John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan discuss 49ers’ expectations as training camp begins

Jul 25, 2018 at 6:38 PM--

Opening comments:

John Lynch: "Excited for training camp. We're both really excited. We all are. Just a couple procedural things to give you guys a heads up on. We're still going through physicals, but these are things that we're sure of that we've discussed the last couple days. The active/PUP list, [G] Jonathan Cooper will be on that. [WR] Trent Taylor will start on the active/PUP list. [LB] Dekoda Watson will as well. Just talking real quickly on each of those guys, we feel like each of them, they've been cleared. They're out of their rehab. We feel like there needs to be some conditioning. Jonathan Cooper, still, we just feel comfortable that we want to see a little bit more on the side before we throw him in there. Trent, we're just being prudent there. We want him to not have his first contact be on the field. Get him pushed around a little on the side. Dekoda, some of that calf injury that he had is still lingering a little bit. NFI list; [LB] Malcolm Smith, that will be a little surprise to all of you. It was a surprise to us. Malcolm just in the last week, something popped up and we're not concerned about it. We've gotten over that because we looked into it. But, we feel like again, the prudent thing is to give him a couple days right at the start just to make sure he feels good and we feel good. [S] Marcell Harris, same type of deal. Has cleared through the rehab part of his rehabilitation. Now, we're going to get him with [head strength and conditioning coach] Ray Wright to make sure that the conditioning. Then obviously you are all aware of [DL] Kentavius Street, who will be on the NFI list."

What is Malcolm Smith's situation? What's his injury?

JL: "It's something in the lower leg that just popped up in the last couple weeks. And good for Malcolm, he's an honest guy. It concerned him enough to let us know about it. He's been with [vice president of medical services & head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson] Ferg and [medical director/orthopaedic surgeon] Doctor [Tim] McAdams the last couple days. They feel good about it, but like I said, just a couple days on the side to get him going. I don't think it will be long."

Has CB Richard Sherman had his physical yet?

Kyle Shanahan: "They're all going through that right now. But, he's good to go. He's been cleared. He'll be practicing Thursday. Today's Wednesday, right?"


KS: "No PUP. He'll be, just our plan with him going as two days on, one day off then we'll go that fourth day and get the day off the fifth day and we'll reevaluate it after that."

When Smith is out, who is going to be in with the first-team unit at inside linebacker?

KS: "There's a bunch of guys who can do it. I'm sure we'll start with [LB] Brock [Coyle], then we've got [LB] Fred [Warner] right behind him. We've got a group of guys there that are interchangeable, even at the WILL position, so we'll see how our defensive guys balance that out. But, our MIKE and WILL are pretty interchangeable. But, I would expect right now that Brock would start it out."

When you address the whole team for the first time, will you be talking about any specific expectations or goals with this team? I'm wondering, do you see this as a playoff team?

KS: "I see us as a team that has a chance to be better than we were last year. I think we've improved our talent. I think we've all gotten better at the schemes. I believe we're a better team, but that's just from experiencing it on paper. We've got to go out and put the work in. We finished last year strong, but that has nothing to do with this year. That starts today and I'm not going to get up in front of the team tonight and make some big speech. It's very simple. This is a long season, it's a grind. Camp is long and all we need to do is go to work and work as hard as we can. Anything else, maybe I could say something magical that might inspire a couple people. But, it comes down to how hard are we going to work and usually when you work hard, good things happen."

When you talk about Richard's plan, what do you want to see out of him and what do you expect to see from him?

KS: "I just want to see him get comfortable. It's different with Richard. There's lots of guys on our team we're real excited about and we think has a chance at a real good future and some guys who have had some success. But Richard is one of our few guys who has done it for a longer time. We've all played against him, we know what Richard is and Richard is also a guy who I think we trust how he thinks, how he works. We know it's important for him to get out there as anyone in this world. He's someone we're going to communicate to a lot. A lot of it is up to Richard. Now, we've got to make sure if Richard is being a little too aggressive, it's our job to pull him back a little bit. But, we've got to communicate the right way because really, all I really care about Richard is him getting himself back to being Richard by Week 1 and if he can't do it by then, then just be honest with us because it's a matter of time when he gets back and we just want to make sure we're smart with that and don't have a setback."

What kind of approach do you take with LB Reuben Foster? Knowing you won't have him for two games, how much will you balance trying to figure out who is going to be the guys Week 1--?

