Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

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

Oct 20, 2021 at 2:47 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. 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, injury report: [CB] K'Waun [Williams] is back, he's full go. [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] is limited. [DT Javon] Kinlaw, not going, knee. [LB] Marcell [Harris] is still on his way back from the doctor. I think he'll be out at practice, but we're not sure yet. [T] Trent Williams, has ankle and elbow, he'll not practice. And [QB] Trey Lance has a knee and will not practice."

You said Marcell will practice?

"Not sure yet. He's still at the doctor getting his cast and everything. And when he gets back here, we'll find out."

And with Kinlaw, it's the same knee issue he's been dealing with?


How did you spend your Bye week?

"Mainly with the family. We went here for a few days, then spent a couple of days with the family, it was cool. My dad got in the ring of honor out in Denver, so I got to go for that, which was special to be at it, but I didn't necessarily want to be at an away game on my Bye weekend. But I was very glad I got to go to it."

What kind of 49ers work did you do? What kind of assignments did you give yourself and the coaching staff?

"We look at all situational stuff. Each guy does his own area. I'm always looking in that area. I've watched a lot of games and go back over a bunch of stuff. But everyone sticks to their assignments. For short-yardage, goal line, red zone, two-minute, all that stuff."

How is Jimmy Garoppolo coming along and do you expect him to be ready for Sunday?

"Yeah, it will be good to go out there and go full go today. I know he's limited because we have to make sure he can do everything, but we'll have a much better idea today, but I'm pretty optimistic about it."

Anything about Trey's knee? Has he gotten a different diagnosis?

"No, the same diagnosis. We were hoping he could go this week. It doesn't look like it. He might have a chance at the end of the week, but I'd be surprised if he's not ready to go until next week."

With something like this do you err on the side of caution? You said you were hoping he was ready to go but do you kind of--?

"No, he works through it and you can take it day by day. When doctors say he's healthy and he says he's healthy and there's no risks, then you go back to practicing."

At right guard, how secure is OL Daniel Brunskill in the starting role there? Do you want to see other guys competing for that spot during the week, pushing him for that?

"Yeah, he's secure in terms of, I believe Dan we can win with. So, it's not that we're sitting here and trying to replace him or anything. But I always want guys pushing him and we obviously invested in some guys in the draft and we have other guys here, some vets. I think all those guys are pushing him each week and looking better with the reps they have and that's something I hope continues."

Is OL Tom Compton the next guy logically in line? Would he be the one to come into a game for example?

"In a game, yeah. Compton is so versatile. That's why he's definitely always up, he's earned that too with how he played throughout training camp, but Compton also can help out, he's played tackle in this league. He's played guard in this league, so he's always a good guy to have up, that I would never hesitate to start. If someone got hurt long-term then we decide with the other guys."

Given DL Dee Ford's injury history, with the back injury last year, I assume that's why he's played 23 snaps in the last two games. Is that a function of his medical file and do you think that is going to be his role for the rest of the season?

"I hope not. I want him to play more, but you guys know what he's gone through this last year and a half and it still acts up on him sometimes. So, we have to be very smart with it. He's been there in mainly passing situations and so, that's not always dictated by, sometimes there aren't as many of those situations. Depending on how many third downs guys have and things like that, second-and-longs. But yeah, we want him to go more, but we have to be smart with them too. Happy to have him, where we hadn't had him for all last year."

Can other guys, like DL Samson Ebukam or someone else, if Dee is going to be in that role, do you need someone else on that other edge to emerge a little bit?

"Yeah, definitely. You need it on the edge. You need it inside. When you're at your best, you can do it from both edges and someone up the middle. So, we've got a group of guys, who I think are capable of doing it. But I think all of our guys can get better."

We talked to Indianapolis Colts DT DeForest Buckner today on the phone, just kind of revisiting last year's trade. And he said that he offered to meet you guys in the middle in contract negotiations. Can you, I guess, revisit briefly how candid you got with him in terms of where you thought he fit with this team and then just how his absence has affected the locker room and the on-field product?

