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Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

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What Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Richard Hightower said ahead of 49ers-Cardinals

Oct 6, 2021 at 2:32 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Arizona Cardinals this weekend. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke with reporters before today's practice. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Opening comments:

"Alright. Injuries for today: [CB] K'Waun [Williams], still the calf, will not practice. [QB] Jimmy Garoppolo, calf, will not practice. [T] Trent Williams, shoulder, not practicing. [TE George] Kittle, calf, not practicing. [DL] Samson Ebukam, hamstring, not practicing. [C] Alex Mack will have a vet day. [CB] Josh Norman, chest, is limited. [DT Javon] Kinlaw, knee, limited. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, shoulder, limited."

Any status that you considered in terms of, for sure what Jimmy might be for Sunday?

"Yeah, it's better today. Which is good news. Not enough though to let him go. But also, not enough to rule him out. The doctors still say give him another day, he's got a chance. So, I'm still holding out for that."

When you put in the gameplan, what's the challenge of putting in a gameplan when there's some indecision or some doubt on who's going to be the quarterback?

"It's always a challenge. A little different at quarterback, but we're used to that with the number of positions and still regardless of which way you go, there's a few different plays here and there, but the quarterback still has to do similar stuff regardless of who's in there."

With Jimmy is it a matter of, he was saying he was having trouble kind of pushing off of the leg and getting enough on the ball, is that the kind of thing that you're going to have to see from him?

"Yeah, definitely. We're just waiting for the swelling to go down, so he has a chance to do it and we could find out by him going out and practicing. It has gone down, which is a good sign, compared to how we felt Sunday night. But not enough to let him go out there today."

I think you said in the past that QB Trey Lance was getting 80-percent of the scout team work, has that been kind of consistent from Weeks 1-4 that he gets maybe 20-percent of the actual first-team reps?

"Yeah, I'd say that's a good estimate. Nothing has been different than any time we've had a starting quarterback and a backup here. We do comp periods versus our defense, which they split it. Everything else, usually the starting quarterback gets it. Second guy does everything on scout team. The times he's not, we let [QB] Nate [Sudfeld] get some reps and that allows us to work with Trey extra on the side."

George got, it was a very awkward hit that he took, an awkward fall. Was there anything that came out of that?

"No. I saw it, I think the whole stands saw it, every player on the field saw it. I think George for sure thought something happened, just like everyone did. And then about a second and a half later, he popped up and was good to go. It took me a couple plays and I was like, 'Is George still out there?' Because it looked pretty bad. I know it hurt, but that's not what's holding him back this week. It's the same stuff, so he was fortunate on that one."

Who's in charge of making adjustments in protection at the line of scrimmage?

"Like the whole offense? Are you talking about who calls stuff?"

What's the process of them making an adjustment? Like if somebody sees something?

"There's lots of ways to do it. We have side adjustments, we have centers, we have quarterbacks, we have double play calls. So, it's not a quick answer and I would never give the deep answer."

You talked about in Week 1 it was advantageous to not have the Detroit Lions know how much you would use Trey Lance. Might you not let the Arizona Cardinals know who might start at quarterback until Sunday?

"If Jimmy's ruled out, I'll rule him out. Once the doctors tell me there's absolutely no way, then I'll do that. Yeah, it's always advantageous when you don't know what quarterback you're planning for, but if there's no chance I'll do that."

How beneficial is it for Trey to get first-team snaps, to get all that practice time? How much does that help him?

"Oh, it's huge. It's huge for whoever goes in that week. You put in a new gameplan on Wednesday morning and they go out and practice it on Wednesday. And then Thursday, you put in a whole new thing for third down, short yardage, goal line and things like that. And they go out Thursday and do it. And Friday you try to review some stuff, but you put in a bunch of red zone stuff. So that's why, no matter what the position is, usually the guys you're expecting to play get all those reps. Because it's not just the same stuff, you're doing different numbers, different fronts, different coverages. So, to have a week, I think it was huge for him too having all that time where he could just go play quarterback and do some other cards, some other defenses and not really get tied down to learning what's in that day. Just playing football and getting better at that. These practices are more about learning what we do all morning, carrying it over to the field, correcting it at night, coming in the next morning with questions and how you build up through the week to where you get to Sunday night and you're confident and ready to go to play."