KS: "Right now, nothing at all. For me personally, you lose starting linebackers on a Friday practice and that backup's been doing scout team all week and he's got to start on Sunday and play a whole game. So I'm looking at it as our room is going to be hurt the first couple games, but yeah, it's different from him being suspended so we know that in advance. I don't want that to affect, we expect to play with him the rest of the year and Reuben needs to get his work in, especially since he missed some OTAs and things like that. Reuben is our starting linebacker. We're going to go with that just like we would before this year started and I think as we get closer to Minnesota, then we'll reevaluate that and obviously get our guys who are going to play in that game the best chance to be prepared."

What is your reaction to Reuben Foster's charges being dropped and his ability to move forward past this?

KS: "I think Reuben's done a great job just handling it. What they originally charged him with is as bad of a thing as you can imagine. It's a very embarrassing thing because of how bad it was. To have all that scrutiny on you and to have to go through that, I think would be a challenge for any human being. That would mess a lot of people up. I've been really, very impressed with Reuben in how he handled it, the process he went through while it was going on and after it got dropped, how he's handled himself since. I know he learned a lot through it. We talked about it a lot at the beginning, that some things seem so bad but if you get through it, it can be a good thing in the long run. If you handle it right, it can enlighten you in some things and help you grow. I really think it has for Reuben and I think it's benefitted him in the long run, just understanding a little bit more how the world works."

When we last talked, it was before the guys left for the summer and both of your messages to them was to make sure that you keep your foot on the gas and not slip up. I don't know how closely you were able to monitor stuff and you got your first look at the guys coming back here. Do you feel that the summer went well for them?

KS: "Everything that I hear, it sounds as good as I could have ever hoped for. Just talking to Ray, who was here watching the guys and stuff. We had as big of a group coming here when there's no coaches up here, nothing. I know it was much bigger than it was last year and I hear it's the biggest one they've had here in a long time. We've got a lot of guys working, a lot of guys ready to go. We have a conditioning test this afternoon that's not a very tough one. I expect those guys to pass that, but you have a better idea once you see them out there at that first practice. Usually the guys who haven't been doing much, usually something happens to them and they miss a week or so. I'm hoping that that doesn't happen with our guys. I feel pretty confident."

Given what you guys saw out of Richard during OTAs, what do you expect out of him as he brings some of the younger DBs along?

KS: "That's the one thing about our team I was kind of saying earlier, we've got a lot of guys on our team that we're real excited about and we think have a chance to have a good future. We've also got a ton of young guys who haven't done it before or have only done it for five games or seven or whatever it is. Sherman's a guy who has done it year in and year out. [T Joe] Staley's a guy like that. When you look at guys who have gone to that second contract, who started all their first years and then started all their second contracts, we've probably got about six guys and that's not very much. So those guys I think are important because they've done it before. Guys who have the chance to be like them, those are guys they want to talk to. 'How do I keep mentally strong every day? When I do have a bad day, how do I still believe that I can do it?' Initially, you get humbled all the time. No one balls out every day. No one dominates. So, there's always someone who is going to get you and you've got to have that edge to you where you know you can succeed and Sherm has that. I think a lot of our younger guys have the ability to have that, but it comes with success and that comes from having a guy like Sherm to lean on."

JL: "One thing I would add to that, Sherm, Kyle's been around a lot of football in the NFL. I've been around a lot of football in the NFL. People always associate the high IQ, the smartest football players, they're usually talking about quarterbacks. I would tell you in the capacities I've been around him in the short time we've had him, he's one of the most intelligent football players I've been around. The way he understands concepts. I know he and Kyle will get to talking, and even the way he understands offense. We really do believe that that is contagious. Then his work habits. He hasn't been on the field much, but he's already had a huge impact on the guys around him. That's a real positive thing. We do, also, we brought him in here to be a heck of a player so I think he'll provide that both for us."

Is there any update on WR Dante Pettis?

JL: "You know, I'm fully confident that he'll be here. I really am. I fully anticipate him being here at the first meeting and would be surprised if he wasn't."

So, you'll be signing him soon?

JL: "We're not there yet, so I'm not saying that. But, I am fully confident that we'll get there."

When is the first meeting?

JL: "1:30?"

KS: "We've got a bunch of administration meetings for five hours, yeah. The first real meeting is 6:30. Conditioning test 1:30. No offense to administration."