"Yeah, I miss Buck a lot. I knew we would and that was a very tough decision, not one that we wanted to do. One that going through all the situations, looking at the money, the contract of the salary, the salary cap that year, we just came off a big season with how well our defense played and we had a number of guys that were up that year as unrestricted free agents. They weren't two years away. We also knew we had guys in the future we had to pay so, wanted to keep Buck, bad. But we had to look at all that stuff that went into it and there's lots of things that go into it, but it wasn't something we were high-fiving or anything over after it happened. It came down to, 'Do you want to pay this amount of money to one guy or do you want to keep two of the guys you already have that you will lose and plus add a 13th pick in the draft?' So, it had nothing to do with not valuing Buck or anything like that. It was the situation of that year and that we didn't want to lose two players and a 13th pick in the draft. So, a tough decision we had to make."

Obviously, a huge talking point this week given you're playing Buckner. I think it wouldn't be, people would say, 'oh, good job,' because if Kinlaw, looked like, not the next DeForest Buckner, but a top-level starter. Obviously, it's very early in his career, but where do you view his development and with his knee issue is that a chronic thing?

"Yeah, that's a big concern this year and it's nothing against him, but it's been unfortunate with him. So, his development right now is on hold. I was real excited with how he started at the end of last year. Those last few games, especially at Dallas, I thought that was one of his best ones, the Rams game. I think a couple of weeks before, I'm not sure how many, but I thought he was starting to turn into that player and had a bad injury at the end that we thought would heal up fast. And it's affected him all through this year. So that's a setback now and that's why he's behind the eight-ball this year. But I don't think his story is totally finished being written yet."

He is maybe like the most explosive player as far as defensive tackles go coming out of the draft, just known for that burst. Has he had to kind of adapt to maybe not having that, managing the knee injury?

"Yeah. The whole year has been managing it and that's why I know he's been frustrated. Because no one's upset with Kinlaw right now. It's been unfortunate with what happened and the setbacks of some of the surgeries. And when you think it's right, just that it hasn't been out there on the field so we've had to really manage them throughout training camp, throughout the season hoping that would get it better. And it just hasn't so far."

How difficult is it when you have a guy who comes here kind of raw to not get those practice reps to be able to improve and work on his game?

"It's extremely difficult and that's why we've got to get his knee better, so he has a chance to develop and turn into the player that we know he is."

What stands out about the Colts?

"It's a team I respect a lot. They've got some good players. You can tell they're coached very well. They've got some talent on offense, especially with their quarterback [Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz], with their running back [Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor], and getting [Indianapolis Colts WR] T.Y. [Hilton] back. They can make a lot of plays. Their defense, they thrive off turnovers, starting with 53 [Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard] in the middle and then Buck up front. It runs through those two guys and they've given up a little bit of yards, but I think they're fourth in turnovers and that's why they've got a chance in every game they're in."

Another Kinlaw question. When he had that surgery, the team described it as a routine cleanup procedure. Did it turn into more than that or were there underlying issues?

"No, there was clean up stuff, but I know he had a setback on a couple things. So, as you know with me, I don't know the exact history of it, especially going back the whole year. But I knew getting calls on vacation like 'Hey, he had a little setback here. It didn't heal right, so we got to go back into it.' A couple of things like that"

Did he have a second procedure?

"I'm not exactly sure."

What was Trey able to do this week? Is it all VR reps?

"Yeah, he's all in the rehab room. I think he's going to get out there after practice today and be able to throw a little bit, but we've been keeping him off his legs on the field from doing drops and everything."

What progress have you seen week to week from RB Elijah Mitchell and RB Trey Sermon as far as finding the right hole and making the right decision and getting the yards that you want to be there, to be had?

