John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan introduce 49ers additions, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander

Mar 14, 2019 at 1:53 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch held an introductory press conference to introduce Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander. Here is everything that was said.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

General Manager John Lynch: "This is a real exciting day for our franchise. I want to start by thanking our ownership for allowing us to spend their money and to be aggressive on guys like this. I also want to thank [president of 49ers enterprises and EVP of football operations] Paraag Marathe and his group. They've been outstanding here in the last couple of days, along with these guys' representatives coming to deals. We went and found two guys from the same hometown, Aniston, Alabama, [LB] Kwon Alexander and [DL] Dee Ford. They're going to really bolster our team. We love everything they bring, the passion they play the game with. They're dynamic players and we got better by signing these guys. We're thrilled to have them here. Unless [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] has something to say, we'll start off with questions."

For you, Kyle, having to game plan against Kwon for a couple of years, what kind of dilemmas does he create for an offense?

KS: "He taught me a hard lesson that you'd better game plan for him, because I didn't too well the first game of 2016, we started out 0-1 because of it. I remember him having 20 tackles. I think he had maybe 16, 18."

LB Kwon Alexander: "Something like that."

KS: "It was so bad that [Atlanta Falcons WR] Julio [Jones] asked me after the game if he could play fullback and block him so I knew I needed a better plan the next time. Dee, always, when you can turn on the tape and he scared you as a coach because you could see how fast he gets off the ball. Not all pass rushers you can see that, but as soon as you press play, you can see it with Dee. I'm glad I don't have to get freaked out watching that anymore."

Kwon, I noticed that you walked in without a limp. Where are you in your ACL recovery, and when do you expect to be practicing in full?

KA: "I'm just taking it day by day. I've been grinding, working hard, and just pushing myself to get back. Just taking it day by day. Let it all work out for itself, and I'll be back soon."

You guys may know you set an NFL record last year with the fewest takeaways and fewest interceptions in a season. Both these guys are known for being able to create turnovers. How big of a deal is that going through your mind as you plotted some of your moves?

JL: "Of course. Thanks for reminding us of that. That wasn't fun to watch. It is something we have to live with. It's a reality, and we needed to change that. You're exactly right. These are the type of players that we believe can reverse that trend. Starting with Kwon, he's always had a propensity. He's always around the ball. There's so many things to like, but that is definitely something that jumps. And then Dee, he has a knack for getting the ball out. Eight forced fumbles last year, and as Kyle said, that first step is lethal. We think that can help our entire team get that virus going, where we're taking away the ball on a regular basis."

KS: "Speed and violence affect the quarterback and make people do stupid things before they want to. Both of these guys have a lot of speed, and they both play very violent."

DL Dee Ford: "Definitely."

For both Dee and Kwon, growing up in your hometown, did you guys know each other? What did you know about each other and what was the reputation of the other guy?

DF: "We actually just met."

KA: "Yeah. You went out before me, right?"

DF: "Yeah. I went to St. Clair in my ninth-grade year, the middle of my ninth-grade year. He wasn't in high school yet. So we just met."

Did you know anything about him?

DF: "No, I didn't, and honestly, I was so engulfed in what I was doing. No, I didn't. I knew who he was once we went to the NFL, so that's all that matters."

KA: "I remember seeing Dee Ford at Auburn because I used to go take trips and stuff like that at Auburn. I just knew he was a great player. I'm just happy to play with him now, especially coming from the same city."

What did you attribute your play level last year at a higher level than you've had in the past? What was different last year for you?

DF: "Consistency. Maturity with your game. That's what you want to see. That's why we work at the end of the day. And being healthy was huge for me too. I actually started that in '17, but I just didn't come out of training camp healthy. So, it was good to be, it was a continuation of that."

Dee, what do you remember from facing the 49ers last year? You had a sack on QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and that game obviously didn't go the way this franchise wanted, the way Jimmy finished, but what do you remember about that game?

DF: "Going against [T] Joe [Staley], man. Joe is great. It was a great battle. It was a fun battle. It was a great team. It was close, a very close game. One of our toughest games of the season last year."

Do you like the role that the 49ers have envisioned for you? And what have they said about what that role is and how it kind of fits what you do best?

DF: "Can I tell them? My role is to go that way. Nothing else."

KA: "All gas, no brakes."

DF: "Right, right, right. Very simple, man. Very simple."

KS: "And "that way" is towards the quarterback."

You talked in the past about guys getting tagged and missing out on those guys that never made it to market. Can you just take us through kind of how this developed where you were able to get your hands on one of those guys?

