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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan discusses Fred Warner, Seahawks, and Washington claiming Reuben Foster

Nov 28, 2018 at 2:39 PM

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media before Wednesday's practice as the team prepares to play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"Injuries today; [G Joshua] Garnett will be limited, [T Joe] Staley has a vet day, [C/G Weston] Richburg will be out, resting his knee, [WR Pierre] Garçon is limited, [S Jaquiski] Tartt, no contact, [LB] Malcolm [Smith] will be limited, [DB] D.J. Reed [Jr.] will be out for the week, [RB Matt] Breida, [LB Mark] Nzeocha and [DB Greg] Mabin are also limited."

Is WR Marquise Goodwin around?

"No. He's not in."

Is there anything you can say?

"No, nothing. Same stuff. He's been excused. Just needs more time."

LB Reuben Foster was obviously picked up by Washington yesterday. Were you surprised by that?

"I was a little surprised. Not the team in particular, but that someone did. But, someone did. I saw it just like you guys did."

When a prominent player like that gets into that much trouble and he's gone from the team, do you think that takes something out of the team from out of the locker room from the players just to go through that experience?

"You could ask them. Teams are made up of a bunch of people, so there's got to be a lot of people feeling that way for me to personally feel it. I'm sure it's affecting a few guys like that. I haven't felt a difference in our team meetings, being around the guys. I know it was tough for the guys and the guys were disappointed in it. We'll see how it plays out, but no I haven't felt that."

What do you make of the way Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been able to sort of keep that thing moving up there, despite all the turnover, particularly on the defensive side?

"I think they've done a great job. Started out early, they got a bunch of young guys in there that they really hit on early with some very talented players, especially getting the young quarterback like they did to pair up with all those defensive players. They did a good job keeping them for a long time, about as long as they could. Now, they've moved on from a number, but they're still right in it. When you lose good players like that, you do take a little bit of a step back which they have in some numbers and things like that. They haven't been able to be quite as dominant because they were one of the most dominant teams ever in terms of their defense. But, they still found a way to keep guys out of the end zone. They still run the ball very well and [Seattle Seahawks QB] Russell [Wilson] still makes plays like he always has."

When you evaluated them in the offseason and you see them now in that hunt for that last playoff spot, are you surprised? Did they meet or pass your expectations?

"No, it doesn't surprise me. Whenever you have a sound defense, when you commit to the running game and you have a quarterback who makes some plays, they're in just about every game they play in and it comes down to the wire and when it does I think Russell has done as good of a job as anyone over his career of making some off-schedule plays, being able to win in some two-minute drills and things like that. I think it's been tougher. All the games have come down to the wire when you lose some of those talented guys. But, it's a very fine line between having a very good record and a bad record. Everyone's very close. When you have a quarterback like that and the team they have that's kept them close, it doesn't surprise me that he's won more than half of them."

What do you guys have to do Sunday against him to keep him contained, that you guys didn't do against Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston?

"You have to make him sit in the pocket and play quarterback, which he does. But, everyone knows it's a lot easier for him when he doesn't have to, and he can look to one guy and you give him some big lanes. He can get out of there and make some plays whether he does it with his legs or whether he extends some plays. If you extend plays as a quarterback, zones will break down and people will be wide open and guys can't cover forever. He's been doing that year after year to every team. He gives them a very good chance to win for that talent that he has. We have to contain him and if he gives us an opportunity of a turnover, we've got to come down with it and we've got to make sure we put some points on the board on offense."

You have a rookie making the calls for your defense, LB Fred Warner. Communication was an issue earlier in the season, but it seems like it's improved a lot recently. How has he improved specifically in that responsibility?

"He's just gotten better each game. The more he's done it, the better he's gotten. When there's communication issues, that's not always just the MIKE. When someone goes in motion, the safety's got to talk to a D-End, whether you go to a nine-technique or six-I, whether we're spy or things like that. I mean, there's communication all over the league on defense because offenses, they don't know what they're going to get. An offense changes formations and do stuff. All the MIKE linebacker has to do is usually repeat what he hears in his helmet and then close it right or left and everyone goes off of it. Fred's very natural at that. He's been one of the better ones that I've been around, even as a rookie, and he'll only continue to get better."

Did that surprise you at any level just because he is a rookie and he didn't do it much in college?