What you've seen from RB Jerick McKinnon thus far being on film and not in pads, how do you think he fits into what you'd like to do, when you look at guys like Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman and guys who have that skill set? Do you think he kind of fits that mold?

KS: "Yeah, I think he's very similar. Different style runners, but the main thing is it starts with being a running back. You have to be a good running back to truly get the effects of being good in the pass game because if you're only good in the pass game, then they can just treat you as a receiver and it's different. So, it starts with being a running back and we really like him as a running back. We studied every run he had in Minnesota. I think he fits in the type of runs we do very well. He's got the speed. He's got the cutting ability and he's got the toughness to run through arm tackles. Then the pass game is the huge bonus. He is a matchup issue. He's very good in his routes. I think he's similar to Free in that way with the guy you were bringing up. Just versatility-wise, he's going to help us a lot."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo obviously getting his contract and ascending as the player he becomes, he has been part of headlines in the offseason whether it is his old coach texting him or who he is seen out in public with. Do you have to talk to him about making those adjustments in terms of how he is viewed away from the field as a franchise quarterback or is that something that you have a trust in him that he can handle that on his own?

KS: "I've never heard of any of those articles. What are you talking about? No, you talk to people and Jimmy's come from a place where he saw a lot of people handle that spotlight and everything. So, I think Jimmy does have an idea. I think everybody has an idea of how you should handle the spotlight. But, not everyone is in that spotlight. Never in my life have I commented on a player's date in July, so I'm not going to start today because I don't think it really pertains or matters to us. But, I do think that is a very good example. Even though you know, sometimes you have to learn how under the microscope we all are. It's not just the quarterback. It's all players. The quarterback definitely gets more than anyone else, but I think it's a good learning experience for him and he's got to know what comes with that stuff."

Because of the way you guys finished the season last year the outside expectations are pretty big for a 6-10 team. Do you guys feel that at all and if so, do you have to address it with yourselves and the team further?

KS: "Well, I mean, it'd be nice if not all of you guys talked about it all the time. I know that's part of it, but that's what goes on outside of here. If our guys make a living just reading and listening to talk radio and stuff, that stuff could mess you up. I am aware that people have talked highly about us and that's what comes with the territory when you win your last five games after starting so bad. I mean, we all know that doesn't mean anything. It doesn't. You have to work and you have to go about your business. I could sit in here and talk about all expectations to our players, but all I'm doing is addressing what people are talking about outside of here. I don't feel that with our guys. If we had guys not showing up for these last 40 days when we're away, if I felt guys were just coasting through OTAs, I felt we worked our tails off last year and I think we're working even harder this year which I didn't know was possible. So, I don't feel that at all with our team. I'm very aware of what's outside and I know if we start off with a couple losses, it'll just be 'Oh, they thought they had arrived.' We don't think that at all. We were 6-10 last year. We won those last five games and we weren't just blowing guys out. I just mentioned all the young people we have and this can go a lot of ways. Every season is hard. Nothing is easy and by no means are we coming in thinking that this is just going to happen. We're ready to get to work and we know it's going to be hard. We know we're going to face adversity. What's going to separate us is hopefully how we respond to the adversity."

Now that you have a full season under your belt as a head coach, how are you going to approach this camp compared to last year? Obviously the circumstances are much different, but what are you going to be doing similar and differently?

KS: "I think I've taken some of their reps off just early on. It's a whole new team, but we do have a better feel for most of our players than we did last year. We added new guys and stuff, but last year all 90 we had just gone through OTAs with and we're still trying to figure people out. It's really hard to change a culture, which means it was one philosophy and now you're trying to do yours. You can say it all you want, but you have to drill that and you have to preach it every day. What's neat this year is our guys do know that and the new guys have come in. Myself, John, the coaches, we don't have to beat it in so much because the other players do. Everyone has a much better idea so that makes it a little more exciting. It makes you feel like you can take steps to get better a little quicker. On the other side, every year it's a new team and we've got to see how this team gels together. We've got to mix in the new pieces and we've got to make sure the people who were here they get better and not worse."

Would you say that right guard and punter are both open competitions?

KS: "Yeah, you know, right guard I think is a real big one. I'd say punter is, too. We have a lot of competition on our team. Right guard is a spot that I think would probably be the biggest on our O-Line. We just signed [G] Laken [Tomlinson] right after OTAs. We're obviously expecting him to start at left guard, but if he has a horrible camp and the guy behind him is a lot better, we're going to always play who we think gives us the best chance to win. But, those are probably the more open spots."

