"The injury report, again guys are still coming in, but [LB Aaron] Lynch and [TE Vance] McDonald are both in the concussion protocol. [LB Michael] Wilhoite is getting an MRI on his ankle today. [LB NaVorro] Bowman, as of right now, looks like everything is really well. He went through all the protocol yesterday in the game and went into the locker room, checked, all those things and was cleared to return to play and he's fine. [TE Garrett] Celek, there's a meeting with our medical staff and doctors today to see what they see on that. Today's a bid day for him, letting it go the first week and see where he's at. So, we'll let you know about that tomorrow or later on today. Questions?"
Why is it a big day for him? Just to see how far he's come?
"Yeah. With those high ankle sprains, just to see where he's at and how it's progressed over that first week."
How concerned are you about covering tight end if McDonald and Celek are not available next week?
"Well, obviously we have to look at that. We brought a guy in. We've got our guys in here on the practice squad. It's obviously a concern. We need to be shored up for it. Feel pretty good about McDonald, but we've got to make sure that we're covered there and we will be."
Jim Tomsula Monday Press Conference
How much has QB Blaine Gabbert just shown you with his leadership and his big-play ability since he took over this job and his steady nature out there?
"Yeah, he's been really steady. Again, the way he's approached his job since he's been here has been really impressive. I think since you've seen him in games on Sundays, you've seen him progress. He's moving along well. Blaine is a talented, talented quarterback, obviously. But, we're really excited about where he's at and where he's heading. We still need to keep getting better. And the way he interacts with everybody and the way he handles the offense, all of those things are really good."
What do you like about how he interacts?
"Blaine's that, I don't want to say Midwestern guy, but he's just, he comes in in the morning and, 'Hey, Blaine, what's up?' He's got a nice personality. He's a good guy and he's real serious about football and you see it and he talks about it and the guys, I just like the way he communicates with the guys."
What about his running ability? You certainly didn't hear much about that and it's turned out to be a big asset it seems like.
"Yes, sir. He's a very good athlete. He can run. We go to all the statistics, he's fast, he's strong, he's in great shape and he can move around. Obviously, you got to see that the other day, but we've known that. We see him in practice."
Can you see incorporating that more in the offense given that he's now shown it's not just one or two plays, he's done that several times?
"Yeah, I figured I would get asked about the zone option and all those things. That's still part of our offense."
How much of a jolt do you foresee yesterday's win and the fashion it played out, having an effect on this locker room going forward?
"I don't know that I say jolt. The fashion, the way the game went, the ups and downs, it was by no means a perfect game. But, to battle it all the way through and come out with a victory makes those moments in the locker room after the game more exciting and more emotional. So, that part of it, we let that go a little bit longer for the guys to be able to feel that. But this group, again we keep saying, working through the week and they come to work. Again, we're in a performance-based business, but winning on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and through the week and we've got to finish it by winning on game day. So, I think a win definitely goes in the good category, the great category, but I don't know that it's a jolt."
Your team is competing very well lately. Could you name some specific areas in which the team has improved from the beginning of the season?
"Yeah. Defensively I will say that with the scheme and the techniques and playing together in some of the zone defenses and where the guys are and understanding where the other guys fit around you, I think that's an area that we've really improved on, that you would expect to improve on. We're still not as consistent as I would like us to be in the run fits. You're seeing the still up and down. You'll see us come out for a game and it's solid and it's good. I know we had a couple of guys go out of the game and we had to bring people in and things like that, but we've got to keep hammering that. That's still too much up and down. That just needs to be there and stay there and the guys are working it hard, but the consistency of that has to get much better. But, there is improvement in it. Offensively, again I would say the operation of it, understanding your route combinations when you're running routes on where you are to where the other receivers are and the quarterback's reads and the guys, again, just working together at it. The offensive line, and again yesterday, we feel like we can play better than we played yesterday on the offensive line. But, I have seen that moving forward. So, I very much think there's a lot of work to do, but those are the areas that I do see things improving on. Special teams wise, I thought that our [P Bradley Pinion] punter, that was the best game he's played this year. That's what we know Bradley can do and he can change the field for you and he was able to do that. I felt really good for him in that area. Defensively as a whole, not being in favorable field position in a couple of areas where they got the ball and either getting a three-and-out or making it be a field goal. That was good to see. Stepping up to the plate there, playing the complimentary football with the offense, the defense and special teams. So, those are the areas. I hope I'm answering your question, but those are the areas I see it."
In terms of the run fits, was that the issue on the 11-yard run at the end of the game on third-and-ten? It seemed that LB Gerald Hodges got a little too far to the left.
"Yes. And again, when they say it's a game of inches, I understand all that, but we've got to fit in there. Again, moving forward, what we talk about is OK mistakes happen in every game, but now we need to make sure that we're not repeating. That needs to be cleaned up and the next time we do that, let's have a new problem to fix. That's the mentality that we're trying to have."
And the problem with the run fit, where does that come from? Does that come from young players not having experience around each other or why is the run fit an issue?