"I think they're getting used to this league. I think Elijah came out pretty strong in his first game and his second game he played and battled through that bad injury at the end there. And he's really just getting back going. I think this Bye week helped him even heal up more. But I was happy with how tough he played coming back from a pretty tough injury and he's taken away from Trey a little bit. He hasn't gotten as many reps, I'm going to say the last week or two weeks, that we've played, but Trey has gotten better in each game he has gotten in."

How do you envision LB Mychal Kendricks helping you guys? What do you see his role being?

"We don't have a ton of depth at linebacker. We've had some guys hurt. He's a guy who's hopped in. He's had a very good career. We've had to play against him. And I used to play against him all the time, back in Philly when I was in the NFC East. But the way he hopped in at Seattle and filled in a great role for them for a couple of years. As you know, not sure about Marcell this week, so I'm glad to have a veteran here like that. We've got [LB Demetrius] Flannigan-Fowles still up and a couple of guys on practice squad, but that's some depth that we need and it's always good to get a guy in here who's done it before."

Does he have special teams value at this point too?

"Yeah. I mean, you have to. If you get up, you have to play special teams. It's not something he's done a ton in his career because he's been out there as a starter so much, but it's something he's willing to do."

Over the first five games during the Bye week, is there one area you feel like your team really needs to improve the most to kind of get where you guys want to go?

"No, there's a number of areas. We've got to get more turnovers on defense, have to be better in the red zone there. On offense, I think we have to be much better in situational football. We have to be much better throwing and catching. I'd like to generate a few more explosive runs. I think we're running the ball somewhat decent, but if you don't get big runs you're never going to have those numbers. And then it just comes down to execution in some real critical situations."

What do you think, I know every situation is different, but it seems like in a lot of the situations there's been not only one thing that goes wrong. Do you have like an explanation, just looking back on film on why you haven't been able to execute the way you want?

"Yeah. Just like you said in your question, there's not one answer. You can go to each position, whether it's a drop here, whether it's a misread there, whether it's a false start, whether it's whatever. It's cumulation, you need to play better football. And that's what we're trying to do. You've got to go out there and you don't need to make stuff up. But you've got to play better and everyone's going to make mistakes in games, but how can you eliminate those? And one thing we talk about in here a lot is doing right longer. You have to do right longer than the other team. And I don't think we've done that close to enough."

Last year you guys found different ways to get WR Brandon Aiyuk the ball. I think there were 14 passes behind the line of scrimmage, including some of those jet sweep runs. What's your process when it comes to deciding how we're going to use a guy with those plays in mind?

"Brandon is an option on that and he does a good job on that stuff. I think we went to him a ton when, especially when we were missing [TE George] Kittle and [WR] Deebo [Samuel]. So I know when we have those guys, it takes a little bit away from him. But you always try to give it to the guys who you think you have the best look and you think you can do the best with it. And Brandon's one of those options."

It hasn't happened here a lot, but we are expecting rain on Sunday. Does that factor into the gameplan just because you're not used to playing at home in rain?

"No, I wouldn't mind it raining a couple of days here in practice. I hate to ruin our field, but it's always good to get some work in it, but I can't make a big deal about it. You've got to go out there and be aware and you've got to protect the ball and be smart. And in that way, all rainstorms a little bit different. So, you see how it is and how the game's going and you adjust to it."

When first you got here in 2017, you were asked why you didn't keep former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. And you said, 'well, you want the same style of quarterback. If you have two different style of quarterbacks, you have two different styles of offenses and you don't really master anything.' Is any of that going on right now with your offense, two different style of quarterbacks, two different styles of offenses and that's why you're not executing the way you have in the past?

"When you do that, there's a lot of truth to that. And that's why I said that whenever you can remember me saying it. But that's what you practice in training camp, but that's the big thing with, that's one reason I really like Trey. I don't think you have to do a totally different offense. I think Trey can add a lot to your offense and you can do a lot of different things that you might not be able to do with a guy who doesn't have the athletic ability in terms of running like Trey does, but you don't have to do a whole new offense. But you have to give the guys a chance to develop a few different things. But you never want to get away from your foundation."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

What kind of problems do the Colts present you guys this week?