When it comes to getting on the field in a game, how do you stress to the quarterbacks just the ability to protect the football, especially when your defense isn't getting takeaways?

"It's huge. It's cliché, everyone knows, but the number one stat besides points is turnovers. And Arizona's playing great all-around football in all three phases, but their defense having nine turnovers is huge and that makes them tough to beat. And I understand us only have one is tough. Regardless, if you get a lot of turnovers, if you turn it over a bunch, it doesn't really matter. So, we have to make sure we better hold onto the ball and we definitely have to find a way to get some more turnovers."

I think you've indicated, obviously, you can do different stuff with Trey. He can add to the offense but you don't necessarily want to create this entirely different Trey Lance offense just because he can run. Where is he in his development as far as being able to kind of run the offense with his own spin on it?

"He's developing. That's what you'll see when you get out to gameday. You got him a chance, so you just throw him in the summer where you're always adding some different plays in for him that you have an option to do with him. But throughout the summer, him trying to get everything, I thought he got better as it went. Then when he went into the games, that'd be a new learning process and I think he would get better each week in those games. I thought when he got thrown into battle here, just running the offense and not really his specific plays, I thought he got more comfortable as the game went. Especially going home and watching the tape after the game, I thought there was a lot of encouraging stuff. So, guys that are rookies, second-year players, it doesn't matter the position, you're always developing. You're always trying to get better and he'll see some things out there that he's never seen before, but what you like about him and stuff that he might not be ready for he can overcompensate with some of his athletic ability and, to me, how competitive he is and how good of a football player he is."

I would assume that there is zero gray area when it comes to what you ask your quarterback to do as far as the defensive, play call, where the ball should go. How was he on Sunday when it came to just the black and white of where the ball should go and did it go there?

"He did a decent job, but I don't think there should be any offenses where you don't know where the ball is supposed to go. That sounds great. And it's pretty good if it's on air or if it's seven-on-seven, but there's pass rushes involved, there's blitzes, there's disguises, there's people that don't get open. So, you have to be able to see all that and understand if it's automatic, you should always hit the automatic plays. That means you have an offense that you know where the ball's supposed to go and what the play is for. How quickly do you recognize that it's defended? How quickly can you get to two? How quickly can you recognize it's not the right look? It might be the perfect look, but you can't hang on the three-technique and you have to break. Do you go to number two and get rid of it or do you try to scramble right away? Those are all things that are options. They're not options for everybody, but those are things that are options for Trey and that's the stuff he's working through."

So, I would assume also with Jimmy scramble or run is far, far down on the list of progressions. Do you bump that up with Trey and make it sometimes your second read or your third read?

"Yeah, but you never tell a guy, 'Hey, if number one's not open you just stop and you run.' If someone isn't capable of doing all that stuff, eventually you do tell someone something like that. But that's also pretty easy to stop too. There's a feel to that. Jimmy, it's not like he only runs when all five eligibles are covered. Sometimes he'll see a crease in the front and they're not holding the lanes too well in the pocket. And I think you guys see Jimmy a lot move the chains with his legs. So that's not the number one thing on his mind. I'm not trying to put in a lot of quarterback draws and things like that. But no matter what type of quarterback you are, you better be able to move the chains with your legs here and there."

As he's learning to execute the offense, what can his improvisational ability do for him and for the offense?

"Anytime you can have a guy who can create an off-schedule play and bide more time, that's great. When you can run around when people are playing soft zones, those only can hold up so long. But that starts turning into a little bit of backyard ball. And when you get into some of those situations, sometimes it's late in games, you're down a lot and you can create and make some big plays. But it's got to be that type of game. You don't want to force that type of game and that's stuff I think we'll get used to with Trey and he'll get used to with us."

What was his technique and footwork like in the Seahawks game? Did that kind of lapse a little bit with the excitement of the moment of him going in?

"For going in like that and that type of game and where we were at, I thought he did a lot better than he did in the preseason. He came in, I know he got off to a rough start with his first two passes, but he calmed down and played poised after that. Wasn't perfect, but you watch him, watch how he moved, how he attacked stuff, he wasn't locking up, he was playing football and still gave us a chance to win."

You talked about it a little with backyard football. Do you think there's a little bit of an adjustment for receivers just getting used to coming back to the ball when things break down?

