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-Seahawks

Sep 29, 2021 at 2:26 PM--


San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke with reporters before today's practice. The team is preparing to host the Seattle Seahawks this weekend. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan


Opening Comments:

"Alright guys injuries for practice today: [CB] Josh Norman, chest, won't practice, [CB] K'Waun [Williams], calf, no practice, [TE George] Kittle, calf, no practice. T Trent Williams having a maintenance day. [DL Nick] Bosa, maintenance day. [DT Javon] Kinlaw, knee, won't practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, shoulder. He'll be limited. And [C] Alex Mack vet day too."

How about DL Arik Armstead?

"Yeah, he's full go."

What's the severity of Kittle's calf injury?

"I mean, he should be alright this week. Just sorer today than we expected and we'll take it day-by-day now."

When you guys have so many players not practicing, do you kind of change things up or how does that impact preparation?

"I think we're alright because the 16 practice squad guys definitely helps. It would have been tough in the past. And we're not too overloaded at one position, so it shouldn't affect it today."

With Norman, do you expect him to play this week? Is that still up in the air?

"I have no idea with that. He's got to pass some tests throughout the week. I know he wants to, he seems a lot better today, but he's got to pass a number of tests to be able to."

You activated the IR windows for a couple of guys, but not WR Jalen Hurd. So, what's Hurd's status? What's the plan for him?

"He's just not there yet. The other two guys are ready to go. They'll practice today. And when they're ready, we'll get them up."

Recently both you and general manager John Lynch have said that you weren't going to close the door on Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Richard Sherman. Obviously, he signed today with the Buccaneers, but what made the three guys that you signed the past three weeks at that position, what made them better fits at this stage for where you guys are?

"I think it was more of the timing when we did it. At first, we weren't sure we were bringing them in, whether they were going to start, whether they're going to be a backup, or they're going to even dress knowing that they would have to help on special teams, things like that. We didn't think that was the time for Sherm with what he's been here, always been the starter. We weren't going to bring him in unless we knew exactly what his role was. And then this week, I think he just had a better opportunity at Tampa. Some of the injuries we have, we need an outside and inside guy. Still would've loved to have Sherm, but the situation at Tampa was a little bit better for him I think or what he decided. And I was glad we were able to get [CB] Buster [Skrine] in here too, who has played inside and outside throughout his career."

So, did you guys when Richard declared to go there to visit, were you guys in touch with him about possibly bringing him back?

"Yeah. John's been in touch with him a ton. I haven't talked to him for a couple of weeks. But it's the same as John talking to him and he was in touch with him the whole time, but that's why we were hoping he was going to be there for a while so when it made sense for both of us, we could do it. But we lost that opportunity because Tampa came through and it just wasn't the right timing for us."

Just to clarify. So, you have CB Emmanuel Moseley and Josh Norman, who I'm assuming if healthy, are your starters. Did you not envision Richard as a starter if he were to come in right now?

"I think he needs a couple of weeks to get ready, at least a week. And there's contract things that go into it also. You've got to plan out everything so, that's about as much as I'll say about it, but we would love to have Richard here. But it makes sense why he went to Tampa."

Is Buster in the same timeframe? Does he need a couple of weeks to get ready?

"He says he's ready. I think he needs more time to learn our defense, but we'll see how many decisions we can make at the end of this week based off everyone's health, but he hopped in there today, did good in walk through and we'll keep him going throughout the week."

Is George the type of player that he doesn't need to practice to play in a Sunday game?

"No, I don't think anyone's really like that. It helps everyone to practice but we're not giving George off just to get it off. George plays pretty physically, he gives everything he's got and sometimes he's got a little wear and tear on him that takes a little longer to get it back."

Practice time for a backup quarterback is typically scarce throughout the week. What are you looking for during the week from QB Trey Lance in order to make a determination about how much he plays on Sunday?