JL: "This process is ongoing. You're always studying the players. [Director of pro personnel] Ran Carthon is back there. His staff, they're always looking around the league. You don't have to look hard to see a guy like Dee. He stands out. As Kyle said, he jumps off the film. As we started to evaluate different things, you study all players, and you look at the guys who might get tagged as well, and there was a lot to like about him. We really thought it was a great fit. We had some conversations with the Chiefs, and as those progressed, it became more of a likelihood. You know, the cool thing with that is that with both these guys, we do a lot of collaboration around here between our personnel staff and our coaching staff, and I would tell you that in both these instances, these were our guys. So, we had complete consensus on that. So, that's a great feeling when you can land the guys that you had consensus from all aspects on. That's the case, and we were able. We're thankful for the Chiefs for working with us on it. We got a great player, a couple great players here."

John, why was Kwon your first choice? Because a lot of people were saying LB C.J. Mosley was the best inside linebacker. Kwon obviously is coming off a significant injury. Just what was the thought process on that?

JL: "There were a lot of good linebackers out there this year. Kwon, I think I've long admired. I believe certain players bring out the best in their teammates with the way they play. There's a certain passion for the game that screams even when you're watching film that's silent. You can just see it jump through. He plays with his hair on fire. I think that kind of play is contagious. We needed that. He's also extremely productive, and I think I saw it and Kyle saw it and our staff saw it, and we just say it really just kept growing and growing to, hey, this is a guy we want here. We sure are happy to have him."

Kwon and Dee, you spoke briefly about your roles on the field. What about in the locker room with a lot of younger guys who are just getting into the league? Will you step up as leaders as well?

KA: "Most definitely. We're going to try to make sure those guys are on point, studying film, have the same mindset to be great. I'm going to tell them whatever it takes, you know. Whatever it takes, you can do it. Put your mind to it. You're going to go out here and get the job done, win championships, and we're going to do our thing."

Kyle, it seems like these days there are alternating point of views in terms of building your defense back to front or front to back. You guys are obviously making a big investment up front. Going against defenses, do you feel like it's more difficult to go against defenses that are built that way, built strong up front, rather than players in the secondary, elite players in the secondary, things like that?

KS: "Definitely. If you can't block people to play, it's tough to pull off whether people are getting open or not. You can help people at times get open versus better players and stuff, but it's very tough to help people block guys all day."

John, do you specifically adjust the way you look at the number two overall pick? Do you have a less pressing need as far as a specific pass rushing need, or do you just say whoever's the best guy now?

JL: "Yeah, we're evaluating everyone. Having Dee just makes us a better football team, and the draft's something separate. Yes, those two do interact at some point, but we'll see. We're going to go out there and look. At number two you want to have a great football player. That's what we're looking for and we'll see where it ends up."

Both of you guys, this is the first time for you guys having a new beginning in the NFL. What are the emotions, what are the feelings right now and specifically coming to San Francisco?

DF: "I'm looking forward to it. A fresh start for anybody is healthy. That's how you have to look at it. I'm really excited to meet new teammates and just understanding that this team specifically was a couple players away from being a really good team. So, understanding that my role is important. I'm accepting the challenge, and I'm excited. It's great for me."

KA: "Yeah, I'm excited too. I just love the energy. Since I've been here, it's just been amazing. The coaches, just everybody around the building have just been amazing. I can't wait to meet the teammates, like Dee said, and just get it going. It's time."

John, last time we were all in here together, we talked a lot about injuries, the injury issues from the past couple of years. You said it was something you really wanted to look into hard and something that needed to change. After looking into it, what did you find, and given what you said, why did you make a large investment in a player coming off a torn ACL?

JL: "That's a fair question. I think we looked hard at it. We've adjusted our staff accordingly. We've announced some of those moves, some more to come. So, we've really tried to look at our structure and how we can best care for our players and give them every opportunity to stay healthy. Having said that, injuries happen. You know, when you get to free agency, you're looking for players that are going to make your team better. The good news with a guy like Kwon is he has an ACL. Those things get better. He's putting in the work. We had a physical that was very thorough, and our doctors came out feeling good about it, and that excited us even more because we got to the point where we were signing a contract with his parents, Peaches and Brod, Facetime, and it was fun. That's just, we thought these guys were great players. We vetted it thoroughly, and we felt comfortable with it."

John and Kyle, Dee kind of came into his own last year whether it was inconsistency. You made a significant investment in terms of a draft pick and money. What gives you, I guess, the confidence that last year wasn't just a fluke and a sign of things to come?

JL: "I think you look back to 2016, you had double digit sacks as well."

DF: "Film, baby. Film."

JL: "At the same point, I love an ascending player. I think it's a fair characterization that last year was his best year. We think the arrow's up. We think it's only getting better."

For John, along those lines, I know there's long been speculation that you guys were going to add an elite edge rusher. Didn't happen last year. Is Dee a guy that was already on your radar last year or did that 2018 season kind of just make him blow up on the radar?

