Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Transcripts: What Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Richard Hightower said ahead of 49ers-Packers

Sep 22, 2021 at 5:03 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower spoke with reporters before today's practice. The team is preparing for its Week 3 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Opening Comments:

"Injuries for today, [DL] Kevin Givens, ankle he's out. [RB JaMycal] Hasty out with ankle. [RB] Elijah Mitchell has a shoulder, will not practice. [DL Arik] Armstead adductor, won't practice. [CB Emmanuel] Moseley, knee, he'll be limited. [RB] Trey Sermon, concussion, limited. [DT Javon] Kinlaw, knee, limited."

Is there any additional specifics on Elijah Mitchell's shoulder, did that turn out to be a stinger or something worse?

"A little worse than a stinger. So, that's why he can't go today, but he's got a chance to Sunday."

CB Josh Norman's going to be full?

"Yeah, he's full go."

When you said Sermon is limited, does that mean he's progressing through?

"Yes. He's allowed to have a blue jersey on today. And I think just individual. But yeah, he's on a good path."

Obviously when you have all the injuries at the running back position, was any thought given to checking out, seeing what RB Frank Gore is doing and what are your thoughts on him at this stage of his career?

"I think I would never put anything past Frank. I know if you probably give him a little heads up and some notice he'll always be ready to work and help a team. I thought it was a little early for that. Our guys still have a chance of playing this week. So, we looked at it as an opportunity with not having 53 on our roster to try to steal someone off someone else's practice squad, which we did. And then try to add a practice squad guy, which we did with [RB] Chris [Thompson]. So, we've never fully ruled that out. I don't know exactly where he is right now, but I've got a number of people in here who have a relationship with him. If that time ever comes that we need to do that and he wants to do it then I would never rule it out."

With Givens and Hasty did you mean out for today or out for the game on Sunday?

"Oh no, they're out for the game on Sunday. They're going to be out for a while. Yeah, they'll probably go on IR soon."

What did you guys like about RB Jacques Patrick, the guy that you took off the Bengals practice squad?

"Just when you get in those situations and you don't have 53 on your roster, it's a cool opportunity for all the scouts and everybody upstairs who sit and study other rosters all day to look at practice squads and give us who they think to the best one is. And they give us a good choice of guys and we looked at all of them and then we all came to the conclusion that that was our top guy. And so, it was a good opportunity for us to get him."

He's a bigger bodied guy than you've had typically in here, is he able to do the outside stuff that the offense requires?

"Yeah, I think [RB] Raheem [Mostert] changed up a lot of stuff. So, when you have Raheem and his speed, which is different than everyone's, we get used to having that and you start to design stuff for that, which I don't think many people in the world can do. But we've never said we have to have guys who run 4.3s. It's really never been like that if you look at the history of some of our runners, it's just kind of morphed into that recently. But we just looked for who we thought the best runner would be and they come in all different shapes and sizes."

How does it alter that game plan with the uncertainty of who is actually going to be in the backfield on Sunday?

"It alters a lot because you have to make sure you give different options in every situation. Especially when there's a lot of unknown. There's a chance we might be only be down one compared to last week. There's a chance there might be a whole new group, which would be down to our sixth on the year. So, you have to plan for everything and that's what you do."

It seemed like in the past, whenever a player entered, and I'm talking years ago when it first came out, the concussion protocol, it was a given they were out at least the next game. Has anything changed or has it evolved that a player can possibly get back in after going in the protocol the following week?

"Yeah, the protocols, as long as I know, it was never automatic the next game and there's always been some type of protocol and I think they get better each year. But I've been in some where you barely can see the hit on tape and it takes a guy based off the protocols and what they go through, it takes a number of weeks. And I've seen some where like that's not going to be good and they're doing a lot better the next day. So, it's hard to predict and that's why I'm definitely not in charge of those protocols."

When it comes to a quarterback's quick release, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, has it. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has it, how does that especially benefit this style of offense?