"Trey's our backup quarterback. This isn't the preseason. We're not just going back and forth all the time. Trey goes in for specific plays or things we want to do. Trey week in and week out he gets better each week the more reps he gets on scout team. But there's not a big decision going into that each week. We put in a gameplan for our starting quarterback, the backup needs to be able to do all of that if he gets hurt. And what's cool about Trey is because of his different skillset we always keep him alive with a couple of plays on situations."

Given the way the offense has started the last two weeks, was there any thought to inserting him earlier in the game to sort of get things going a little bit faster? Give the defense something different to look at to get the offense moving?

"If we thought that would be the case, we'd do it."

If the offense is out of rhythm early on is there a worry that taking the starting quarterback out of game for a couple of snaps would sort of continue the problem, exacerbate the situation?

"No, there's not a quarterback battle right now. We're going with our starting quarterback who I think is playing very well. I'm happy that he is so Trey is not thrown into any situations he has to do too early. If he ever is thrown into that, then I know Trey will deal with that and he'll get better as it goes, but we have a luxury where we don't have to do that yet to Trey or to our team. So, hopefully we won't have to."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo has been a lot more efficient second quarter onward. Have you been able to identify any common links as to his struggles efficiency-wise in the first quarter?

"Yeah, when the whole offense is struggling, usually the quarterback does and I think we have in the first half the last two games. And I think the whole offense did a lot better in the second half and usually the quarterback does when that happens."

What strides has WR Deebo Samuel made in year three in your eyes?

"I thought Deebo, as a rookie, he made a lot of strides halfway through the year. We threw him into the battle very early, even Week 1 versus Tampa. He had a lot to learn on the fly. But he got better throughout the year and was playing at a very-high level when we got to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. His second year was just injury-filled. So, he didn't get an offseason. So, when he came back, he wasn't totally ready to play football and he kept getting re-injured. So, the second year was almost like it didn't even happen. And this year, I think is what you were hoping to see the second year. He came in very prepared from what he learned his rookie year. He came in ready to go, was in much better football shape, much better on his routes. His stamina's better and I think that's why he started off better."

His skillset is kind of unique, in terms of his build and the way that you guys use him. You sometimes see defenses trying to take a receiver out of the mix. Is it harder to take him out of a mix than other people because of the ways you can get him the ball?

"Yeah, you can hand off the ball to a lot of receivers and they've got a chance on good looks, but Deebo is a real good running back too. So, even if it's not a good look he still has a chance to gain a yard or two. He's very natural at it and the way his body's built he can handle it pretty well. So, anytime I think guys can take pass eligibles out of the game fairly easily, if they want to. That's why it's good to always have another club in your bag where you can play a different position."

The last completion to Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams. Most people thought the ball was going to go to Adams. It wasn't that hard of a completion. Was that the coverage you wanted? Was there any sort of bust defensively there?

"Yeah, it was the coverage we wanted, two-man. It just wasn't the technique we wanted. Everyone should be inside technique, bumping, not allowing any end-break routes. And we didn't get that on the outside."

Are there any parallels to be drawn between, you had New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, first-year defensive coordinator back in 2017. Just how he, at least to the untrained eye, looked like he kind of went through a process of learning how to do his job and get better and learn from your mistakes and all that. Is that something that defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is going through as well?

"That's something we all go through. Even people who have been doing it for a while. You go through different stuff every week. Everything's adjusting and each Sunday is a new Sunday and the league evolves. So that's something everybody goes through. Comparing it to Saleh's start is just completely to me, apples to oranges. We had a totally different team then. It's not that Saleh just learned how to be a good coach and all of a sudden we did well. That took time, putting the team together. It took time working and developing all that stuff and I think we got there. I think we have a head start this year compared to where we did four years ago. We're a better team than when we started here. But that's the cliché thing, anytime the defense struggles with a first-time play caller. I know that's what everyone's going to say. People used to always say it about me, but yeah everyone learns with experience, but it's never just the absolute at all."

What have your conversations been like with DeMeco over the past couple of days, as far as you seeing what he's doing?