"They're a good unit. Play good football. They have two good returners, really three good returners. They've got three 4.3 returners, which anytime you've got speed like that, it always presents a problem. [Indianapolis Colts RB] Nyheim Hines is a good punt returner. He has two career touchdowns in his career. [Indianapolis Colts CB] Isaiah Rodgers is a good kick returner. He's obviously been to the house before on kickoff return and then they've got the other kid is 16, [Indianapolis Colts WR Ashton] Dulin who is a straight line, good, tough physical 4.3, big body, good football player. We're excited about going against these guys. They're a good unit, but all teams and all units in the league are good. Some better than others, but this is a good challenge for us and really excited about going to practice today and really excited about putting our plan in and going to work against these guys."

When you did your self-scout over the Bye, what did you see that you liked and what are some things that maybe you feel like need to be hammered out?

"In our self-scout over the Bye, I thought we were pretty balanced. We're doing some good things. There are always areas that you can improve in. It's just like anything, if you're ever complacent or you're ever thinking that you've got it, in this league you don't ever have anything. So there are a number of areas we want to improve in. Obviously we want to try to generate some more explosive plays in the return game and we want to continue to try to be really good on kickoff coverage and punt coverage. I think [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] has done an outstanding job so far helping us with that. But some areas we want to definitely get attacked and that's having some more explosive plays in the return game."

You stuck with RB Trenton Cannon against the Cardinals after he had some issues against the Seahawks. Obviously he didn't get a chance to return, but what went into that decision to stick with him?

"Just the same thing I said last time. We're always going to go with who we feel like gives us the best opportunity to win at that moment. And we have confidence in several guys on our roster in terms of returning. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] was back there as well on one of those. And he didn't get an opportunity to return either. So we are always going to go with the guy that gives us the best opportunity. And at that particular time we felt like Cannon gave us the best opportunity."

WR Travis Benjamin obviously is a pretty decorated punt returner throughout his career. Why was he not returning punts?

"Yeah, so [WR] Brandon [Aiyuk] was returning punts against the Cardinals and we felt like at that time he gave us the best chance to win. And we still have a lot of confidence in Travis. I love Travis. Like you said, he has been decorated in his career early in his career with four punt return touchdowns. So Travis is an option. He's always an option and glad he's an option. And I've got a lot of confidence in Travis and I think everyone does just like they have a lot of confidence in Brandon."

How do you evaluate Brandon's performance as a punt returner and his potential as a punt returner?

"I evaluate his punt return potential as limitless. He's explosive. He's dynamic. He's fast. You guys know that. He's done a decent job so far, he's done a good job so far. A lot of times with punt return you have to see if the guys are giving them a chance to return the ball as well. So again, explosive, I talked about explosive returns earlier that has to do with blocking too. We've got to make sure we give him space. And he's a tough runner. He's broken some tackles, he's a tough kid. So I've been pleased with Brandon so far. But again, Brandon has got to take his game to another level as a part returner, and he wants to do that. I mean, I think when we talk about all 53 players or anybody that's playing special teams, we're trying to push all these guys to take their game to another level. So again, it's never, complacency kills with me. We're going to push these guys. We're going to coach the heck out of them. And we're going to try to do as best we can to get great field position for our offense, great field position for the defense."

How does the probability of rain affect your preparation or if it doesn't change your preparation, what do you say to your guys about how to perform in that situation?

