David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan talks O-line, Nick Mullens, Tarvarius Moore, Aldon Smith ahead of 49ers-Cowboys

Dec 18, 2020 at 2:42 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters after Friday's practice, as the team prepares to play the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"All right guys, injury report for today. [OL Hroniss] Grasu will be out. [CB Emmanuel] Moseley will be questionable. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] will be out. [LB] Fred [Warner] will be questionable and [CB] K'Waun [Williams] will be questionable. Go ahead."

To clarify a couple of guys, DL D.J. Jones and OL Daniel Brunskill are full go? Then in terms of TE George Kittle, are you guys just going to hold him out until maybe the Cardinals game next week?

"Yes. Yeah, he won't be going this week."

With the news that, I know you guys probably were expecting this, but that you're going to be there through the rest of the season, what are you doing right now to try to get families down there for Christmas and the protocols and all that kind of stuff?

"I mean, that didn't change anything. The day we were made to leave, we pretty much assumed that would happen. That's why we made the decision earlier. We weren't going to wait for something we knew was inevitable. So, we've been planning on getting our families down and I know not everyone can do it, but anyone who can get it, we're getting our families down. I know mine's coming tomorrow and they'll go through a testing service. So, as long as that goes well, I know I, personally, will be able to see them Sunday night. And, I think a lot of people are in the same boat."

What's your offensive line situation, specifically at right guard?

"I'm not going to say exactly, but I'm sure you won't have a hard time figuring it out. We've got five guys left who have played for us before, so we plan on using those five. We've got two other guys who I think they were able to dress last week and we signed two new guys off practice squad. So, we'll decide on which eight to get up. We've got two new guys in this week from practice squad and that'll be more about just quizzing them and stuff all the way up until Saturday night to see which one we have as our eighth emergency guy."

I think it was Week 12 of 2013 when Dallas Cowboys DE Aldon Smith faced your Washington team and had a very good performance against T Trent Williams. Do you remember anything in particular about that game and what were your memories of Aldon Smith back when he was in that two-or three-year prime as a pass rusher with the 49ers?

"I don't remember the exact plays with Aldon and Trent. I think I remember losing that game 31 to 3, I think. I remember it being a very good defense. I think I remember [former San Francisco 49ers S] Dashon Goldson, [former San Francisco 49ers S] Donte Whitner, I believe both at safety, which was a beast. I don't know if [former San Francisco 49ers DE] Justin [Smith] was there at the time, but I played Aldon and Justin when they were together. Those two together were as hard to go against as anyone. I don't know whether it was '13 or not. I can't remember, but it might've been '12, but I remember thinking [Justin] was the NFL MVP that year and then putting a freak like Aldon next to him is what made them very hard to deal with. I still see the talent with Aldon. I'm very happy for him that he's back in the league and that's about all I got."

Along the line of questioning with the offensive line, how was OL Justin Skule during training camp at right guard and what'd you make of his practice this week?

"From what I remember, and we move our guys around a lot in training camp, some to get through practices and some just to plan for situations like this. So, everywhere we've moved Skule, he's been able to figure it out and do a good job. I know that's the spot he hasn't had a lot of time at, probably just that week in training camp, but getting in some reps there this week. It was a walkthrough on Wednesday, full speed on Thursday and we had more of a walkthrough today, but the moment's not too big for him. He knows what to do and feel fortunate to have a guy who will hop in anywhere we ask him to go."

You said you were going to quiz those guys. Do you really quiz them and kind of put them through the ringer to test their knowledge, to see who you're comfortable with?

"No, I don't. It's not like a game show or anything. We've got two guys who just got here on, I think, it was Tuesday night and they're doing mainly scout team the whole time. So, you can sit there and evaluate who might be a little more talented than the other and stuff like that, but that's not the case. You want to know who can go in there and function if you get into that type of scenario. That's usually something I leave up to the O-Line coaches. Those guys spend all week with them. We've got three guys who are very involved with our O-Line and I get all three of their opinions. It's not just [offensive line coach] John [Benton] and [assistant offensive line coach] Chris's [Foerster], but even [assistant offensive line coach Zach] Yenser's because he works with them on the scout team. And who's got the best understanding of who could go in and line up and do better than one of our tight ends would have to do going in at that position."

QB Nick Mullens talked about his footwork maybe being something that he needs to work on. How much do you see the fundamentals, footwork, eyes on the field as part of what he needs to work on to be better?

"Probably the majority of it, but that's probably my answer for almost every quarterback. That's the biggest part of playing that position and if you just sit in there and run around and stuff, that's how we all used to play in pop warner when O-Linemen were usually the same size as the quarterback and you were just the athlete running around. When you're in a pocket and you've got to make decisions in the heat of battle, there's a rhythm to your game on making good decisions and having your feet under you, no matter what quarterback it is. You can watch some of these great ones who go through some good years and then have MVP years and things like that, and just watch how their feet are and timing in their best years. They're on. I think that's something Nick's done very well when he has played. I think he's gotten away from it a little bit, which happens when guys go through a little bit of adversity. It happens when you go through a pass rush like we had last week and that's what you always want to come back to. The fundamentals of playing the position. It's not like you can just sit there and say, 'Hey, let me throw it better.' How do I get in a position to throw it better and that usually starts from the ground up."

We didn't follow up on RB Raheem Mostert yet. Is he good to go?

"Yeah, he's good to go."