"Yeah, they're great. I love working with DeMeco. He's really smart. He's strong-minded. He's not a yes man at all. He's going to listen to you. He's going to tell you what he thinks and he's never going to stop working at it. So, I've been really impressed with DeMeco in these three weeks when it's been good and when it's been bad. How he's handled it during the games, how he's handled it after the games, I thought he made some real good calls on Sunday night. I wish we had got a better execution on that last call on the two-man coverage. But that goes back to what you do throughout the week. It's not all about calling the play. It's about executing the play and that has to do with coaching guys throughout the week."

What have you seen from the Seattle Seahawks these first three weeks?

"Very similar to how you usually see them. I know they're 1-2, which isn't what they're used to, and I know their defense's numbers aren't very good, but that won't be the case at the end of the year. They've got some really good players. They've got really good coaches. They fly around, they hit, they usually cause turnovers and they're a very good team. And looking at their offense, their new scheme is to me helping. It's given some other problems and newer problems. Their receivers are as good as it is in this league and they have one of the best quarterbacks to play in the last decade."

During training camp, you talked about using the two-quarterback system and you said that Trey Lance was too good to keep off the field. But through the first three games, it really hasn't played out that way. So why did you change your mind on that?

"I didn't change my mind. We have put him on the field. We do it in situations. You can go with whatever you want what I say in training camp and you can expand on that or not. But I think I was asked coming off the field of our third game if we'd see this in the regular season, I said, 'probably not.' So, I think a lot of words have been put in my mouth with some of that stuff or exaggerated pretty big. So, I pretty much keep it pretty real to everyone, but I don't just tell everyone the answer. I have no problem with you guys overdoing that and Detroit working on that extremely hard. But I've been pretty consistent with what I've said."

What was the purpose of bringing Lance and Garoppolo in and out in that final preseason game? I know you said you weren't going to use them that way, but it was just such a strange sight and I think it created an expectation with some fans and media members?

"Yeah. I mean, it was preseason, it was fun to do, but it has to do with the team we're playing the next week. It doesn't have to do with the reactions. It has to do with how people prepare for people."

On Lance's touchdown run, Mack had to get down along there to make a block. I assume, when he was a younger man, that was not a problem. He obviously got it done. How does he move at 35 as opposed to when you had him in Atlanta?

"I don't think he moves much different than when I had him in Atlanta. I think Mack would say in his first, probably four years of his career, he was all athlete and extremely fast and it's slowed down a little bit as he got into his second and third contracts. But he still played at such a high level when I was at Atlanta and I see the same guy now. So, I think he's doing a pretty good job."

Have you watched that play over and over again? Is that not a play you can run with Jimmy because it was blocked so well? I saw that defender kind of get close to Lance and I thought, 'was he fast enough to make that?' If it was Jimmy, just wondering?

"Yeah, you can run it with anybody. The faster you are, the more you can overcome, not great looks. If Mack didn't do a good job on that, it would have been tough for anyone. But definitely the bigger and faster they are, the better percentages you have for it to be a good play call."

After the loss to the Vikings, the Seahawks cornerbacks didn't seem like they were on the same page, but they do seem to get better as the year goes on. Last year they were kind of a disaster defensively early on and they actually improved. Do you see similarities between their early season struggles the last two years?

"Yeah, they went against some good receivers and then the quarterback was hot. He was throwing some good balls and whether they had blitzes or whether they played zone, he usually got that ball to the right spot which always causes some problems. But that's why they're not going to panic about their numbers. They're a good defense and I think everyone will see that as this year goes."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower


Can you walk us through the decision at the end of the game to kick out of the end zone rather than kick short and try to eat up clock?

"Yeah. At the end of the game, we have a lot of respect for [Green Bay Packers RB Kylin] Hill. He had a 41-yard, big return, explosive return the week before where he got those guys to like the 50-yard line or something like that, or somewhere it was half a field [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron [Rodgers] had to work with and they went down there and scored. So thought process on that is basically we've got a lot of respect for the guy and make them go longer than they have to there."

Is that a decision, like how much of a discussion is there about that?

"Yeah, that's a discussion we have during the week. So we have it way before we get to that actual play and you try to do as many of those scenarios and situations that you can when you come down to it. And at the end of the day, that kid has broken so many tackles and done such a good job. In our personal opinion, we didn't want to give him an opportunity to give our defense a short field there."

