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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Emmanuel Sanders, and Joe Staley preview 49ers-Packers NFC Championship Game

Jan 15, 2020 at 2:18 PM--

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, defensive end Nick Bosa, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and tackle Joe Staley spoke with reporters before Wednesday's practice as the team prepares for its NFC Championship Game matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcripts provided by the 49ers Communications staff.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Some of your teammates, WR Emmanuel Sanders and CB Richard Sherman, have talked about how loose they feel the locker room is. Is that your take as well and how does that compare to the good Patriots teams that you were on in previous offseasons?

"Definitely, you feel it in there. It's definitely a loose atmosphere, but that's kind of how it's been all year. Guys are loose, but they are locked in at the same time. It's a unique combination. We have the guys that are able to do it."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan just said that hopefully everybody understands it's Wednesday and tomorrow will be Thursday. Is that the feeling that you're still getting in there?

"Yeah, I think guys are locked into the preparation with the game plan going in today, guys are locked in, they are focused up and we are in a good spot right now."

Having played a front like you did last week against Minnesota and you know the Packers front, as the quarterback, how good do you feel knowing your protections are all set and knowing that Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is going to dial up a lot of different stuff, personnel packages and things like that, but how good do you feel knowing those guys in front of you can open holes in the run game and protect you and maybe using what they did against Minnesota as a springboard for that?

"Those guys up front, I don't know if they don't get enough credit or what it is, but they have been steamrolling people in the run game. The pass game is extremely clean for the most part. It's those five guys up front and there's a lot of things that go into it, too, with the skill positions. But those guys up front, they have been battling all year and I really appreciate them for that."

Speaking of credit, do you care how much credit you get? Because it doesn't seem like you get a lot from the outside world?

"As long as we win, I'm pretty happy. So as long as we win."

I realize you're obviously focused on their defense, but as a fellow quarterback, when you watch Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers play, what makes you go, "Whoa?" What's impressive to another quarterback about the way he plays?

"There's a lot. Aaron, just the way he processes information quickly, the way he could scramble and make throws on the run, he really has a little bit of everything. Just watching his film, I love watching it to prepare and also to learn from him and see things that he does. It's just impressive. He does it at such a high level for such a long time now. You've got to tip your hat to him."

Do you remember the first time you saw him? He had been in the league, what, 14, 15 years, so you were much younger?

"My first live action was when I was with the Patriots and we played him in Green Bay. I remember him and [former Packers WR] Jordy [Nelson], they had a field day and were just teeing off. It was a hell of a game. He's an awesome guy, great competitor, so it will be a fun atmosphere."

Coming from a game against a pretty tough linebacker corps against the pass, you had an interception against them and now the Packers have a weakness in this particular spot against the pass. How does it change for FB Kyle Juszczyk, for TE George Kittle, for the upcoming game?

"It kind of depends what packages they are in. They have a ton of different personnel packages, a lot of coverages tied in with that. They do a good job of putting guys in different spots and they keep mixing it up, spin-the-dial type of mentality. It's just when we get our opportunities, when guys get their numbers called, they have to take advantage of it and I thought we did that the last time we played them. It'll be a different game this time, but we have to do the same."

At what point when you guys brought in DL Nick Bosa and DL Dee Ford, did you as the guy on the other side realize that group could be special?

"Man, it didn't take long. Maybe a couple days into training camp, maybe. OTAs, you can't really get a true feel for it without the pads, but once we got the pads on in training camp, it was very eye-opening. They made it difficult on us in training camp and it transferred over to the season thankfully."

Do you ever have moments that you're watching film of the other defense, but do you ever take time to watch your defensive line?

"Oh yeah. Yeah, I try to. Probably started about halfway through the year I started doing it. It's that complementary football I've always talked about in here, but when those guys are dominating how they are, it affects how we play on offense, and when we can run the ball and do that on defense, it makes it tough to beat us."