You guys are going to have to make a decision this offseason just at safety with S Jaquiski Tartt being an unrestricted free agent. DB Tarvarius Moore's filled in. What have you seen from him and do you think he's played well enough to determine whether there's a starter or not next year?

"I think Tarvarius has got a lot of playing time for us, not just this year. We started him at safety last year when Jimmie missed, I want to say like the first three games of the year, from what I remember. He got in as a rookie as a corner and I think at times, Tarvarius has played close to a type of Pro Bowl type level on special teams. So, Tarvarius, regardless, is someone we want on our team. A lot of guys have gotten opportunities this year as backups like our quarterbacks and stuff. They're always trying to prove they can be starters. None of them have fully done that, but Tarvarius has shown times where he can. He's got three more games here. I hope he continues to get better and that's stuff that always helps guys. You go into the offseason, you think of where your choices are to improve your team. I understand some are free agents and stuff, but I know I'm glad I have Tarvarius on our team. He always helps us on special teams. He's done some good things on defense and I still think he can continue to get better. If he does, he does have the ability to do that for us."

What's your messaging been to the team this week? I know you guys are still talking about trying to win out and make a post-season push, but just how do you approach the end of the season like this in the situation you guys are in, both being in Arizona and the playoff odds being what they are?

"Just the way we played since we've been out here. Kind of some different ways, but the ways we played versus Buffalo and the ways we played versus Washington last week were just, they were disappointing to me and our team. Especially coming off how I thought we played as a team versus the Rams. Thought we had a chance to really start going, getting better each week and after that Rams game, since we've come here, I think we've taken two steps back. So, I haven't really thought at all about playoffs. I haven't thought about three games. It's important to me that we play better. There's a certain standard that we expect. No matter what your excuses are, I know we can play better than we have these last two weeks and that's really all I've talked about. That's the one thing we can control and when you can focus on what you can control, I think it makes things a little bit easier. So, I'm trying to get guys to only focus on their job, do better than what we've done, because we can't afford to keep taking steps back. As things get harder, you've got to be focused to play better. I know our team's very excited to get out of here today in about an hour, get out of here for a couple of days. It's going to be nice to go to a different stadium. Just get a little different scenery, but I'm expecting us to play a lot better than we have and I'll be pretty disappointed if we don't."

I don't know how much you were grilled on your right guard roster management, but OL Tony Bergstrom has started 20 or so games in the NFL. Was he an option? And if so, was it just because Skule has played in your system and played for you this season, that he was the guy?

"It's more about just watching guys all this year. Bergstrom's done a lot of good things in his career and that's why we brought him here because he was available after a few injuries. He can help us at a number of positions, and I know it's getting closer for him to get there, but yeah, we're going to play the guys that have been out there for us and the guys that the other four are used to playing with. We'll see how it goes and we don't have a lot of room for adjustments, but Bergstrom's always one of those guys. Anytime a guy's played football and he's played at more positions than one, it gives you some options."

Their last home game, they had 30,000 fans there. Is that something that you've taken any steps to counterbalance this week with any work on silent count or do you think that that's not even an issue?

"I really don't know. So yeah, we did work on it here and there just because it hasn't been something that we've needed to even talk about this year, but once I realized that there could be 30,000, possibly more, I don't know what that sounds like. So, we're prepared for it. I'd be surprised if we had to do it, just with the size of the stadium and everything, but if need be, our guys did some on Thursday and saw no issues with it. So, I'd have no problem going to it right away. That'll be more up to the players than me. I don't know if they can hear out there, but if our tackles and stuff are struggling to hear the cadence and everything, I know those tackles will probably tell the quarterback right away that we need the silent."

You spoke earlier in the week about maybe one of the positives for the team this year with the injuries is kind of learning how they need to take care of themselves as professionals. I know that you had a talk with Kittle about that his first year. Do you see that from WR Brandon Aiyuk, a little bit more responsibility, and it also DT Javon Kinlaw as rookies kind of coming into the league?

"Yeah, I think those guys have a lot of good examples around here. I think those guys came in wanting to take care of their bodies and do the right things. Everyone's a product of their environment and college you're just not around people who really know how to do it. You've got guys who they can watch like Kittle, Fred Warner, [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice. Guys who just obsess over spending every minute right to prepare their body for Sunday so they can make 16 of them. Kittle broke some bones this year and he's got to deal with some stuff and that happens because it's a violent game, but it's about making sure your muscles are right and you give every possibility to be healthy on Sunday. Your career depends on it. Some young guys think they know that, but you've got to learn it the hard way. You've got to go through an NFL season and see that and that's why I've been excited about Brandon and Kinlaw because they do act more mature in that way. They kind of gravitate to the people who take care of their bodies right. I see them asking those guys a lot of questions and you talk a lot at the beginning of the year and they hear ya, but as you get tired and stuff and you want to go home a little bit earlier, sometimes going and doing the rehab and stuff like that for a couple of extra hours, or just laying on your back and trying to get things done, it gets a little redundant. Then once you get to this time of the year and you see how long it is, you're like, 'Oh my gosh, how can a body make it through this?' And you hope you learn that your rookie year so you come back to the second year and you know, all right, I can't just do what I've always done. I have to really do this 24 seven and I've got to do the offseason right because those are talented guys we're speaking of. When you're made of the right stuff and you have the ability, the only thing that sets back your career, your future, how you make a living, how you support your kids in the future, that comes to staying healthy and that's everything for those guys."

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