John, as you've tinkered with and built your roster over this offseason, how much of that, if any, was with an eye to the Rams and what they have and what they're doing?

JL: "That's a good question. I think you always to get where you want to get in this league, what I've learned is you better own your division. That's the ultimate goal. I think we're very mindful and Kyle and I spend a lot of time, 'What kind of players are we looking for?' That's really what we rely on, but I can't tell you that at times when you're talking about signing Laken Tomlinson you're saying, 'Hey, we better have someone to block [Los Angeles Rams DL] Aaron Donald. So, of course, I think the people you face, the same goes for Seattle and Arizona. I do think at times you're cognizant, but really, our litmus test are the things that we believe translates into championship players and championship teams. We defined that pretty well, but yeah, I think you do have some sort of a lens on who you are competing with the most and that's your division."

KS: "Also, it's hard for us competitive people. Every decision you make is to succeed now and in the future. So, you've got to balance both of those out. If all you think about is 'How does this guy go against that guy?' That's year to year and that can really make you feel better going into a game, but maybe that guy's hurt that game and it didn't even matter. Now, it's messed us up. There's a lot of things that go into that. Our goal is to win our division. So, we've got three teams we are competing with hard and harder than anyone else in this league. But, we're always trying to make the right decision, not just being consumed with beating one of those three."

Are you looking at any veteran free agent receivers or guys that might be available via trade?

JL: "We're always looking. We're always going to try to improve our team. But, we've been pretty steadfast. We like our receiving corps, we really do. We're excited about the group that we have. We really believe that they'll emerge. We love having [WR] Pierre [Garçon] back and having him work with [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] and Trent and Dante and [WR] Kendrick [Bourne]. The list goes on. We're excited about some of the guys on the fringe in the back end. That's something right now, but of course we're always looking out there and if we see a fit that we can improve our team or things are always fluid with injuries and such, we'll be ready to respond accordingly."

What are your expectations for Solomon Thomas?

KS: "Just improve. First round draft picks have a pressure on them that's different than everyone else because that's the name that everyone knows coming out of the draft. That's the one everyone wants to see immediate success. People are drafted in the first round and they know that also. That's a pressure that those guys have got to take. Sometimes they press and try to do too much and that's why I don't say it ever that I want to see him get this many sacks. I just want to see him get better. He did some good things for us last year. I think he has a lot of room to grow and it's very important to him, to me, to the 49ers, that he takes a step forward and I feel extremely confident he will and that's what you want him to do each year. D-Linemen, in my experience, take a little longer than most. But, this isn't a patient league, either. We expect him to be better."

Is the plan for DB Jimmie Ward to play cornerback to start camp?

KS: "Yeah that's definitely the plan. We're going to keep him at corner until it makes sense to use him somewhere else. That has to do with injuries, it has to do with the balance of the whole roster. We've got 90 guys here so there's not an issue and we want to put him at corner right now."

How much of that is a testament to what CB K'Waun Williams was able to do last year in particular late in the season? Is part of the decision to keep Jimmie out there how comfortable you are with K'Waun?

KS: "Yes. I think K'Waun plays that nickel position at a very high level. I also think Jimmie Ward has the ability to do that at a very high level. Jimmie was our starting corner in OTAs with Richard out. Richard is going to be coming back and we all know the injury he is coming off and we're going to take it pretty easy with him, too. I still plan on Jimmie, even though he's not getting the starting reps at corner, he's going to get almost starting reps because Sherm is going to be in and out a lot. We still want Jimmie to get that work there. We can have other packages and stuff with other groups where we expect to put him inside and stuff and get those positions. I think Jimmie will push K'Waun. Jimmie can play that. He can also play safety. It's what's great about Jimmie and it's also what makes it tough for Jimmie too because he has the ability to be our best at five positions. He also was almost the second-best at all five of those. We've got to see how it plays out and how we match it and all that stuff goes into the 53. You keep a certain number of corners, you keep a certain number of safeties. Guys have to be able to play inside, outside, guys have to play special teams. You only dress so much, so it's a very complicated decision that's just not this guy versus that guy."

To follow that up, you usually only have a certain number of players at certain positions. With the new kickoff rule, because it seems that a lot of teams I've talked to thought about keeping that extra running back instead of O-Lineman because he needs more space on the returns and a lot more sprinting on the coverage teams. How does the new kickoff rule possibly adjust the roster?