You had an unfortunate injury last year and now a year later the team is on the brink of a Super Bowl. Do you think that it was a springboard to have you miss a year of experience, a year of reps and Nick Bosa suddenly pop up on the screen?

"Things have a way of working out. I always told myself it was a blessing in disguise, the ACL and everything and yeah we got Bosa out of it. That's a pretty good trade-off I guess. Things have a way of working out I guess. This ride is crazy. You've just got to roll with the punches."

When you were in New England, even though you weren't playing, what are the kinds of things that helped you to what you're doing now? Obviously, your starting record is what it is, very successful and what are the things even though you weren't playing that manifested itself?

"I just tried to see things from afar. Obviously not being on the field, it's a little different, but just the preparation that goes into it, the atmosphere in the locker room, the atmosphere in the whole building, really. I felt it very similar to there, I feel it here, and it's just, not trying to compare the two teams, but it's just when you get into that playoff atmosphere and it's a NFC Championship Game, things get amped up and you have to do the same."

Kyle was just talking about how George will go up to him and request guys to go up against in the run game. How much does that aggression and his enthusiasm filter through the offense?

"It's so unique, for a guy of his caliber in the pass game and all the amazing things that he does, that he loves the run game just as much. The O-Line feeds off that, the running backs, everybody. It's contagious. It's fun to be around that."

In your years playing behind New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, what are some of the takeaways that you can get to prepare for this and have you talked to him about this game and maybe Super Bowl coming up and the preparation?

"I haven't personally talked to him, but just, you know, things that I took away from watching him go through it and everything, just the consistency that he had throughout the entire run, whatever it was, the first playoff game, the Super Bowl, he was very consistent between all of it and I think that just goes into your preparation throughout the week. If you are prepared going into the game then you're going to play like that."

In the offseason, you did some workouts to improve your mechanics, your footwork. The process has improved in some aspect because sometimes some issues due to footwork, how is that for you right now during the end of the season?

"How is my footwork? I'm pretty happy with where it's at. With this offense, a lot of things are tied into the timing of the quarterback and receiver, and I think I like the progression that I'm going in. I think there's still obviously room for improvement, but I think whenever you can trend in the right direction, that's what you want to do."

When you got nicked on that second series, were you concerned about the knee or ankle and how long did that pain take to wear off?

"It was a little bit of both. I didn't really know what it was because I didn't see the guy, was throwing it and felt it all in my left leg. It annoyed me for a little bit, but it didn't take long to go away."

Did you fear that it was the knee again?

"Thankfully I've got the brace on. DonJoy protecting me."

The way you guys dominated them last time, how do you guard against being overconfident coming into this game?

"I think the coaches do a great job of that. They put things into perspective for us and let us see the game from a different angle when we are watching the film. It's no different than any other week. We're coming out here Wednesday, ready to roll and preparing our ass off."

Are there any differences that you saw from the Week 12 matchup with them compared to now, and do you have to also adjust, like have it in the back of your head that you saw them the first time and there's going to be a lot of differences from what we've seen on tape just so they can throw us off?

"Yeah, you always take that into consideration and you don't want to overthink that stuff too much. Whenever we hit explosives on them and things like that, you always have to be aware of either in the game or at the beginning of the game if they are going to change their scheme, those are the in-game adjustments that I think Kyle and the whole coaching staff do great at."

What do you think of their pass rushers?

"They are long, explosive off the ball. They have some awkward movements to them I guess, but they make it work, and so the two of them together, it's a hell of a tandem."

The "It Feels Great, Baby" tee shirt is selling like hot cakes at the store. How do you feel about that whole thing?

"Feel great about it (Laughter). It's blowing up pretty quickly. So, I'm pretty happy about that."

DL Nick Bosa

How did it feel to get that-

"It feels good. Not much celebrating going on now, though. We have a game to prepare for."

Is there a different feel to this week as opposed to last week?

"No. I think it's pretty similar. Just extra energy all around. Just have to bring it."

When you had DL Dee Ford back on the field with you Saturday, what did that do for the defensive line and what did you notice, the Vikings blockers, how they changed their scheme up?