"Yeah. You'd like to say that's how it always should be because you have off-schedule plays all the time. But anytime you have a guy who has a little different foot speed who's a little bit more of a runner, it can buy a little bit extra time. And that's things guys have to keep working on and defenses have to get used to that too. And we'll see how it plays out, but I think the obvious thing is you know that's more of an option now."

Can you practice the off-schedule plays in practice?

"Yeah, you do. That's why you tell them when no one's there or when someone misses the protection, what are you going to do in the game? You don't just sit there and get hit. Do you get rid of it because number two is wide open? Or do you make a move to break outside the pocket? And once you do, and the receivers aren't looking at you, they don't stop. There's no whistle that's being blown, so that's the stuff you keep working on. And you'd love to design some rules on scramble rules, but it's how did those five guys end up and where are they? And you've got to disperse the field."

How do the Cardinals look different to you this year?

"They've added a couple players, who I think have really helped. Having [Arizona Cardinals DE] J.J. [Watt] is a big deal, he's done a hell of a job just seeing him. I haven't seen him for a number of years and watching him here over this week, it's still J.J. Their safeties are great as always, especially getting the new player back who wasn't there last year, the corners are playing a lot better. Adding some guys, I think they got the rookie on one side and the guy from Washington on the other, who are both playing real high. And then on offense, they're just clicking on all cylinders. Which they did at the beginning of last year too. But they've got some playmakers, they've got a perfect scheme for all their playmakers and they're making it tough for teams."

Where has WR Deebo Samuel improved the most from his first two years to this year?

"I think I was saying this last week, but I almost couldn't count Deebo's second year. Deebo started coming on real strong halfway through his rookie year. His second year he broke his foot in the offseason. I think he came back like Week 4, pulled his hamstring real fast. Came back again, pulled it again. So his second year, he never got right. He was never in football shape because he was hurt all offseason. As soon as he tried to get in shape, he would get re-injured. So this year, he came in like I was hoping he'd come in his second year, which wasn't his fault. He was healthy this offseason. Came in to camp in great shape. Made it through all camp because of how good of shape he was in. And he's been able to handle the whole load without getting injured and keeping his stamina and power throughout games, which when he does, he's a lot to deal with."

How deep did you get into trade talks for Carolina Panthers CB Stephon Gilmore?

"We looked into all of it, but we obviously didn't go through with it."

First time going back to Arizona. Obviously, it might not feel like that long ago. What did you learn from that experience? Were there things that you, when you looked back that you took away that maybe made you a better coach or anything like that?

"I think it hardened us all a little bit. You go through a month of that and the situation, I don't think that time was fun for many people in the world. But yeah, that was a tough deal for us. And we'd like to say we persevered through it. We were able to come up with a big win versus Arizona there, I think the second to last week of the year. But you learn a lot about the guys through the good and the bad and how we were all really able to stay together. And you go through that and you get to the next year like we are now. And you go through some tough times, but you know, the more you go through hard experiences it hardens you and it can build you in a certain way. And I'd like to think that it made our team stronger."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Opening comments:

"Good afternoon. Excited to be here with you guys, excited about this week, this opportunity. Arizona has a hell of a special teams unit. We're excited to go against them."

What kind of a bind did it put you in on Sunday when you find out that K Robbie Gould can't go that close to the game?

"Those are things that are always, it's a tough situation to be in for any anyone, not me. And it's not about me. It's not about me being in a bind. It's always about team. It's always about we first. It's a tough situation to be in. It's a tough situation for Robbie. He wants to be there, and he's done a great job for us. But [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice was prepared to hold. He's done that before. He works on that all the time. He's a consummate pro. He did a nice job in the game. He did a great job as best as he could in the game. [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] did a good job with his attitude and his willingness to kick and still punt and kickoff. And I can't say enough good things about the way our guys handled that situation. Would we like the outcome to be a little bit different and make those? Sure. But the way they handled it, consummate pros. Wouldn't expect anything less from them and proud of the way they handled that situation."

With the touchback in the first half, it looked like and could have downed it inside the five and kept running. Was it not understanding the rule or was it--?

"No, I think that was just the ball just died on him so it was just a misjudgment of the football. He knows the rules. Trenton Cannon has done a hell of a job for us here. He's made several plays for us. I couldn't be more happy with the plays that Trenton has made since he's been here. He's been a spark for us. He's been a really good player. We've still got confidence in Trenton. He's got to get some things cleaned up. Obviously we've all got to get some things cleaned up. I'm not excluded from that. I am fired up to see Trenton Cannon play this week. I really am. He's a good kid. He will come ready to play. Everything I've seen from him, he looks like he's ready to play so far."

