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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Transcripts: DeForest Buckner, George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Fred Warner preview 49ers-Vikings

Jan 8, 2020 at 4:36 PM--

Several San Francisco 49ers players spoke with reporters after Wednesday's practice as the team prepares for its NFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

DL DeForest Buckner

What has been the impact of having DL Dee Ford and LB Kwon Alexander back this week?

"Yeah, having their presence out there on the field, the energy. Obviously, Kwon always brings the energy. Having him on the field is a good feeling. Dee and [S] Jaquiski [Tartt], having them out there running around with the team, trying to get back in the flow of things is definitely encouraging."

How do they look to you?

"They look pretty good. I know they're all excited. Like I said, having their presence out there is really big, especially for the defense, the morale. Seeing them go through their drills, some of the periods, they look really good."

DL Nick Bosa talked yesterday about how Dee being back can help the interior guys in the pass-rush. How does he impact you?

"Having him out there with all of us really, really affects blocking schemes. It's just another really good pass-rusher out there they've got to pick and choose on how they want to double. Side of protection, too. Having him and Nick out there, even having Nick on the edge, they can't really slide one way or another, they have to pick and choose."

What kind of a challenge does Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and the Vikings run present for you guys?

"They're a really good run team, especially with Dalvin Cook back there. Coming into this game, throughout the year, obviously against the run, hasn't been our strong suit throughout the year. I know they're definitely going to challenge us in the run game early. Especially with Dalvin Cook back there, he's one of the best in the league. We've just got to do a really good job with shutting that down early."

The games where it seems like you struggled most with the run have come against teams with a quarterback that can run. Not the case this time. Is this more of a direct point of attack, man-to-man challenge than other run teams?

"Definitely. But, they also do a pretty good job with the play-action pass, boot game, getting [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk [Cousins] out of the pocket, maxing out protection trying not to get him hit. That's when he does his best, when he doesn't have any pressure. Like any other quarterback, but especially when Kirk doesn't have any pressure in his face or constantly under pressure, he does a really good job getting the ball downfield."

You've been with DL Arik Armstead a long time. What has allowed him to lift his game up?

"Yeah, just his work ethic, you know what I mean? Taking on the challenge of playing a new position obviously this year, playing a wide-nine. Using his size to his advantage, setting the edge especially in the run game. Also taking that next step pass-rushing-wise. Last year he was getting a lot of pressure, he missed a couple sacks. This year he finally finished. Seeing him in his overall game, the past couple of years in knowing him, it's just been great to see."

Does this week feel different?

"For me personally, feels like another week to be honest. You know what I mean? I try not to get too high or too low. You can see it around the building, everybody's pretty even-keeled. We all know what's at stake. Obviously our first playoff game for a majority of the team, you know what I mean? We're a really young team. Just being able to approach the week like any other, really focusing on the details. Really getting our bodies right off of that Bye has helped us a lot. Like we talked about earlier, hopefully we can get some other guys back, really get into this game, really get after the Vikings."

CB Richard Sherman has been through this thing so many times. Do you notice a difference in him this week or is he the same guy?

"He's the same guy. Sherm has been really doing a good job with emphasizing, making sure everybody knows the details. We've got to stay on the details because it's the little things that will get you beat, especially at this time of the year. He's a former Super Bowl champ. He's been really just reiterating all the little things we need to stay up on, really taking care of our bodies."

TE George Kittle

A lot of people are wondering how QB Jimmy Garoppolo is going to do in his first playoff start. What concerns should anyone have about that new experience for a guy like him?

"I don't know. I haven't played in a playoff game either. I'm not really worried. Jimmy has been doing it all year. Every primetime game he shows up, plays well. He's just going to do him and play really well. I just have that expectation of him. I have all the confidence in the world in him."

Figure out what the offense is doing based on alignments and splits and things like that. As an offensive player or just somebody in the locker room, does any of that rub off on the guys on your side of the ball in terms of preparation and things like that?

"Yes and no. I listen to [CB Richard] Sherman in the locker room. He talks to guys all the time. It could just be from walking from the locker room to the cafeteria. He's giving tips. 'Hey, we are going to have this in practice. You need to do this.' He talks the entire day. He does a great job of that. He's had the experience. We have guys with experience. Everyone that's done the playoffs, they've played in the big games, they definitely have shared their thoughts on it. At the same time, we've been playing good football all year. I think we're just going to go out there and do what we've been doing all year."

Has there ever been any point in the last two years where you ask him about specific defenses?

"I mean, I might ask him on man coverage and the route. If I have this type of route, how do I attack his leverage? He's been an open book on that, which has been incredibly helpful for me. If I need something, I always ask. I know he talks to wide receivers if they need stuff, too. I know he's had conversations with Jimmy. Yeah, Sherman is an open book. He wants to teach guys. That's what I love about him."