KS: "I'm interested to see. You try to make some assumptions and everything, but I want to see how it plays out in the preseason. I don't plan on it changing who we have up on game day, but that's one of the few things that I do like about the preseason is that you get to find out some things that you maybe didn't know before to prepare you to make the right decisions Week 1 when it matters. Hopefully we'll learn some of that, but I'd be surprised if it affected anything. Knowing you bring up an O-Lineman or something, if you get two injuries in a game and it's very hard to play if you put a tight end at guard. Basically the game is over. Sometimes it's like 'Why do you bring this O-Lineman each week? He's never going to play all year,' a lot of the special teams guys will ask me that. I'll be like, 'because if we get two injuries, the game is over.' We can put someone else in at L4 or a gunner and the game isn't over. That's the hard dilemma and why lots of times I always want to take three running backs into a game and then that third guy you never use. Then you take two into a game and you get one hurt in warmups and you go the whole game with one running back and the guy struggles for obvious reasons. Man, we've got to always bring up three. But, it's a risk every week. Hopefully someday they'll let us bring up everybody."

John, last year you talked about having so many holes to fill that it was hard to get it all done in one offseason. Looking back at this offseason, how different was it being able to maybe fill out depth and do some of those other things and how much better do you feel about the overall roster?

JL: "We feel a lot better than this time last year. I mean, there's no doubt about it. I think we're a much more talented team. I think we're a deeper team. We went into the draft and one of the things is, we're still looking for game changers. That will always be important, but I think to be able to put pieces to the puzzle before last year there were many times where it's like, 'We've got to find a slot receiver. We've got to find this, we've got to find that.' Now, it's just like, 'Who is the best player and who fits what we do the best? Who is our type of guy?' We are in a much better spot from that standpoint. We should be. But, it's a testament to the coaching staff, the personnel working together and I think we're on the right track. I always do."

KS: "I always like to go in the beginning of camp and look at the whole roster. 'How many are we going to be allowed at each position on the 53?' Before camp starts, look at 'Okay, how many NFL players do we have on our roster that we're going to have to cut?' Sometimes you can see, 'Alright, we've got 12 receivers. We know we're going to take six. Four of these guys can't do it and it's just up to this one guy to beat out that other. If one of them gets hurt, the guy who we need is not on our team. We've got to go out and get him off the street.' What's different about this year, which he just elaborated to, is the depth. We're going to have to cut some guys who are going to go play for other people this year. It's a tough thing at the end, but it's our goal. That's what you want."

What did you make of T Mike McGlinchey's offseason program?

KS: "I mean, I know Mike works. I didn't follow him around so I'm not exactly sure what he did. I was out of town most of the time."

Sorry, I meant the offseason program during the OTAs.

KS: "Oh, I thought you meant the 40 days. I was like I leave him alone. No, he was great. He was exactly what he thought he was as advertised. Mike comes in and like we said at the original press conference, he seems like a 10-year vet. He handles himself the right way. He battled throughout camp. I think it's always tough for O-Linemen in OTAs. It's harder to block people when people don't have pads on. They're a lot slipperier Now, I think it will be more fun to get these pads on and go against some of these guys. But, I was excited about OTAs and I expect him to get better during training camp."

You guys are putting a lot on his plate with the schedule. In the AFC West you've got Oakland Raiders DE Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers DE Joey Bosa and a bunch of those guys. Has he already gotten to work to watch film on those guys and have you addressed that specifically, the type of matchups that he's going to have?

KS: "No. I don't think that's what you'd want to do to a guy like that now. It's not about who he is going against. It's about him. He has to get as good as he can be and that'll give him the best chance against whoever he is going against. When we get to that week, we'll study the heck out of him. But right now, it's about him. He's got a lot of ability and I'm hoping between him and us coaching him we can get that out of him."

JL: "The coolest thing about him I think this offseason, I would just add is it's fun watching players and seeing how they respond, Kyle talks about it a lot, to adversity. When he would miss something, it was fun watching him how he would self-correct, his coaches who are coaching him. He's one of those guys that doesn't make a lot of mistakes over and over. It was just fun. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to get beat in this league, but how do you respond to that, and I would say that's one thing that impressed all of us is how quickly he would self-correct those things."

You were saying earlier, but of the 90-men here, how should be on an NFL roster this year?

KS: "How many Pro Bowlers did you say? A decent amount."

* Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers


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