"They didn't change their scheme. Just having Dee is a mismatch for just about anybody, which opens up things for the other guys and everybody reaps the benefit."

Lined up next to each other, what are the advantages?

"Just speed. It makes the O-Line think. They usually know something's up and then we can catch them off guard with some other things. Then, obviously the other side of the line has to deal with [DL DeForest Buckner] Buck and [DL Arik] Armstead."

When you came to this team, you said it wasn't a 4-12 team. Obviously, QB Jimmy Garoppolo was hurt, but what made you say that about this team?

"Just being a football fan last year, knowing what kind of players they had on the roster. I didn't know to this extent how good the depth was and stuff like that, but I just knew that of the top teams picking, this was definitely the most playoff-ready team."

In what ways did your cousin Green Bay Packers WR Jake Kumerow influence you? I understand he worked out in Florida and lived with you for a while when preparing for the Draft. How did he shape your development?

"Not much. He's a great friend. We grew up together. He lived in Chicago. We would visit and just have really good times together. I wouldn't say he was a mentor to me or anything because I had my brother and my dad for that. But, he's just a really good friend, and cousin, obviously, family."

You and your brother Los Angeles Chargers DE Joey Bosa were very high draft picks and he wasn't. He had to scrap his way to his place in the league. What do you think about sort of that path?

"It's awesome. He actually, when I was in high school, was living down in South Florida training for the Combine, living with me and my mom while he trained. So, I got to see how hard he had to work to get to where he was, and how many tough years of being on the practice squad and stuff like that. He's earned everything he's got and I'm proud of him."

You said after that October win in L.A., that this was a championship defense. Did you feel it after that game specifically or did you know that beforehand?

"I mean, I'm not saying I know things in the future, but it just seemed like we were playing really good ball and that we had everybody we needed to be one of the best in the league."

Green Bay Packers T Bryan Bulaga left the game early hurt in that first game. When healthy, what does he bring?

"Just another really good tackle. Whenever you're a veteran, I feel like being a veteran at tackle is probably the most advantageous because just all the savvy little tricks they have. I mean, he's faced tons of good rushers over the years, just like their left tackle. It's going to be even more difficult with him on the field."

Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek after the game on Saturday, how has he kept sort of the message fresh for you guys week-in and week-out? Does he have a different message going into every game?

"Yeah, sometimes it's the same though, because sometimes the same thing needs to happen for us to win. It usually revolves around stopping the run, setting edges, stuff like that. Just being physical is probably his biggest message every week."

Niners have had such a great history in, forever. How much do you feel that history and how much do you feel this group, these coaches and general manager John Lynch, embrace the past and the history of this greatness?

"Yeah, I mean, just having guys around like [former 49ers WR] Jerry Rice just messing around before games with our receivers, that's not a normal thing. You just walk around the facility, you see the Super Bowls. You see the past players. After the game yesterday, I was having dinner at a restaurant here and just seeing a bunch of people that you would never expect to be a 49ers fan and they are just here because the brand is so global. It's really cool. It's really cool to be a part of."

One last question on Jake. You mentioned the time he lived with you and your mom in Florida. Any favorite memories from that time?

"We went fishing. We went fishing a lot. He's a big fisherman so we would go out on the dock and catch all different kinds of fish."

Talked about stuff do you in the run game, setting out the physicality. Looking at the Packers on film and preparing for this game, how difficult is it to stop some of the things they try to do in the run game or is it similar to Minnesota in the things that you worked, things that worked against the Vikings?

"It's definitely similar, but they have a lot of little wrinkles that they add in to try to get the edge. Their running back likes to bounce it outside. But the principles are the same. Play the same technique, same everything. Just have to be more physical."

Your teammates talk about how they feed off you as a defensive line, that everything trickles down. Is that something you guys are aware of and do you embrace the idea of setting the tone?