Does the week feel different? How important is it to keep things pretty status quo?

"I don't know, it feels like another week. If you lose, you're done, which is a weird feeling. We haven't had that one yet. I think the whole team has done a really good job of handling their business this week. We had two really good practices last week on the bye week. We've had good practices this whole week. Everyone is on top of their stuff, everyone has been in their books. We're just excited to play football on Saturday."

How has the addition of WR Emmanuel Sanders impacted the offense?

"Other than winning us three or four games by himself, him and Jimmy, pretty helpful. The greatest thing about him is he didn't have to learn anything. A guy like that, who has done it before, he was kind of in our offense with the [Denver] Broncos. He didn't have to learn anything. He just went out there and did it. The connection between him and Jimmy, it was instant. They didn't have to build a chemistry or anything like that. It's definitely been very helpful. I know Emmanuel is really excited to be here. Like I said, he's won us a couple games basically by himself. We're going to count on him going forward in these playoffs."

The Vikings defense, what have you seen of them?

"They have a lot of different coverages and stuff. I mean, they do a good job. They focus on tight ends. I mean, whatever [head] coach [Kyle] Shanahan has schemed up, I'm going to do that. It's been working for me so far this year, so I'm going to keep doing that."

Do you feel Shanahan is a counterbalance for what they throw at you?

"Like I said, it's worked all year. I think we've done pretty good at the tight end position this year in the whole room, whether it be [TE] Ross Dwelley, [TE Garrett] Celek or [TE] Levine [Toilolo]. I think we're going to keep attacking it like we have been, let the game take care of itself. There's going to be ups and downs. When I have my name called, I've just got to make the play."

Having LB Kwon Alexander and S Jaquiski Tartt and DL Dee Ford back in practice, what is the energy level like?

"It's awesome. Those guys, I mean, getting to watch the defense back at its full strength, when you have Quiski out there, linebackers, Dee and [DL Nick] Bosa on the edge, it's fun to watch honestly. Sometimes in practice, when the defense is off, the offense is off, you'll be talking about plays and stuff. This week, you kind of want to watch because it's fun to see them working together. They've definitely brought the tempo back, picked it up a little bit. Fun to get out there and see those guys play."

How do you feel your own personal skill set has developed or changed this season?

"This season? I mean, you get better with every game. If you just attack it each and every single play, you get better. You figure things out. Whether it's how to sit somewhere in a zone, man coverage, how to beat it with certain leverages, techniques like that. Game by game, my game, I think, has definitely gotten better. Every practice extra that I get, every game extra I get this post-season just helps me try to become a better player."

It's going to be the first playoff game for Levi's Stadium for a guy like you and Jimmy. Is it better to keep your emotions under control or dive in and live it out loud?

"I'm going to do what I've been doing for the last 16 games - 14. Sorry, I missed two. I'm just going to play football and have fun doing it. I feel like if you change things up, it's probably not for the best. Our team has been doing that. Nothing has really changed this whole week. Intensity has been up. I'm just going to go play football."

Is your Dad still writing those pregame letters and because this is your first playoff game, are you expecting something a little special?

"Yes, he does still write those. Yes, I definitely am expecting something a little bit extra. The last game versus Seattle, usually it's about four pages, it was a six pager. The more the better. I expect a short story this time."

What do you expect from the crowd?

"Levi's Stadium? I mean, they've been incredible all year, home or away games. All of our away games felt like home games. I just expect them to be incredible. Definitely we've got to give them something to cheer about, give them something to back. If we get rolling, I know Levi's Stadium is going to be right behind us."

Were you surprised that the Vikings were the team that you're going to face?

"It's the playoffs. Nothing really surprises me. The Patriots losing kind of surprised me just because it's [New England Patriots QB] Tom Brady. Never bet against Tom Brady. Other than that, no."

CB Richard Sherman

Having been through it so many times, when you look at a guy like QB Jimmy Garoppolo who never played a post-season game, what is that going to be like for him, knowing who he is?

"I don't think it's going to be any different. Field is the same size. Ball is the same size. He'll be fine."

What is different for you come playoff time? Does the intensity go up? How would you describe it?

"More people asking you questions about things that you already answered questions about. That's about it for us. At the end of the day, the game is the same. You go out there, you play hard, you execute. If you execute well enough, you win. If you don't, you go home."

Is it better to face a team you haven't faced before in the year at this point or not?

"It doesn't matter. You've got time to prepare for them. You're well-prepared either way. If you played them before, it's a little easier, lighter load on the coaches. Yeah, it's the same. You prepare, you get the looks, you go out there and have got to execute."

What kind of lift does it give you defensively to have DL Dee Ford, LB Kwon Alexander and S Jaquiski Tartt back this week?