"I think it benefits everybody regardless of the type of offense you're in, but when you can get rid of the ball fast and you can do it from stationary spots, in this league, there's rarely a pocket you can really step into throws. You're not in centerfield throwing a ball to home plate with someone trying to score, which you're getting a lot of momentum to do that. It'd be awesome if it was 7-on-7, but there's some big guys right in front of you. So, you have to sit there firm and when you do that you have to create your throws with the torque of your body. And the quicker you can do that, the better, and the more strength you can get out of it. And Aaron's been the best on the planet for a long time at it."

You've seen a lot of the Packers, the last couple seasons. What are you expecting out of them this year?

"Real tough game. They're a real good team. They've been one game away, two years in a row. I know their goal is as high as anyone's in this league, just like ours. They've got a lot of players who've been around for a while, a lot of good players, a great coaching staff. And that'll be a huge challenge."

WR Deebo Samuel is getting 37% of the passes that you've thrown going his way, which is one of the highest in the league. Does that bother you in anyway? Is that okay to have that throughout or can that be problematic when one guy is getting so many?

"Yeah, it is if you're throwing to him in the wrong situations. If you're throwing into double coverage and if you're going to him when he's not open, I think it's a huge problem. Every one of Deebo's runs he gets is a pass 2-inches away, so those help his stats. That helps him get a lot more targets too. He is our best screen-runner. So, he's going to get probably the majority of those, so I think that adds up. We don't coach guys just throw to people. We try to attack the defense and put our guys in different spots. And usually the coverage dictates that. And obviously he's one of our better players, so if the coverage is going to allow him to get open, we're going to try to have him number one, a lot.

What's dictated TE George Kittle getting maybe fewer looks in the passing game than we would normally expect?

"Nothing in particular. I think a couple opportunities, he wasn't there. A couple of times in the red zone that when he has been number one, there's been three guys on him. There was three in Detroit on one play, there was three in Philly. Which usually means someone gets uncovered, which I think happened on both of them. He's been unbelievable in the run game and he's done a good job in the pass when we've come to him but nothing in particular."

When you called Packers head coach Matt LaFleur about seeing if Aaron Rodgers was available, did you feel totally confident about that? Did you feel a little sheepish like, 'oh geez, he's going to laugh at me'?

"Yeah, I thought it'd be a quick no. Which was exactly what I thought it would be. But you hear enough stuff and I think everyone knew what was going on at that time that it didn't seem like it was worth the call, but I know how we would've felt if it was going to happen and we didn't call. So, you call, you get a quick answer which what was what you're expecting and then you move on."

What was your initial offer going to be for Aaron Rodgers?

"You. That's what I mean, we weren't going to sit and go through all that if we didn't know it was a possibility and just the thought of it, we didn't see how that would happen. So, we made sure of it and quickly realized that, well, our hunch was right, so we didn't have to discuss it too long."

What's the biggest key to getting Aaron Rodgers out of rhythm and flow?

"He's tough to do it. You can't give him the freebies. You can't give him some easy completions. You have to always watch the big plays. You'd love to keep him in the pocket. But even at his age, he's still got the skill set to get out of there and just with the flick of the wrist he can cover about the whole field. So, you try your hardest to do it and he's been making people look bad for a long time. But yeah, if you let him get comfortable at all, I think everyone knows what that result is."

You have played the Packers a lot recently, it almost seems like a division opponent at this point. Does it feel that way and maybe how does that familiarity work either to your advantage or disadvantage?

"Yeah, I think when you face a team twice in the playoffs, that's always random, but they've been on our schedule the other two times. So, I feel like it's almost been every year. I think every year but the first year. Lambeau is a fun place to play. I'm glad that we haven't had to go there in a while. So, I'm glad with that, but it's always a fun challenge when you go against one of the best quarterbacks to play and one of the best traditions. I know that Packers and 49ers go back a longways. So, I think it's really cool for the league and for our fans and their fans, when both teams are playing at high-level.