"Yeah, from the beginning of the year, we knew there was a lot invested in the room and if team wanted to go where we wanted to go, we had to be a part of it and obviously it's not all up to us because we've had bad games and everybody else has picked up the slack for us. We just need to finish this year out strong."

WR Emmanuel Sanders

Does this week give you a sense, it's ramping up here in terms of the hype and what's at stake?

"I don't feel it ramping up. It's crazy. Doesn't even- it just feels like another regular-season game. Like I said, I feel like even in the regular season it was like playoff football. It was so much pressure and us having to perform and trying to get the No. 1 seed that you just kind of get used to it, right. Every week's been a big week ever since I feel like the third game I've been here. So you just kind of get used to everybody saying, 'Oh, yeah, the pressure here; the pressure is that; it's a big game; we've got to have the biggest game if we want to do this and we want to do that.' I think it's a good thing, you know, to have that kind of environment instead of everybody say, 'Oh, it's a big game this week,' and everybody letting the pressure take control of it. Instead, you kind of just get used to the pressure, if that makes sense."

For some of the young guys, I'm sure nerves are a natural thing. Considering the stage guys are on, how do you help some of the younger, especially receivers, who haven't been in this kind of position before?

"I don't think they even know truthfully, I'm telling you, the locker room is just so loose. I feel like we have a great core of guys. Obviously, the young guys, you look at [WR] Kendrick Bourne last week and how he performed and how he was even acting how he made a catch, smiling, having a good time and then [WR] Deebo [Samuel] making plays. Those guys just being themselves. I've been enjoying being around them because they don't even feel the pressure. They don't even know what's going on. They are just playing football and having fun and I think that, you know, sometimes when you get in this game at this level, you forget about the fun part of it. You take it way too serious, and like I said, I've been enjoying being around those guys because they definitely are at the core football, which is a game and they make it fun. So, we're going to continuously do that and have fun."

You played for some of the greatest organizations in the league and now you're here. What is it about being in this building, around these former players, these current players that, could lift a team that was 4-12 a year ago to this game?

"Yeah, I'm big on energy and positive energy and if you have the right nucleus of guys around, you know things are going to work out. You know, I was watching the quarterback from LSU, he was talking about the game, the quarterback from Clemson, he was talking about the game versus LSU. He was saying the best team is going to win. That usually happens most games. Sometimes you put it on certain players, but the best team, the best overall time is going to win. I feel like [general manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan], they did a great job of assembling and giving us depth because we have three running backs. I feel like we've got five receivers. We've got depth on this team and overall that makes us a better team and just like you said, just being in this organization and seeing it and being a part of it, it's special. When I think of this organization, I never forget touching down in Seattle and seeing all those fans out there, even though I've only been here for like, you know, five, six weeks, to be able to poke my chest out and feel like I'm part of something special, it was amazing. That's what we are trying to do. We are trying to continue that and hopefully go all the way to the Super Bowl and win that."

Levi's Stadium wasn't really known as a home-field advantage stadium in its initial years, but were you feeling a build of the home crowd and home-field advantage as this thing has moved on?

"Especially last week. Truthfully, I've been on the road versus New Orleans, versus Baltimore and I don't know, my mind is wired like I'm like that dog that if you throw a bone like I don't even think about nothing. My mind is on that. And so, when I go in the stadium sometimes, I don't hear the crowd or anything, and everybody else is talking about it because I can just lock it in. I don't know if that's experience or not but I'm sure the opponent, they hear the crowd because they are loud, I love the music in the stadium definitely plays a factor, and I feel like they gave us energy, as well."

What do you remember about your first Championship Game you played in?

"My first title game was in 2013. I was a rookie. We were playing against the Jets, [former QB] Mark Sanchez and we got up on them pretty good and I remember second half just watching the clock, just running the ball, let's go to the Super Bowl. How I handled that, I came in with [former Steelers WR] Antonio Brown and we were the young guys. We were the rookies. We had guys like [former Steelers WR] Antwaan Randle El and [former Steelers WR] Hines Ward to tell us. I remember once the playoffs started, Hines was like, 'All the extracurricular actives you guys are doing, get rid of those, get rid of the extracurricular and let's hone in on trying to do something special now,' and we were able to do that. That's why I kind of tell young guys as well let's lock in for two or three weeks and at the end hopefully we'll be saying we're the world champs and the off-season is yours. They will be calling you "Champ" all the way up until next season."