"Yeah, it always surprises you. Just talking to the guy, it always surprises you for anybody to be able to do it as well as he's done it that fast. But, the type of person he is doesn't surprise me that he would eventually have been good at it. We had him in here, he's a very smart guy, he's articulate, he likes to talk a lot and he works at it. The more you work at it and the fact that he is very smart, I think it comes somewhat natural to him. The more confident you get, the louder you are, the more demanding you are. That can sometimes be tough for a rookie because rookies, no matter how they are they feel their way out and they don't want to be as loud and demanding. But, the more you play, the more you go through it, the more confident you get, the stronger you get."

So, it's not just what he's saying. It's how he says it?

"Yeah, it's the command. You can call a play wrong, but as long as 11 guys are on the same page. I tell the quarterbacks, sometimes they'll mess up the play, they hear it different and they try to think of it. 'Hey man, instead of trying to guess what I said, instead of making us burn a timeout or get a delay of game, say what you think.' As long as 11 guys are on the same page, you have a chance."

Is that harder to do as a quarterback in a noisy stadium? Get the play call, visualize it and do everything that he needs to do?

"Yes. Just, the more chaos, the harder it is to focus. Also, the louder it is, the harder it is to hear, obviously. We struggled in Tampa with it a little bit. It wasn't that loud, but we had two drives where the headset was kind of going in and out and just not very clear. Their PA guy was as loud as I've ever heard one when we had the ball. It was just echoing in his ears, which next time we go back there I'll complain about that. We had two drives where we had to burn a timeout one time. Guys can't hear it totally the right way and it's always a challenge. It's a challenge in some places more than others. Seattle is as loud of a place as I've ever been in my life, so that's always the biggest challenge when you go there."

Did you adjust things yourself? Did you try to get it in faster than normal so that he does have a little extra time to deal with it?

"I try to get it in as fast as I can always, except maybe if we have a big lead. Instead of telling the quarterback to slow down, I kind of just slow myself down just so I don't take any of their edge off. Normal situations, I'm always going as fast as I can. You've got to repeat it a lot because it's loud."

Seattle as you said is extremely loud. What gives you confidence that QB Nick Mullens is ready for that type of atmosphere?

"I think Nick handles pressure pretty well. He handled it well in Tampa. We just didn't play very good. So, there's a difference in that. Nick's been the same guy since he's been here. I don't think he's going to freak out just because it's loud. Whether you do good or bad doesn't mean that you freaked out or you were poised. It's harder. It'll be more of a challenge. We'll practice all week at it. The better he plays, the better we play around him, the easier the challenge will be."

What areas have you seen him improve on, even though the results haven't been as good in the past couple of games as they were?

"He's just gone through more situations. I know the Oakland game was great, just the numbers and everything. But, he didn't get to play in a ton of situations. We had a pretty big lead and we really were kind of going for it for about two-and-a-half quarters. The next two games, it's been four quarters of going for it and some more situations come up, more coverages. He's been in some tougher situations. That's experience. Always when you're in some of those situations for the first time, you don't always succeed. But, that doesn't mean he's failing at it. That means he got a chance to get better from it. We'll see how he is the next week."

When you have the level of injuries you guys have had this year and especially to the quarterback, does it make it harder for you and the staff to evaluate the performance of the players who are playing?

"I don't think so. I think it makes it a little harder maybe for you guys and stuff. Not just you guys, but the whole world because people base performance always off of results. Results are stats, for the most part. We watch how guys move, how they run, how they execute from a blocking standpoint, from a route-running standpoint and since we're talking quarterbacks, offensively. With the back, where they're hitting the holes and things like that. So, you can evaluate talent. That's why I don't make a big judgment on when things happen. 'Well, this guy was this last year. Why was he so bad this year? He's really good this year. How much did he improve?' A lot of that is just opportunity. You don't sit there and go through all of it with everyone, but that's why I don't know stats a lot because we really try to look at the tape."

I'm sure it's different for individuals, but generally, have you seen the development in your young players this year that you were hoping to or had expected to?

"We're still going at it. There's five more games. I think our young guys are playing even more now. We played our right tackle throughout the whole year. Breida is in his second year and he's been able to play this whole year. [RB] Raheem [Mostert] I wouldn't say is a real young guy, but in terms of running the ball he is. He got a lot more opportunities and I think he was getting a lot better but he went on IR. [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] got his first opportunities last week and I thought he came in and showed a lot of promise and did some good things. That was exciting. [T Mike] McGlinchey's played well all year. He's been up and down battling through things and I think he's continued to get better. You look at Fred Warner, he's gotten better throughout the year. I'd like to see hopefully [DB] Tarvarius Moore get some more reps eventually. We've had some safeties be in and out there that have got some playing time. I thought [WR] Dante [Pettis] last week was the first time that he got to play really a whole game. I think I said this on Monday, but he was the main guy who I thought took a step forward in Tampa. Like I said a few weeks ago, that's why these next five games are going to be huge because I plan on seeing more and more of it."