You often talk about how many yards a running back gains when a play is blocked for a certain, how has Elijah Mitchell done in that regard?

"I think he's done a real good job. He lowers his head and doesn't mess around. That's why he's been so efficient for us. There wasn't a ton of room there last week vs. Philly. But he got every inch they gave him and you could see him lower his head, find the crease, even when there was a small crease and he usually finishes going forward."

There were a few throws that you talked about, the one to Deebo that could've been intercepted and a few to the boundary that were missed. How important is it to correct those going forward?

"It's important every week, but there's always going to be a few throws off. I know we were off on two screens and the one to [Mohamed] Sanu [Sr.] and then the one to Deebo, but it's always important. You want to be perfect but I'm still waiting for a day where someone is though."

There's been a growing sort of feeling recently that early in the season sort of feels like an extension of the preseason in terms of the way coaches approach game planning and just getting starters playing time. I know all these games matter, of course, in the schedule, but does the fact there's 17 games and maybe starters are playing less in the preseason make the football look a little bit different in September than it might in November and December?

"Yeah, if you don't go through the right offseason, it's definitely going to look different. That's why I thought the NFL was as sloppy as it's ever been last year. But I don't know that trend. The NFL is too important. The 1st game of the year is the same as the 17th game. I know we've added one more, but this isn't a league where you start thinking when to try your hardest and when not to. You're going to learn a very very hard lesson in this league. But I also think when you go through camp and if you do have an injury in camp, it's hard to be ready for Week 1 and you want to get your best players out there Week 1, but not everybody is always ready. And that happens later in the year too when guys are banged up and they have to miss or they're limited that week. So, I don't see it as any different, but the more you work, the more you practice, the better it usually is. But sometimes that takes some people longer than others."

You referenced coming off two-game road trips, and then your team looking, maybe, flat or tired in the game when you came home after those trips. With that in mind, is there adjustments this week in practice?

"Yeah, we talked about it, which I think is the most important thing, being aware of it because I don't think we did realize that in the first year. I don't really chalk it up to that, but after having that feeling three years in a row of it, I do think that there is something to be said on it. So, you talk about it so guys are aware. Trying to focus on getting a lot more sleep, things like that. I cut the schedule in half on Monday. Didn't come up here as long, and today we'll go a lot lighter at practice. But besides that, it'll all be the same."

Does playing on Sunday night kind of help the intensity, like you said to avoid that?
Yeah. I always like the guys sleeping in a little bit. Especially myself too. So, when you know you have a night game, even on the West Coast, it's five something, so it doesn't seem as late as the East Coast, but I think it always helps the guys. And the more rowdy the fans are the better and usually the longer they have to do that and play corn hole and tailgate, usually the better for us."

Your last home game, other than the preseason, of course, was against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Does that add a little bit of extra fire, do you think it's a little extra special this week?

"I think so, obviously the result of the game was memorable. Especially in the championship game, but just the feeling and the energy of the stadium was one of my favorite moments in sports. And when that's the last time you felt that anywhere and it goes back to almost two years ago, it's crazy how long it's been. So, I know the guys are really pumped and really pumped to have the fans out there. And just watching tape and you mix in the last games that you played that team previously. Going back and forth between two games and one game, it goes to the scoreboard and there's not one person in the stands and the next clip, the stands are packed and it just shows the difference between 2019 and 2020. And I'm very glad 2021 we're going to have people in there."

I'm not expecting some big announcement after one game, but Josh Norman is a 33-year old cornerback. There were questions about what he has left. Through your assessment, does it look like has a little juice left?

"Yeah, I was real happy. I've been real happy with Josh since he's been here. I played against him in his career, so I've had a ton of respect for him. He's been really good in practice. I know he had those two PIs in the game, but it wasn't because he was just getting killed. He was playing competitive. He wasn't scared to get beat. Trying to defend the go-route and trying to jump stuff underneath. So, I was happy with this play. Obviously, we want to eliminate those two penalties, but you can tell that he still looked like Josh Norman to me."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

How did you guys feel in the special teams meeting room after a game like you guys had on Sunday?

