He's probably a guy that would carry a mid-round grade were he not coming off an injury. So, we were able to get him at what we think is a good value late and again, allow him to come in and get to full speed, get to 100% and then allow him to compete. A guy like that at that compensatory pick, who knows where it can go but certainly we thought he had the talent to merit that kind of selection. Both of the guys we got on our compensatory picks we think have the talent level to compete for a spot. So it was nice to be able to add people like that late."
(what was his injury?) "I believe it was an ACL."
(was part of the philosophy in drafting a field position punter to help the offense?) "Help the football team. I think there is nothing easy about winning in this league. We feel like we have some good players. We feel like we were able to add a few. We feel like it was a real productive weekend. For the punter in particular, we do believe that he can impact our field position. When you're backed up and you need a big kick and you get a guy that kicks it consistently, you're going to get a good kick a good percentage of the time. And when you're coming in and you need a good kick and you need to pin them down, if you're consistent you're going to get that a higher percentage of the time. We feel like he was going to be a good player and a good weapon for us and help us win that field position battle."
(with Chris Hanson struggling last season, did you consider bringing in a punter that last 4 or 5 games, or is that hard to do?) "Chris had some struggles last year but I think what happens and how we determine how we're going to go forward, I'm not sure that's something I care to get into today. We addressed the punter situation. Last year is in the history books now. Obviously we made a move to strengthen ourselves there in this draft."
(will Podlesh be the opening day punter?) "Yes."