Is there any thought of moving Tartt to free safety like you did last year and S Marcell Harris to strong?

"Yeah, there's always the possibility. I think based on where Harris is at, Tartt can play both. He's here to be a strong safety and [DB Antone] Exum [Jr.] has done it. Exum is a free safety, but we've had things come up in games where he's had to go to strong, too. Exum started at free safety and we had to move him to strong earlier in the year. So, we can move him back to free. We have guys who are interchangeable so all of it is an option. We'll see how those guys look this week."

Is there any thought to move Warner to WILL now that Foster is gone?

"No. We want Fred to be our MIKE, without a doubt."

Pete Carrol quoted former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh when he was speaking with us. He said Walsh said it takes five years for players to get the reservoir of knowledge they need within a particular system for experience and stuff like that. Do you believe in that and how important do you think continuity is both to the Seahawks and just generally in the NFL?

"It's extremely important. You know, when you run a system, it's about 11 guys moving together and the thing that I've been really excited about this year. I know there hasn't been a lot of success and things like that, but the one place I can say we've gotten a lot of continuity this year is our O-Line. Our line has gone through 16 games. And I know guys have been banged up for a few of them and stuff and they've played through a lot of stuff, but we've been pretty consistent with our five guys out there, even when changing backs and things like that. But, the continuity on our O-Line has been very good. Especially three of the guys who got to play a lot last year. I think Staley and [G] Laken [Tomlinson] were good last year. I think they're much better this year. The guys we've added have gotten us a lot better and our backs have ran very well, too. I think that's why we've run the ball so well and I think that'll be huge for us going into next year. I wish we had more continuity at our receivers. We'll see how this week goes with Pierre and Marquise not being here. And if that's the case, it'll be the first time this year that we've had the same receivers start and play the same positions two weeks in a row. So, the continuity at receiver has been tough, at back has been tough. We've played six quarterbacks in two years. I know there's been four of them, but we've had to make a change six times so that continuity can be very tough on an offense. But, the one thing I've been excited about this year is the O-Line. Then you go to defense. The safeties have been different each week, the continuity of those two guys. You go to your two inside linebackers, it's been different. Our corners have been the same two because [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm missed a bit of time and we took [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon] out for a couple of weeks I think. But, the D-Line and the O-Line have been the most consistent."

Is it hard to see the ebbs and flows of the season or just your process as a coach and maintain the big-picture focus on that continuity rather than making some rash decisions based on some certain results?

"Yeah, it is. Losing sucks, everyone knows that. Every time after a game, I'm not very positive. You put a lot into a game and when you lose, it hurts. You usually go to bed Sunday night and never fall asleep completely because you're thinking about a lot of things. You wake up upset Monday, but you go watch the tape a number of times and you start to have more perspective. Tampa was doom and gloom. I felt that way Sunday, I felt that way Monday morning. Then you start to watch the tape and stuff and I understand the issues we've been through and some of the injuries coming off the Bye week, going there, what happened the day of, what happened with Quise the day before. But then, I watched the tape and it was a lot more simple than that. I thought we played one of our worst games on offense. I think the week off hurt us, made us rusty. I think some of our best players who did a decent job, guys like [TE George] Kittle, guys like Staley, but they weren't as good as they have been. When you don't play your best offensively, you turn the ball over a couple of times. The defense, I don't think they played their best either. They had a bigger challenge going against the top offense and I think special teams kind of split. We had a couple of penalties, missed an extra point, but they didn't lose us the game or win us the game. But, when you have stuff like that, it's pretty obvious why we lost the way we did. So, you don't try to freak out and overreact about that. You try to tell your guys, 'Guys, look at the tape. We didn't play very well.' The guys can see that and know that. What do you expect to happen when you do that? We've got to be at our best and if we are at our best, we'll have a chance to win. I think we have done that in almost every game this year. I'd take back the Rams, I don't think we were. Definitely the first half of the Chiefs game, we made it close towards the end. Then I'd say in Tampa. Every other game, I feel we've had a very good chance to win that game in the fourth quarter and that's what we haven't done a good job of and that's what we've got to find a way to improve. That's why I kind of compare that with Seattle. They've been in very similar situations to that. All of those games, they've been close in, they've won the majority of those. That's why there's a big difference between, I think it's 6-5 and 2-9. So, it's a fine line. You try not to freak out, but it is tough. You get sick of losing, you want to fix things and that's why we go at it hard and just try to make the right decision and not just the one over emotion."


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