"Obviously there are always things that you can correct. The guys did a heck of a job in that ball game, and I think they know that, but there's always things that we can correct. And those are the things that we're focused on getting better this week for Sunday Night Football versus Green Bay. But again, don't want to take anything away from the guys. The guys played their tails off and they're fired up, but they also realize that we're just getting started and it's just a stepping stone and that we need to, it's a long season, so we need to make sure that we go out and try to help the team win this week."

This may be a little bit obvious question, but when a guy like P Mitch Wishnowsky wins Special Teams Player of the Week, do you view that just as much as a kind of a compliment to the job everybody did not just the punter himself?

"Oh, for sure. I told those guys today, obviously coach had a team meeting and he obviously congratulated Mitch on that. And we told the guys in the room along with coach, 'Hey, it's a team award.' And all the punt team is fired up for him on that. The gunners did a wonderful job going down there and beating their blocks, shooting their guns, basically downing balls. The protection did a nice job giving Mitch time to punt the ball so that he could drop us some good punts in there and flip the field for us and help our defense. So that was a really, really, it was a really good performance by the punt team. But still, when you look at the tape there are things we still need to clean up and that we want to clean up and want to get better for this week for the team."

Is that kind of a unique thing where you guys claim a guy off waivers and three days later he's playing? When you get a running back like RB Trenton Cannon, were you involved in like knowing exactly how you could use him on game day with very little preparation?

"Sure. We watched tape on Trenton with the personnel department. He's always a guy that the personnel department has had an eye on along with R&D and [manager of football research and development] Demitrius [Washington] and their crew. They do a nice job with that stuff. We watch tape with [general manager] John [Lynch] and [assistant general manager Adam Peters] A.P. and Trenton deserves a lot of credit because he came down here on short notice and he spent a lot of time with us getting prepped in those two days. I spent time with him, but he spent more time with [assistant special teams] coach [Matthew] Harper who did a heck of a job getting him ready because he helps with the outside guys and coaches the outside guys. So, Trenton did a great job. Didn't, I don't think he slept the night before. Practice on Thursday and he went out there and he performed and then he got to the game and he performed. So, he did a great job and we're happy to have him. And we're hoping that that carries forward."

Who got grass goon this week?

"How do you know about a grass goon? Yeah. Yeah. So we haven't announced that to the team yet. So I've got to keep it in until we announce it to the team. But you guys can see from how a couple of guys played, who's up in the running. I think you guys can guess who the guys are up in the running."

Can a kicker or a punter win grass goon or is it a coverage guy?

"Anyone can win that award. Anybody can win that award."

A guy who blocks a field goal?

"Anybody can win that award. The guys did a good job there. So we've got a number of candidates that could possibly win it. So we'll see."

On that blocked field goal with DT Javon Kinlaw, he got off the ground pretty well for a guy with a bad knee. Did you know that he had that in him?

"Yeah. Kinlaw always talks about his vertical and he did a really good job of getting up on that play. He timed it out perfect. It's a great individual effort by him. [DL] D.J. Jones did a nice job getting some push as well. And sometimes those things time up that way. And not to leave out, [LB Demetrius] Flannigan-Fowles did a heck of a job because as you guys know, if that ball is blocked behind the line of scrimmage, they can pick it up and they can advance it for a first down with the score being zero to three, there. Flanagan did a nice job and we had a lot of guys in pursuit, but Flanagan made that tackle. Flannigan-Fowles did to keep that guy behind the sticks and then the offense moved the ball 13, I think it was a 13-play drive and then Mitch punted it. And, Trent downed it at the three. And then the next play was the 91-yard pass, which I didn't think about myself. But Adam Peters brought it up to me, if Mitch doesn't get that ball and they don't down that ball at the three, then that becomes a touchdown. So that's how impactful that one play is from the blocked field goal all the way through. And then the defense has a great goal line stand there and then our offense gets it at the three and then they take a 97 and finished. And we finished with points. So it's just good complementary football. And we've got to keep doing that if we want to try to string together more wins. That's our goal, complementary football, offense, defense and special teams."