"Well, on a few of those plays, particularly the one you're talking about there, we had a little movement going on. So, the guys were moving. And you've got to kind of sit back. They're going that way, you see the ball going that way and you want to get over there. That's where your patience has to sit in. You're emotional, everything's going on, you need to stay, knowing that that's going to go take care of that and that thing's going to come back to you. So, it's almost a little bit too aggressive. That's what happened on that particular play that you're talking about. But, the run fits just, I mean, the other teams scheme too. As you're in the game and you have to adjust to the schematic that they're presenting to you and make sure that, the biggest thing to me when you talk run fits is keeping one problem one problem because all of a sudden I can get a lot of guys out there that, 'oh the ball hit there so we're going to get there.' Now one problem becomes six problems. Now I've got other people out of position trying to take care of that. Leave it one problem. Let's get that fixed and then we'll be OK, let's move forward. And that's what happens. Now, we're not having six problems. There were some games earlier in the year where we ended up with six problems. You mean well, but we're causing more problems. Yesterday, we had maybe one or two. But, let's keep it to one problem. Let's identify it, let's fix it and let's move forward."
Given the distance of 24 hours, how do you sort of view the offensive performance yesterday? Obviously, Blaine made two big plays to tie the game and to win the game. But, before that, the offense didn't do a lot. How do you sort of view it as a whole?
"Well, I'll tell you, the offense, when we say that I mean looking at it with my coach's hat on, coming out of the gates, no it wasn't where we wanted it to be nor expected it to be. We did have a 16-play drive there it the second quarter which I thought that's what we want it to look like. There it is guys. So, that will be taken off the film. That's what we want it to look like. There's what it looks like guys. You talk about rhythm. You talk about moving. You talk about in and out of the huddle. You just see that bounce. So, you saw that there. We come down, we have points. And then there was a lull again, but you saw to where we come out in the second half, early on we were abysmal in third downs. In the second half, they were much better. So, we started to hit on the third downs. And a lot of those third downs had something to do with first and second down. So, there were a lot of things there to feel good about and to grow from along with things that we need to continue to fix. We need to continue to get better."
Would you expect RB Carlos Hyde to play again this year with four games left?
"Honestly, I don't know if Carlos will play this year or not. I know that, with the particular injury and the way that it's being handled medically and with Carlos and with everybody, I know Carlos would like to try to play. I know that they're really working through it. So, again, when it comes to those things, I don't deal in that world."
Would he be better served to start fresh next year with a healthy--?
"I'm going to stay out of those conversations and we'll see where he ends up."
You referenced Pinion a couple minutes ago. How valuable is K Phil Dawson this week, especially when you're going to Cleveland and a place he really knows the conditions and all of that stuff?
"See, Phil Dawson is incredibly important every week. And not just because he's such a good kicker, such a good football player. Phil, with again, his knowledge and his experience in the winds and the way things are happening, the way he studies it. Phil will come in at halftime, he's letting you know where the winds are and how were doing those things. Quite frankly, 10 days ago here, at halftime, Phil came in and obviously Bradley kicking off there's a good chance it'll go out of the end zone and we'll start on the 20. The winds changed here and Phil came in and let me know that. He said, 'Hey Jim, the winds have changed. If we kickoff into the wind right now, Bradley might not get it out of the end zone because they're coming in a little bit odd.' And he knows that. He really studies it. He said, 'But, it'll give me the wind in the fourth quarter if we get into a long field goal situation.' So, again, I don't say that to Bradley, but you get your coverage units here, 'Hey guys, let's cover extra hard. OK, the wind's coming at us. Let's make sure we get down there and get it covered.' So, it's no surprise that the ball didn't go out of the end zone when he kicked off. That's where Phil's at. Just things like that with Phil Dawson are just huge. I laugh a lot and tell him we're the same age."
He's hinting about coming back for another season. I'm sure you'd be well in favor?
"Phil Dawson is, that's a money guy. That's a good dude."
We haven't seen a lot of long throws by Gabbert. So, how impressed were you by that throw to WR Torrey Smith?
"I mean, obviously impressed because we needed it and we had it and he did right there he saw the quarters coverage and hit it. But, we do see him throw in practice and his touch and some of his long balls. He makes the throws. He's got the ability to do those things. So, I felt really good about it that it happened there and Torrey did a great job catching the ball and those things. But, we think he can throw the football."
You said you're not sure about Carlos. If he doesn't play again this season, are you comfortable at the running back position?
"Whatever's best for Carlos is what we're going to eventually get to."
Right, I understand. But, without him I know RB Shaun Draughn--?
"I think he's done a really nice job. He really has. I'm really glad he's here."
With Gabbert, a guy who's had a second chance so to speak with a new organization, do you sense when you have a guy like that who's getting another try and do you sense an extra, is he thrilled by that?
"Well, I've been through some of those things with other players in my position groups and things like that. I mean, the bottom line to me is Blaine Gabbert came out of college at 20 years old and became a starting quarterback in the National Football League at the Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm not critiquing anybody's team, but it was a tough situation. You're 20 years old and you're a first round draft pick and you're in Jacksonville and you're going and OK things don't work out the way they should. Fast forward, we get to the San Francisco 49ers, and since I've met the guy and watched the guy work and obviously when he first got here he was going against the defense. So, I'm watching this guy throw footballs. I'm watching this guy out there running around. I'm watching him have a blast at what he's doing. I'm seeing him walk in the building every morning at six o'clock with a cup of coffee and sit down and study tape like he's going to start. This is all of last year you see the guy constantly doing those things. And then you say he's 25 years old. Sometimes being able to look at it from a different vantage point can do a world of good for you."