Can you talk about QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the fact that outside he doesn't seem to get a lot of credit even though all he does is win?

"I think from that standpoint, I think from a team perspective, we have so many great pieces. When you talk about the defensive line, when you talk about the secondary, when you talk about the linebackers, we got depth. When you talk about the running game that we have, when you talk about the passing game, it's hard to target one player and say, 'Oh, he is the reason why they are winning," and I think that that's the reason why they don't give Jimmy all the credit because they are saying, 'Oh, he's not the absolute reason why they are winning.' We have so many different ways that we can win, but at the end of the day, where they can't say that he isn't, is because he's won, he's a winner. The games that we weren't running the ball where we had 34 yards, you'll see Jimmy go out and throw five touchdown passes and 400 yards. So, I love that, that aspect that we can run the ball and pass the ball. So that's kind of why he's not getting that credit, but he is a baller and I'm happy he's my quarterback for sure."

How important is team chemistry?

"It's very important. Last week Kyle, he pretty much gave a speech to the team and sometimes in this league, you come to work and you clock in, you clock out, and truthfully, I enjoy being around these guys. The speech that Kyle gave was that there's so much love between this team and how much we care about each other and I looked around, I looked at Deebo, I looked at KB, I looked at the receiver corps; I said, 'Man, I genuinely do love these guys.' It's a great group of guys to go to work with every day; a fun group of guys to go to work with. I feel like when you have that kind of chemistry, and it's all throughout this team and all throughout this organization, I feel like when you have that, the sky is the limit. We're not in this position- it's not a coincidence, you know. We worked our butt off on the field and off the field and I feel like we are deserving of this moment and we got to take advantage of it."

T Joe Staley

You've seen 4-12, and now you see those helmets and that trophy. How does this happen in such a short period of time?

"I think it's the vision of [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [general manager] John [Lynch] and what they have done here, building this roster. It's a completely new roster from when they first got here. Just having patience and seeing it all the way through, all the guys they brought in through free agency and the draft, guys they held on and believed in, and everybody just executing their vision. A lot of hard work and we're excited to be at this point right now."

What about the culture? How much is that a part?

"It's a huge part. I think we talk about a lot of times, kind of as a cliché in the NFL, is it's a family. This is a really, really close locker room. It really is special. I've been a part of- my 13th NFL team, and every year is different and this one is really special as far as the camaraderie in the locker room. Guys are showing up to play every single week, coming to work every single day and looking to get better. It's a special bunch."

Following up on that, I'm sure you remember the reports of dysfunction between Kyle and John. 13-3 doesn't say that now.

"I don't think anybody was actually thinking there was any dysfunction. It was probably just a story line at the time. Because I think people want to create that narrative but we never saw any of that. I think it was addressed on by them and there was never any of that here."

What's the most impactful way that Kyle has influenced that culture you were just talking about?

"I think it's just the way he is. He keeps it loose. He relates really well to the players. He's a younger coach, but just also his knowledge and understanding of the game of football. He's a figurehead, he's obviously the head coach of the football team and the work and preparation that he puts in, you know, it gets other guys want to do the same thing. If a head coach is putting in all those hours, all that work into being the best he can be, that's what we have to do as players. So just his natural leadership style, the way he communicates from the day he's gotten here till now has been very consistent and he's been the same."

He's talked often about how when he was a ball boy, all that stuff back in the day and a big Niners fan. Do you get the feeling it means more to him to not only be winning but doing it in this particular organization?

"I'm not sure. Maybe. You'd have to ask him about that. But what I do know about him is he eats, breathes, sleeps football. He's football obsessed. He's been football obsessed since he was born. That's just the kind of person he is. We see that every single day and it's cool that he's getting that."