"Three veteran players who were starters on this defense who make an impact. They all play at a high level. It will be great to have them back."

WR Emmanuel Sanders said yesterday guys like WR Deebo Samuel and WR Kendrick Bourne keep you guys young. How important is that this week?

"Those kids, this whole season, like I said, it's no different than any other week. It's going to be a great, great time. Those guys are going to go out there, have a good time, execute like they know how. But at the end of the day, we leave the storylines and the pageantry to the media and the fans. You go out there and execute, you win. You don't execute, you go home."

You know the impact of home-field advantage. What would you like to tell the people their impact will do on Saturday?

"Well, I mean, like I said, it's no different than the regular season. If they make noise when their offense is on the field, it can cause false starts, trouble with communication. That would be great. If not, sit back and enjoy the show."

There's a lot of talk right now about diversity in hiring in the NFL, maybe the lack thereof. At the same time, you guys have a staff member who is in a national TV ad. What do you think having offensive assistant Katie Sowers on the staff means for the team? What can be done for more diversity?

"I think it's great. She does a great job. She does a great job with our receivers, preparing them, making sure they're prepared week in and week out. Obviously along with [wide receivers coach] Wes [Welker] and [offensive quality control] Miles [Austin]. I think it's always going to be a challenge in this game, whether it's male or female, coaches of color, getting a head coaching gig. It's always going to be a conversation. Owners still look a certain way, they still come from a very old background. It's going to be this way until things change. No matter how much people say about it, no matter how much people say the Rooney Rule, you have to interview these guys, the coaches still look a certain way for the most part. Every now and then there will be coaches, owners that go out of the norm and hire some coaches. I think it's unfortunate because there's a lot of qualified, very qualified, coaches of color and female coaches that deserve a job, deserve to get the opportunity to be head coaches. I think sometimes in this game it gets into the cycle of just old school. It's just like the combine. The 40 and all that is obsolete, it's dumb. People are really fast and can't play football, but every year you sit there, 'Oh, my God, look at this guy, ran a 4.3.' You look it up, the pro team is full of guys who ran 4.4, 4.5, didn't go to the combine and kill it. Coaching is the same. You can be terrible as a head coach. Hey, no matter what, in a couple more years you're going to get another job, recycled back if you look a certain way. That's the unfortunate part. Obviously [defensive coordinator] Robert Selah is a person of color, got an interview. I think [former NFL coach] Lovie Smith, there's tons of coaches out there that deserve a head coaching job, [Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator] Bieniemy. Those guys aren't even getting a look. Those that are getting the look are getting it so they can check the Rooney Rule box off. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much you talk about it, because it is not changing. The people who could change it make billions and billions of dollars and they could care less."

Having worked with Saleh closely, do you think he is deserving of that head coaching job?

"I 100-percent believe he's deserving of a head coaching job. He's done a great job. He commands the room really well. He has a great way of relating to his players, holding them accountable. As I said before, at the end of the day it doesn't matter what I think. The people that make those decisions don't seem like they're hiring people of color very often."

What is the biggest challenge going up against Vikings offense?

"Being disciplined. They run the ball well. [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk [Cousins] is very efficient with what he does. He doesn't turn the ball over, doesn't make very many mistakes. Being on details just like they are, being locked in for 60 minutes."

CB Ahkello Witherspoon, CB Emmanuel Moseley, talk about those two.

"Say that again."

The decision to go from Ahkello to Moseley.

"Both of them have been practicing really well. Both of them have played well throughout the season. Obviously, I don't make those decisions, so you'd have to ask [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] or Saleh or [defensive backs/passing game coordinator] Joe [Woods], whoever makes those calls. Both of them have been preparing really well. Both of them are ready to go."

When you saw the game, Minnesota-New Orleans game, what do you think about the Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph play? Was it offensive pass interference?

"I don't feel a way either way. You play DB in this league, you learn to play with your hands behind your back, tied up, one leg. That's the way it is. Doesn't matter what I think about that play. They didn't call it. It's a touchdown game. If the DB would have grabbed his hand, he probably would have called defensive pass interference, gave him another chance. That's what the league wanted when they came up with these rules. That's what they're getting."

You mentioned Kirk's efficiency. What makes him as effective as he is?

"He throws the ball away when he needs to. He throws the ball to the ground. He throws the ball into a spot when he has somebody open. At times, when other quarterbacks would force it in there, he doesn't. He looks down the field. He checks everything. He checks every box, then he goes to his outlets when he needs to. He's not afraid to do that. He doesn't get impatient. He'll take checkdowns all game if that's what the defense gives him."

Emmanuel was in here talking about how Kendrick and Deebo Samuel, that youth is important for the ecosystem of the team. Do you believe the same thing?