That's a week-to-week decision? There are situations theoretically where you would want to pop it up there and make the guy return it?

"There's weekly decisions on everything, game situations on everything in terms of where you kick the ball, in terms of how you receive the ball, in terms of when you rush a punt, when you don't rush a punt. All of that stuff is stuff we do throughout the week. And you try to plan for every scenario that you can plan for. But a lot of the times they don't come up and then sometimes they do. So you want to try to have all your ducks in a row as much as you can and try to put your best foot forward so that we can help the team in any situation that comes up. And our staff does a great job with that. Our players are locked in with that. They've done a great job with that. They were fired up in the meetings today and they're ready to get back after it. And we all are."

The RB Trenton Cannon kick return gave you a jumpstart when you really needed it that game. Other than his running, what else went into that return as far as why he was able to break it?

"Yeah, basically we had a couple of double teams on that return, specifically [WR] Trent Sherfield and [TE] Charlie Woerner did an outstanding job along with [DL] Samson [Ebukam] and [LB Demetrius] Flannigan-Fowles. They did a really good job on their double teams. On the backside of that, [CB Deommodore] D-Mo [Lenoir] did a heck of a job cutting off what we call the backside wall along with [LB] Marcell Harris and [S] Tavon Wilson. And then the two kick-out blocks on the backend with [TE] Ross Dwelley and [RB Kerryon Johnson] K.J. were really good there and he didn't get touched. So usually when you run through there and you don't get touched, you got some pretty good blocking. So the guys were fired up for Trent and the whole kickoff return team was really happy that we could help spark the team in that way. I mean, that's our job and that's what we want to do. We just want to help in any way we can and we were very happy that we had a chance to deliver on that play. A lot of great individual efforts there. Trenton gets the credit, but a lot of individual efforts there."

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles seems to log the most or close to the most special teams snaps per week. How has he done so far and has he sort of moved into that special teams stalwart role that some other guys have had in previous years?

"Yeah. I think Flann, Flann always logs a lot of plays. He made a heck of a play obviously in the week prior when he made that tackle on [DT] Javon's [Kinlaw] blocked field goal. So he's done a good job for us and he's continuing to grow like all our guys are. But been real happy with Flann's progress so far. And we're hoping that he makes more plays and does an even better job for us this week. We've got a tough challenge. Seattle's good. They're really good. We're excited about a division opponent coming in here to play. It's the first division game. The guys were excited in the meetings today. They've got fire in their eyes and are ready to go. But Seattle's really good on special teams. They've always been and it'll be a huge challenge for us."

How close did CB Dontae Johnson come to blocking the field goal at the end? Has he showed the ability to do that in the past?

"Yeah, as you guys know, he blocked one in '15 when I was here as an assistant, we were here with the Niners. He blocked one in '15 at the end of the game. He's shown the ability to do that. That's why we had him in that particular situation. He came extremely close to blocking that field goal. You've got to tip your hat to Green Bay. They were perfect with their operation and on their time. And there wasn't any room for error there, and they did a nice job there, but Dontae came extremely close and those guys on the field goal block team did a great job getting push. They gave us their best effort on that play. We just happened to come up short on it."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo


What's your process as far as putting the game Sunday night to bed, getting all you can out of that and then moving forward?

"Same as always. Attack it pretty hard. Monday after the game broke everything down saw the corrections we needed to make and on to Seattle. We've been into it for a little while now, ready to get out to practice and get back to it."

What did you think of your own performance from Sunday night?

"Pretty good. The turnovers, obviously got to eliminate those, but just the way we battled in the second half, gave ourselves a chance at the end. As an offense, you don't want to have to do that, you know, drive down at the end of the game and be in that situation. We would've liked to perform better in the first half, but there was a lot of positives to take out of that. So, there's good and bad that you take from it."

After the game you mentioned toeing the line and how you were managing the clock. When you went back and watched it, was there anything you would do differently in terms of clock management?