This is obviously your fourth NFC Championship Game you'll be playing in. What do you tell the younger guys how to handle this moment?

"It's the same exact statement and stuff I said last week. You know, the playoffs might seem like it's a bigger deal and there's more eyes on you and a lot of this stuff creates maybe some anxiety in the younger players that haven't been there but it's the same exact game. It's the same exact thing. We're a special team and we just go out there and execute the game plan and have a great week of practice and all that other stuff we'll handle."

How has DL Nick Bosa's game evolved over the year?

"Yeah, kind of addressed that a lot this year. It was pretty immediate. It was probably the first or second day on the practice field, honestly, in training camp. Typically, there's some kind of, I don't know if it's evolution or whatever, but getting used to the NFL style of play and realizing that you can't just win with athleticism and understanding blocking schemes and hand usage and all the different nuances that go into rushing a passer in the NFL. He had that down. It was pretty evident that he was much further along than a typical rookie coming into the NFL and I kind of had the quote that I said last week was that it was kind of shocking about how silly he was able to make a lot of talented tackles look early, myself included. But now it's just who he is, and it's what we expect now."

When you think about it, you guys unintentionally traded a year of experience and reps of QB Jimmy Garoppolo for Nick Bosa, what kind of trade did that turnout to be for the 49ers?

"It turned out well, because we have him and he's a dynamic player and playmaker in the NFL. We're in this situation right now with one game left to play for a chance to go compete for a Super Bowl. We're excited about where we are right now. Excited to get on the practice field, too."

You overlapped with Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur at Central Michigan. Do you have any memories of those two?

"Not really. It was a long time ago. That was, what, 2004, my sophomore year at Central Michigan. They were both offensive and defensive graduate assistants there. They were great guys and I kind of kept in contact with them throughout their journey in the NFL, but no, I don't have any little nuances or stories."

Can you tell us about Jimmy and what he has brought to the team off the field, maybe a story or two that says something about him off the field?

"He's just a great guy. Everything that you see is who he is. He doesn't do anything for the cameras. He doesn't do anything, he doesn't have a fake persona that he shows up. He's a down-to-earth, genuine human being, very close to his family. He's one of those guys that's an all-around good human being, good dude, and same style of Kyle, just kind of eats, breathes, sleeps football. The preparation, all that stuff, is off the charts and you can't- I could go on and on about him. He's just an incredible leader, incredible player for us and excited he's on our team."

For the fans' perspective, this is just a great rivalry, Packers and 49ers, but what's your sense of history of this great rivalry?

"We've had a lot of games and had some big games in the playoffs and whatnot. Seem to find each other all the time during the regular season, as well. A team that we are familiar with and we've had a lot of great battles with throughout the years, my playing career here. But you know, this is a completely new game and it's one game at a time. We are expecting their best and we are expecting to have a good, physical game on Sunday."

There was a stretch in that Vikings game where T Mike McGlinchey had a couple plays, he gave up a sack, had that false start that he may have wanted back. What does it say about him that he was able to quarantine those things and be so impactful after that and he was able to turn the page and get back to the way he normally plays?

"That's just life as an NFL player. No one really plays a 100 percent clean game. It's all about just taking the next play and I thought he did a great job of going to the sidelines, regrouping and came back out and played a terrific game."

You're the only first-round pick to throw a pass, catch a pass or you caught one last year?

"Oh, on accident."

What does that say about the offense, that you've had that kind of success without using the high draft picks on the skill guys?

"I think we have very, very talented players. Coming into the NFL, it doesn't matter where you're drafted. Time and time again, we've seen that. It's all about the work you do here. We have incredibly talented players, if you go back through the draft classes in history, a lot of these guys would be top picks. As far as where you're drafted and brought in here, it's not relevant. It's just about the work you do once you're in here and that's a credit to the front office and coaching staff for identifying the players that we can bring in and win with, regardless of where they are picked."


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