"100-percent. 100-percent. They're too young to know any better. That's always good. When you're too young to know any better, the circumstances don't matter. You just get to play football one more time. That's what these guys are thinking. That's what you appreciate about youth. They get another opportunity to go out there and do their dances and do all their choreographed handshakes. As a team, you appreciate it."

LB Fred Warner

Seems like a couple of the games that you have given up the most rushing yards this year have been against teams that have a running quarterback. That isn't the case this time. Is this more of a point-of-attack challenge than other teams?

"Yeah, I mean, they run the football really well. Very effective at it. It's going to be a grimy game for sure. Both teams, I think even they know they want to run the ball. We know what they trying to do. It's going to be grimy. We're going to have to get after it."

How do you assess Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook?

"Dalvin? Very good back. He's had an outstanding season. Great contact balance. He's looking to get downhill right now. In open space, he's a cutback player. Elusive. Yeah, we're going to have to make sure we're on top of it with him."

Did you notice last week when he and New Orleans Saints LB Demario Davis collided a couple times in key shots, it was Cook that didn't move? Can you get anything from plays like that?

"Like I said, his contact balance is really good. He's not the biggest back, but he plays a lot bigger than he is. He's strong. You know it's going to take more than arm tackles or just one guy. It's going to be a group tackling him, making sure everybody gets to the ball."

What stands out to you about Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins on film?

"Yeah, I don't want to say game manager, because that has a negative connotation. He makes good decisions. He can launch the football. Doesn't turn the ball over. That's all great things to win football games, obviously. It all starts with the run. Once they get the running game going, the pass opens up. Obviously, they've been very efficient in play-action passes."

What are the biggest challenges for a linebacker dealing with a team that runs as much as they do?

"If they get the run going, you're having to bite up on the run. They can hit things behind you. I mean, seeing how the offensive line comes off the ball is key. Seeing how they come off and run, come off in play-action."

What has it been like to have LB Kwon Alexander back at practice?

"It's been legendary. No, it's been really great. Just a different swag, energy out there when he's on the field. It's great having him back out there. He looks great. Should be fun having him back out there this weekend."

What kind of impact do you expect him having on Saturday?

"Whenever he's in the game, I expect him to have a big impact. I think, obviously, his legs are fresh, he's ready to go. He's always talking about how he's going to get the ball before I am. We got that on the line. I am expecting him to have a pretty big impact for us."

What's the best thing anyone has told you about approaching your very first post-season game?

"Not making the situation bigger than it is. Yeah, there's going to be a lot of fans, it's going to be loud, a lot on the line. At the same time, trying to keep the same routine throughout the week. I'm not going to change something up from what I regularly do just because it's playoff time, you know? Just making sure that you're doing what you always do, but to the best of your ability. I think that's all you can ask of yourself."

You dealt with guys being in and out of the lineup on defense, especially the second half of the year. To get S Jaquiski Tartt, DL Dee Ford and Kwon back, what does that do for you guys as a unit?

"Yeah, I think it's kind of a confidence boost. I think it's been a while since we've had all those guys back on the field together. The more weapons we have, the more, I guess, powerful we're going to be on Saturday."

Was there any backstory, something that happened with LB Dre Greenlaw after the play he made in Seattle that you did to him after that enormous play?

"That we did for him or to him?"

Something you guys did.

"I'm sure in the moment, right after the hit, I didn't know what really was going on. I didn't know if the guy fumbled it or if we stopped him. After we saw the replay, everybody knew that we won the game, Dre obviously was the hero. He's the one that got us that first-round Bye. I'm looking to him to have a really good game come Saturday."

How key was it when you lose Kwon and have some defensive injuries that you have a young guy that can step in and help you bridge the gap?

"Yeah, I don't even think it gets talked about enough honestly. Dre coming in for Kwon, like you said, as a rookie, we've asked a lot of him throughout the weeks. Game plan's always changing. He's stayed steady. It's never perfect. It's never perfect for anybody. I think just how he's floating around to the ball, made the hits he's supposed to make, just been solid. That's props to my guy."

Some say the play you had with Seattle Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister wasn't defensive pass interference. Some said the other way around. Is it frustrating the lack of consistency with that specific play?

"Yeah, I think in that situation it probably could have gone either way honestly. I think the fact that he kind of made contact with me was the biggest deciding factor in that play. They tried to run the same play the play before. I think [Seattle Seahawks QB] Russ [Wilson] missed him because he kind of created that separation at first. The second time around, he tried to do it again. That's when I tried to keep a tighter coverage. I won the rep."

What kind of impact can the crowd have on Saturday?

"Huge. It's going to be really fun, a really electric atmosphere. We're going to show up big. Looking forward to it. It's going to be fun."

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