Can you give us the lowdown on the new kicker and what you expect from him?

"Yeah. [K] Joey [Slye] is a really good kicker, like Joey a lot. Joey was obviously a guy that came in at Carolina in 2019. He was a rookie when Mitch was a rookie. He's kicked in this stadium before. He's kicked about 80-percent. He won that job as a rookie. It's hard to do that, you know, especially when you're not drafted and he has a very strong leg. He had a really good workout yesterday. He had a really good workout. And he's been really good in the meetings. So we're looking for him to come in and fill in there for us and help us win this game against Arizona."

When you have the workouts, is it inside the stadium or do you go to the practice fields?

"We can have them either, or. That particular workout we had inside the stadium. So that was a good workout. Obviously you guys know [K Michael] Badgley was in here. [K] Brett Maher was in here and those guys did a nice job as well. But Joey ended up separating himself from the competition on that. And he earned it and we're looking forward to having him on our team and kicking this Sunday."

Can he handle kickoffs for you as well?

"I can't answer that question for you because of a competitive advantage, but you guys know he's kicked off in the past. He has the ability to kick off and Mitch has the ability to kick off. So we really had the same thing we have if Robbie was healthy. So we have two guys that can kick. So, sorry, I can't answer that directly for you, but he's in the mix to kick off just like Mitch is."

Let me ask it this way, did the fact that he can do kickoffs and has a big leg, did that factor into your decision?

"Everything that every guy that came in to work out, everything that they can do always factors in. That was not the deciding factor for any for any reason, but he can do that. That's something everybody knows across the league. He has a strength at that. And so does Mitch. So I think we're fortunate there to be in that situation this week, especially going against a dangerous kid like [Arizona Cardinals WR] Rondale Moore. That kid has stop and start ability. He is one of the, I think he's going to be one of the elite returners in this league. He's outstanding. I mean, he hasn't scored a touchdown yet, but he has a long punt return. And guys can see it on tape. We saw it in the meeting room today and we're very aware of his ability. He has cat-like quickness and he has some really good guys blocking for him as well. Arizona, like I said, their special teams, they're loaded with talent. They're really good. [Arizona Cardinals LB] Ezekiel Turner's a good player, 47 for them. Fifty-one, [Arizona Cardinals LB] Tanner Vallejo is a good player for them. [Arizona Cardinals LB Dennis] Gardeck is a really good player for them. So we've got our hands full. We've got a challenge, but what better week would you love to have than this week, second division game. Our guys are ready to go. So can't wait to go to practice today. I'll tell you that."

Will Cannon return kickoffs Sunday?

"Well, again, for competitive advantage I can't tell you who the kick returner will be. But we still have confidence in Cannon. There will be some competition there for Cannon as well as he expects, and there should be competition there. But he's done a great job for us. Before last game, obviously he had a couple hiccups there, but again, I've got to do a better job of helping him as well. We all do. I'm not going to sit here and pin everything on Cannon. But Cannon has been a darn good player for us. He got a huge kickoff return for us. So he has the ability in his body. We've just got to try to do that on Sunday."

What's the coaching point for him on the fumble there? Would you want him to just cover it on the first one and not try to pick it up and do more there? What do you tell him?

"Yeah, so a coaching point on that, obviously, is you want to catch the ball first. If that doesn't happen and you don't secure the football, not with just that play, with any play. If you've got a bad play, you never want to make a bad player a disaster. So in that particular situation, just secure it and we'll live to fight another down and let the offense do what they do. When we put the defense in a bad situation there, which I still feel awful about, Cannon feels awful about, our whole kickoff return team does and we want to do everything in our power to help the defense. This week we put them in a bad situation right there, and I think everybody knows that. So there's nothing I'm saying that you guys don't know."

Not to harp on it, but the one that he let bounce, he just misjudged it as well?

"Yeah, I think that was his question earlier."

The other one would be the one that he tried to cover the punt and took it into the end zone. It looked like he got up expecting it to be downed at the two and it kind of looked like LS Taybor Pepper was like, no, you took it into the end zone.