JL: "We've been coveting, you follow players throughout their career, and he's a guy we've had our eye on for a while. This year it became a reality, and we're thrilled about that."

KS: "And production and numbers don't always mean that's the first time he started playing well. I don't even know how many exact sacks he had last year because I just turn on the tape and watch whether they're good or not. He's been very good for a while. Whether he's getting the sacks or not, he's extremely hard to block. He's been that way always. That's why he was a first round pick out of college too. So hopefully, you keep doing the same numbers and it keeps going up. Regardless of that, we have a very good player, and there's not many people better at getting after the quarterback."

After the AFC Championship game, you were pretty accountable for the offside penalty and talked about that. Did that weigh on you these past couple months as you reflect on it?

DF: "No."

KS: "Were you offsides?"

DF: "I was."

KS: "For sure?"

DF: "It happens. Unlucky play. Would I take it back? Of course. Anybody would. It was devastating, but like I said, when I first did the interview, I gave myself two days to pout about it, and I'm over it."

Considering the season you had, were you disappointed the Chiefs didn't want to make a long-term commitment to you?

DF: "No, this is a business at the end of the day. They had to do what they needed to do, and that's why [Kansas City Chiefs head coach] Andy's [Reid] great. He has to do what's best for the team. This is a business at the end of the day. So as players, we don't get caught into that. So, we look at the challenge that's ahead. This is my new challenge, and I'm excited. I think you can hear we're all excited, and we're moving on."

Would you consider Dee a defensive end, and does that matter?

JL: "We do. That's what we see him as. I guess it matters only if we've got to put him in the program as something, but I know he's a difference maker. We've been looking for a closer, someone who can close halves, close games, get off the field on third down. I think collectively now, I know I saw a big smile from all of our inside rushers because they know what an edge guy can do for the group collectively. Now we've got to go do it. We've got some very talented players, but now we've got to go collectively do that. We really improved our chances of being effective in those aspect of the game with the addition of Dee."

Is that a LEO or--?

JL: "He fits the LEO mold perfectly."

You have a hesitation on stop/start, pass rush move--?

DF: "Do I? I didn't know that."

You've been doing it all of your career.

JL: "Last year especially."

Was there an influence, or did you pick that up from someone or somewhere, and do you have a name for it?

"I don't have a name. Honestly, it's instinctive, to be honest with you. The moves that I work three moves, and sometimes those are just variations of the same move. It's really all feel. I don't do that move a ton. It's just really a counter at the end of the day, and it's instinctive at the end of the day. So, I have my three main moves, and if I feel like where the tackle's position is, it's always going to be instinctive. So that's just me sort of going off what he's given me at that time."

KS: "Don't give them any more than that."

Obviously, the first couple days are always pretty hectic. There was another fairly high-profile trade going on. Can you just take us through what the last four or five hours were that day?

JL: "Free agency is always crazy. There's a lot of phone calls, myself, Kyle, and Paraag, in addition to the rest of our staff have been on the phones working a lot of different things. But, this is about these guys, and we're going to focus on that today."

John, at the Combine, you mentioned the defense using some wide-nine alignments. Is that going to be the new base alignment next year or something you do in passing situations, or is that a scheme question?

JL: "Kyle, you want to take it?"

KS: "We mix up. We did a lot of wide nines last year. Everyone in the league does. A three-four linebackers as he played in his old scheme was a nine-technique. So, I see us using a little bit more this year, but we'll see how that plays out. We've got to adjust when things work and when things don't work."

If he is the LEO, what does that mean for DL Solomon Thomas and where he'll play? Does that mean he'll be exclusively at defensive tackle?

KS: "No, the same. Similar plans to last year. We love Solly outside more on run downs, and in passing situations, we want him inside."

Are you guys signing CB Jason Verrett?

KS: "We'd like to get out of here and find out."

It's been reported that you are.

KS: "A guy that believes."

You can't confirm that?

KS: "We can't because we're in here. We hope so, and we're working on it. We know he's in the building. But, as I can promise, some of the stuff I've seen the last few days, you can't believe everything that gets tweeted out right away."

How much do you anticipate these additions helping the secondary?

JL: "I know in my career I learned the tough way that in Tampa three Mississippi was a lot easier than the five Mississippi I grew to know in Denver. That's no disrespect to the guys that I played with in Denver. It's just we had something special. It makes everybody better. I think that's always been true in football, and that holds true today."

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is a linebackers coach at heart. He obviously covets speed. Have you interacted with him, and what kind of fit do you think you'll be with him?

KA: "I've really just been talking to [linebackers coach] DeMeco Ryans. I've just been talking to him. I'm just here to play. Wherever they put me, I'm going to work my hardest and do whatever I can to get wins under our belt."

What's your impression been of DeMeco so far?

KA: "He's great. He's a great player. I was watching him when he was at college in Alabama. It was great. It was great to learn from him. I can't wait to pick his mind, and he's going to help me a lot."