WR Trent Sherfield played six special teams snaps and a big role on four of those snaps on punter coverage. When his role became more prominent on offense in the summer, was there ever a discussion about him not being a gunner on punt coverage or was that always like no, he's going to be there?

"Yeah, that's a good question. It's kind of a feel thing. You know, you feel it out. He always works in the drill work. He does everything in the drill work and he wants to be a pro. He wants to do everything. That's kind of what, he's a man of his word. That's what he said on the phone before he came here. He said he wanted the opportunity to compete to play gunner. He wanted an opportunity to compete and play receiver and he's never wavered on that and he did play. Now, he didn't play a ton of plays, but the plays he played were super impactful. And I think he was in the play before that, that one he downed that ball and he was huffing and puffing. And to tell you what kind of man he is, I said, 'Trent, we need you to go and down his ball for us.' He's like, 'I got you coach. I got you. I got you.' And he went out there and he did it. So he did a great job. And again, the guys are just fired up about the tasks we've got next. We've got Green Bay coming in here Sunday night. It's not going to be easy. Those guys got good players. They've got two rookie returners who are really good. [Green Bay Packers RB] Kylin Hill was an All-SEC back. He was over all-purpose yards, over 1,500 yards. And he's a good player. So he's first team, All-SEC. [Green Bay Packers WR] Amari Rodgers is smart. He's a coach's kid. You can tell he's [Baltimore Ravens wide receivers coach] Tee Martin's son. He's smart. He makes really good plays, really good decisions with the football. They're coached really well by [Green Bay Packers special teams coach Maurice] coach Drayton. And obviously you guys know, we worked with [Green Bay Packers head coach Matt] LaFleur, so work with LaFleur for six or seven years, and he's going to have his team prepped and ready to go. So that's what we're really focused on. They've got [Green Bay Packers K] Mason Crosby, who is a hell of a kicker. A veteran kicker, just like we have in [K] Robbie [Gould]. And then they've got, they signed [Green Bay Packers P] Corey [Bojorquez], who's done a heck of a job too. So we're going to have our hands full and our work cut out for us. And we just can't wait to play these guys. So that's really where my focus is. But again, the guys did a great job last week, but they know that's over and every week is a challenge."

Is RB Trey Sermon getting more special teams work this week, just given the situation at running back?

"Yeah, he is. He always gets work. He works every week. Last week in the game, he did a really nice job on the kickoff coverage. You won't notice it because Cannon made the play at the 20, the tackle inside of 20 and a fourth quarter with 10 minutes left. But Trey Sermon had a heck of a button press on that play. Played real physical, shed his guy and got to the ball. So that was a positive play for him. And Trey is coming along, excited about Trey."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

When you go into a week, do you have a pretty good idea if it's going to be a game plan or a defense that you're facing, that's going to allow you to push the ball down the field or if you're going to have to do more underneath stuff?

"Yeah, you kind of have a good idea. But similar to this last week, you might have an idea going into it and they come out in something different than what you planned for, different than what you saw on tape. So, you always have to take that into account once the game starts, but that's where I think our coaches do a great job of in-game adjustments."

Do they explain it to you, 'Hey, this is what's going on.' Do you even need that explanation?

"Yeah, it's always nice to hear. Whenever [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] or [offensive coordinator Mike] McDaniel come up with new stuff in the schemes, they reiterate it to the coaches. They tell us, and it's a smooth transition."

It seemed like in the first week or so of training camp, you've had a really good rapport going with both WR Deebo Samuel and WR Brandon Aiyuk. Obviously that's continued steadily with Deebo into the season. Aiyuk, not so much. What does he have to do to get to that level? Is it about practice and sort of establishing rapport then?