"Yeah. I think on that one, and he's down punts before for us as well. I mean, two really good punts downed for us in Philadelphia. That one, he just really didn't realize that he rolled into the end zone there. But he knows the rules. He knows all of that stuff. And again, he feels worse about it than me, you, anybody here, and that kid gives us everything he's got. So I'm looking forward to seeing that kid play. I love him. I really do."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

You sounded pretty pessimistic about, you know, even getting back in the next few weeks. Have you become more optimistic as the days have passed?

"Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think the initial reaction, you're obviously bummed about it and everything, but yeah, just pulled the calf a little bit. It's nothing too serious and just taking it day by day at this point."

I thought it was a contusion?

"I tweaked the muscle, whatever. I mean, whatever word you want to use for it."

A bruise or a strain?

"I strained it a little bit."

Did it happen on that Seattle Seahawks DL Kerry Hyder Jr. play where Kerry came around and did he step on the back of your foot?

"Yeah, it was kind of a freak play. I was kind of jumping back after I threw it to avoid the pressure in front of me and he kind of hit me at the same time. So just an unfortunate situation, but it's not terrible right now."

A kick or did he sort of step on you?

"No, it was like his knee actually was in the back of my calf while I was pushing off the ground. So just kind of got caught in an awkward position."

With you not practicing today, what does that do in terms of your availability for Sunday and preparation?

"It doesn't really change anything. I think mentally I feel pretty good, just with the game plan, everything, all the install we just put in. But you know, physically hopefully get out there tomorrow and we'll take it day by day, like I said, and see where this calf gets."

Is there a day where you feel like, okay come I don't know, Saturday, I won't be able to go that you'll know or will you take it up to game time?

"I mean, it could go up to game time. We've done it before up to game time. And it's really just about getting the mental reps while I can out there today, see where I'm at tomorrow and everything, but yeah, just I don't want to put anything in stone yet."

When you say you've done it before, is that Miami last year?

"Yeah, I mean just in the past, yeah."

Will you still go through walk through?

"I'm out there for it. Our walk through kind of turns into a jog through, so they held me out of it today."

The plan for QB Trey Lance is probably going to be a little bit different than if it was you. Do you have to come up with like two different game plans to prepare for this?

"Fortunately I don't game plan. But no, the coaches, yeah, they do a great job with that stuff. Just getting us ready, whatever we've got to do we'll go out there and perform it. For us it's just physically getting ready and mentally processing whatever they give us."

If you were to play this weekend would there be a possibility that you could be 100-percent healthy or would you be battling through it at that point if you did play?

"Battling through it probably. We'll take it, like I said, day by day, but I mean, it hurts, but it is what it is at this point."

In the early part of this week, how much do you kind of worry about yourself and get yourself right and also I'm sure that Trey if thrown out there, he's going to need your support and he's going to need your set of eyes and your everything? How do you do that?

"It's kind of the balancing act. I've been doing it a little bit today, just if Trey has any questions, anything that just I've ran in the past or that he hasn't ran helping him out any way with that. But like I said, I'm preparing to play, I'm mentally getting ready for that. So, we'll see where we're at come Sunday."

How do you feel mentally? After the game, understandably you seemed down. I'm just wondering how you're doing now?

"I'm good. Yeah. After the, obviously just upset after the game, you know, the whole circumstance. But I feel pretty good right now. Get this game plan down mentally, just keep it moving. It is a big week for us."

I know you weren't necessarily playing last time you guys were in Arizona for that long stretch, but you were down there that whole time, right? What was that experience like for you and what did maybe you take away from it in terms of things that could help you or help the team moving forward?

"From that experience? It made us a lot closer, I'll tell you that. Just, the whole team being stuck in a hotel for a month or so, whatever it was it's a lot of time spent together. And so you learn a lot about guys that think, you know, we've had a couple new guys come in this week and I've just heard comments from them just how close our team is, you know, the friendships, it's not like that on every team. So I think it's something that you've got to cherish while you've got it."

It's only Week 5, but is there a sense of urgency coming off the two losses?

"There's always a sense of urgency. I think in the NFL, there's a lot of season left to play, but every week, if you don't have a sense of urgency, you've got no chance out there. So I think that's one thing that we do well here. We come out to practice with the right mindset, we've got good leaders on this team to set the tone and I think we keep doing that we'll be all right."


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