"In the heat of the battle, yeah let the play clock run for a little longer. I don't know how much of a difference that would make, but there was just some situational football that I think as a team we learned how we can do better. If [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice gets tackled at the one, I mean, it's a whole different story. There's a ton of that stuff. But as an offense you're trying to score. And so to do that in the final 30 seconds or so, that's what we were trying to do."

Were you aware that there were 12 seconds left on the play clock when you snapped it and were you not trying to shave seconds, were you not thinking that way at that point?

"Yeah, that's kind of what I was saying. Hindsight is 2020. Yeah, would've loved to run it down to one second, but you're toeing that line of you've got them on their heels. We were going with some tempo. I know exactly what you're saying. It's a tough line to play with, but yeah, I wish I would have let some time run off the clock, wish Juice would have gotten tackled at the one, but it is what it is. That's why we play the game."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said some of the reasons for the slow starts is just the entire offense isn't playing particularly well in the first quarters over the last two weeks. What can you do as a quarterback to, I don't know, put your guys in a better position or play better yourself?

"I think just, it really comes down to getting the play run the right way. I think just little details with it. Even if they show us something that we haven't really planned for as an offense, we still have to be able to execute it. So I think there's a million little things that we've got to do, coaches, players, but at the end of the day it's all of us working together."

As far as the run game goes, are the defenses giving you guys fronts and looks that are tough to run against at this point?

"Different, I would say. Yeah, you scout things, the coaches do a great job all week of that and the game comes and you've got to react to what they deal you. So it's a bit of just executing the tough looks that maybe we didn't plan for."

Were you expecting to possibly see Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Richard Sherman this week on the other side of the ball? Did you have any interaction with him, like maybe even try to get them to come back here?

"Not recently, no. Kind of been swamped with the season and everything. But yeah, I mean, there were rumors, you hear about all that stuff with the injuries and things. But, happy for him that he gets another opp out there in Tampa. I wish it would've been here, but it was what it is."

Speaking of getting off to a strong start in games, what's the conversation like with you and Kyle when you decide on your openers? I would imagine there's not a game you ever gone into where you think, oh, we're running some really crappy plays here at the beginning. How do you like through the process of a week kind of help Kyle construct how you're going to open a game?

"Well, he has his own process too, and you don't want to mess with that too much. He's had success with it in the past. So he kind of handles the openers. As far as us, it's more of just trying to anticipate what we're going to see. You do all this scouting and things like that, but once you get out there on Sunday, you might get the look you plan for, you might get something that you've never even talked about. And I think it's just the balance of that as players, we've got to be able to execute under whatever circumstances."

You've used different receivers and different running backs because of injuries and positions being a little bit in flux. With that in mind, how big has WR Deebo Samuel been for you guys in terms of consistency and when you have been able to move the ball and what have you seen in him in this year as opposed to the last two?

"Deebo has been huge. He really has. Pass game, run game, blocking he does a great job too. He doesn't even get noticed for it. He's come a long way in all those, but above all that, what I really noticed is just his leadership, how he sets the tone for that group. The receivers, really all the skill positions in general on our offense, he kind of gets everyone going. You need a guy like that, a tone setter. We've got a couple of other guys like that too, but Deebo has really embraced that role this year and I appreciate him for that."

One criticism of your game is that you maybe don't challenge defenses vertically or to the boundary as much as you possibly could. Do you think that's a fair criticism?

"No. I mean, I just go with the plan that's given. I think we've stretched them pretty well in some different aspects, but just whatever play's called I'll go out there and execute it."

You had a pediatric cancer patient out there the other day. How did you get involved in that and how did that start?

"It kind of started over this offseason actually. Me and my brothers, I've been wanting to do it for a couple of years now. Last year was tough with the COVID situation so I couldn't really do that, but I was really thrilled about it. We had our boy David come out, I got to know him pretty well, got to meet him before the pre-game and talked to him. It was a really cool opportunity. I love doing little things like that. Especially game day. You could tell you don't get to experience that every day as a kid. So whenever you get the chance to do that is pretty cool."



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