"I mean, not so much, honestly, he does a great job in practice every day. He brings it, right attitude, right mindset. I think it's honestly just a matter of time. I know there's a lot of panic in the air, but if you were at practice every day consistently and you saw what he could do. It's really one of those things that, one week it's this guy's game, the next week it's another's. That's just kind of how the offense goes. But I think it's truly just a matter of time."

How far back you go into analyzing Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' quick release and how is that beneficial in this offense specifically?

"I've done it for a while now, since my New England days honestly. When I first came out in the draft, I was studying him pretty hard. He's one of my favorites just to watch and to go against. Whenever you can sneak a peek and just see what he's doing, dude's unbelievable. He can do some things with the ball that not many can. So, I think in this offense, it benefits you with the short passes that are kind of an extension of the run game. He does a really good job with those and he doesn't give the defense anything. He makes it difficult on you. He makes you cover the whole field with his arm and the arm angles he can throw with, it makes it challenging on guys."

Is that something you and [Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB] Tom [Brady] would at lunch time or whatever, watch him specifically?

"Yeah, whether it was lunchtime or just sitting at the lockers. I can remember times just talking about the little jump pass that he did. He was kind of the first one to do that. And we would try to break that down and 'like, how the hell is he doing?' this type of thing. And it was cool. It was just kind of quarterbacks being quarterbacks. Just the talent that he could do things with the ball, with his release angles, his feet, everything, it's impressive."

You talked about how Kyle and general manager John Lynch kept you updated with what was going on this offseason with QB Trey Lance and all that. Did you get a heads up that, 'Hey, we're thinking about seeing if Aaron Rogers is available'? If not, how did you find that out?

"No. I probably heard it through Twitter or something like that. I honestly didn't get any inkling of it or anything like that, but that's just kind of how the offseason goes. Teams are always trying to look for something new, something better and that's just kind of the nature of the beast, I guess."

Is there any kind of sense that you guys are going to play your first regular season home game here in a long time? Are the guys kind of excited about that?

"Hell yeah. Yeah, it's been awhile. The Packers were the last team actually with a crowd here. So, it's a kind of coming full circle now, but it will be exciting getting the faithful back in the stands. I can't wait to get all them screaming and everything like that. It's going to be a fun atmosphere."

What's your routine before the game? It's home and away. It seems like you always run to the opposite end of the field as your tunnel and get the crowd. Do you find a pocket of 49er fans for road games? For home games? Why is that a part of your routine?

"I don't know. I've kind of just always done that. I love the atmosphere. Like you said, even the road games, you'll find some red shirts in the crowd and they'll get fired up. I don't know. It's just the excitement before the game. You're rolling, the team is coming out of the tunnel. There's a lot of energy. You feel the crowd when you do things like that."

He's on the other side of the ball, but he's a captain with you. With DL Arik Armstead, a quiet guy, I would presume more of a leader by example type. But if you have an understanding of his community work, what does that tell you about him as a person and what have you experienced from him as a person in that respect?

"It shows a lot. Just with the time commitment that we have here is a lot. To go out of your way to do above and beyond that little, extra bit. It really shows who that person is. And Arik has been at the forefront of that since I got here. Always he talking about it in the locker room, doing things outside in the community. We've got a bunch of guys who do that and it shows the type of people you have in the building."

Obviously, Deebo has put up some good numbers in the past couple of weeks. You've played him since the beginning of his NFL career, how have you seen him progress over the last couple of seasons?

"Deebo has come a long way. He really has, he kind of started off as more of an athlete. Did some running stuff for us, some catching but his route running has come a long way. His leadership on the field, off the field, setting the tone for that receiver group. I think he's done a great job of that and it's translated to on field success."

In the NFC Championship Game, TE George Kittle famously came out with the shirt of you on it. Is there any shirt wars this year? Are we going to see anything like that coming up this season?

"I don't know. I got George back pretty good with that one. So, I think it'll be his turn to take the shot, but we'll see what happens. I don't know. He always seems to have something up his sleeve."

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