Kyle, do you know who's going to win the green dot next year on defense?

KS: "I don't know yet."

What will determine that?

KS: "Probably how they both feel, getting to know them more. Not that it's that big of a deal because it's the exact same position, just one talks more and calls the play, which is really long, cover three. No big deal."

Does RB Tevin Coleman signing reflect anything with where RB Jerick McKinnon is?

KS: "No, not at all. We were very fortunate to have a chance to get Tevin. Didn't really think that at all that would be a possibility of going through. It ended up working out, and I remember going into this I've never had where I'd say at least four backs right now who played at a high level last year. But, I don't consider it a problem. I consider it a very good thing. There's a lot of guys we have confidence in and a lot of guys with some different skill sets too that we can use differently."

Can you have four backs in uniform on game day?

KS: "I haven't before. But, you can do anything you want. But, you've got to make sense of it all. I think we're in a situation right now, just looking at our roster, that I think it could make a lot of sense this year."

Kwon, do you know him? You played against Coleman a lot. Do you have kind of a scouting report on him?

KA: "Oh, I've got a scouting report on him. I had to play him twice a year, so, yeah, I know him. He's a great player. He's great, and he can catch the ball, run, and make great cuts. He's got great vision, very fast too. He's going to be a great addition to this team."

Does adding Coleman decrease the urgency to get McKinnon back in training camp? Is he maybe a PUP candidate?

KS: "I don't think so. You're not going to, when guys are coming off ACLs and stuff, you're not going to rush them back just because you need them, or you're going to lose them a lot longer. You've got to be patient regardless of the situation, not just having Tevin, but all the guys we played with last year makes us feel that we can be patient and be smart. Regardless, you don't have a choice. You always have to be patient and smart. The more guys you have, the easier it is."

For either Kwon or Dee, any guys on the current roster that you talked about before coming here like, hey, what are these guys like? Anyone that you guys talked to or consulted?

DF: "No, I didn't talk to anybody."

KA: "I knew a couple players here that had played here already. I just asked them, I asked those guys what they like about it, and they said it's a great place and everything's fun. Coaches are amazing. So, I had to ask everything because I'm trying to figure out everything, where I'm going. They gave me great information. I'm happy to be here, and very excited."

Who did you talk to?

KA: "I talked to [CB] Rashard Robinson. He's at the Jets now. And [WR] Louis Murphy, talked to those guys because Louis with me in Tampa Bay. So, I'm real close with him. He gave me some great information."

Just throwing it out for either one of you guys. Aniston, Alabama, isn't that the hometown of former NFL CB Eric Davis? Eric Davis, former defensive back for the 49ers?

DF: "That was before my time."

KS: "He was No. 25."

DF: "My fault. I don't know."

KA: "I don't know either."

DF: "I apologize."

Generation question then.

KA: "Yeah, generation."

Regarding Verrett, who you feel you might have on your team, do you view him outside or a slot corner?

JL: "The nice thing with Jason is he can do both. We'll see where that goes. I'm really excited to get out of here. As much fun as I'm having talking about these guys."

KS: "I would love to comment on that, but if it's not true, we're commenting on a guy who's not on our team, and I don't think we can do that yet."

It's also been reported you guys are bringing back S Antone Exum Jr.?

KS: "That would be great also. I hope so."

What went into the decision process to potentially bring him back along with DB Jimmie Ward rather than dip into the free agent market?

KS: "Well, I mean, they were free agents, so you do have to pay to bring them back. It's also that we know the guys. Exum did a heck of a job last year stepping in, playing in a position he hadn't played before. Really stepped it up. Had an opportunity because of injuries and got better each game. Jimmie Ward has played at an extremely high level throughout his career when he's been healthy. We all know he's struggled to stay healthy, which has been unfortunate for him. He played very hard. He's very talented. And that's why it's been very hard for him to go out there and get really what he deserves as a player. But, to have Jimmie back here with the talent he has and if he can stay healthy, and we're going to give him every chance to, we know we've got as good of a safety as we can get."

Where do things stand at punter? Do you guys need to have a punter that also handles kickoffs or is that just a luxury that you had the last few years?

KS: "It's a good luxury. I think it helps all kickers. You would always rather have that. So, if you can get that, it's a bonus. [K] Robbie [Gould] definitely can still kick off. He definitely tells me that a lot, that he can still do it. But, it's always nicer to take that off of him. So, we would always love to find that. If you don't, you don't. We've got a guy who can kick off and kick field goals."

Are you looking for a free agent at that position? Is the draft an option at that spot?

KS: "All of them are options. We will have a punter, though, when we start. Unless one of these guys can do it."

DF: "No, I can't do that."

Trade for a punter?

KS: "Everything is an option. I think those are the only three."

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