"Obviously we addressed it, we addressed it in the meeting room. But there is a chance of rain and it's something that we always constantly monitor. I think special teams, coaches probably monitor that more than most coaches because you know, we have to deal with kicking and wind and if you can call a certain call a certain way, if the ball will still travel the right way if you're kicking into the wind versus kicking with the wind. So in your question, in terms of rain, you do different things and hopefully we get rain here, but if you don't, then you try to simulate those things in practice. And you just talk to the guys about how the game changes. There's going to be more opportunities, usually, when there's rain or wind, there'll be more opportunities for special teams plays. So we've just got to take advantage of every opportunity we get and we're looking forward to playing on Sunday night. It's a great opportunity for us."

In your experience, the games after Byes, do you find players have more energy, or is it the opposite effect that they need a little kick to get going again?

"Yeah, I think I can just speak to the current situation we're in. I mean, our guys came out with really good energy after the Bye. They've been really attentive in meetings. They've been really good in walk-through today. You can feel that they've been away from football and they're ready get back into it and they want to play, which is really good. You could tell that they studied a lot of tape when you ask them questions today. So my experience has always been, I think it's a credit to the guys that we have that [general manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] have brought here. My experience here is that these guys have always been ready to play ball and that's what fires me up about a coach. Today I was fired up in the meeting and I'm fired up to go to practice because we've got a heck of an opportunity to go out there and play and just can't wait to play on Sunday night."

Is Deebo Samuel a weapon you could use on special teams like in a key moment, maybe as a kick returner? It seems like he has that skill set.

"Yeah, he's been back there in key moments, definitely. Deebo had four kick returns to the house in college, in the SEC, which is hard to do. But obviously Deebo is one of our top receivers. So you just have to be smart with that type of situation. It's not something that he does full-time for us or anything like that because he's really playing well on offense. I'm happy to see him doing what he's doing. I'm sure they've got things that they talk to Deebo about. But I mean, from what I see, and I don't study offensive tape a ton, but I see him making some plays. So in key situations, yeah. And Kyle's been awesome. So credit to Kyle on that and when he wants Deebo back there, he'll let me know and we'll put him back there and I couldn't give more credit to our head coach on that. He's been awesome with that when we need a play."

Where can LB Mychal Kendricks help you and where does he want to help you?

"I think Mychal Kendricks when he was here earlier and then even now, his attitude's been great, he's willing to help. He wants to help. He is a guy that has really good speed, and he plays fast. So he's a guy that can definitely help us depending on where his role falls defensively this week. But he's ready. He's been in there today at walk-through, he's asking questions. He's ready to go. So I'm excited to have Michael back here. He's a guy with some speed and some size and some physicality and you always need those things, especially when you're going against returners and players that can really run."

We've seen K Robbie Gould talking to K Joey Slye quite a bit during practices. What has that relationship been like?

"Yeah, it's been awesome. Robbie is a consummate pro, as you know, and he always wants to help everybody. He's been helping. He's been doing a really good job helping everyone. He's been talking to Joey, like you said, he's been trying to help Joey. He always tries to help Mitch or [LS Taybor Pepper] Pep or any of the younger players. It's kind of what veterans do. Especially a guy that's been in league as long as he has and we welcome his help. He does a good job with that stuff and Robbie wants to win just as bad as anybody. So I've been really impressed with the way he's been carrying himself and how he's attacking his rehab."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

How's the calf?

"Feeling good. Feel real good. Go out there, test it out a little bit, but overall feeling like it's in the right spot."

We saw you warming up in Arizona very gingerly, cautiously. Was it an issue of pushing off that leg? Was that the problem?

"Yeah, pushing off of it, just those quick, little jerky movements, I guess you could say. Yeah, just didn't want to push it too much last week, but I think during the Bye week we've really made some big strides, so I'm happy with where it's at."

How did you spend the Bye week?

"I was here getting this calf right. Really not much off time, but you know, it's that time of year, time to grind."

Is there a chance it'll be 100-percent healthy this weekend?

"I'm hoping, yeah. I mean, it'll get better every day I think, test it out on the field, see what we could do and everything. But you know, right now it feels great."

You indicated after that game you were hoping to only miss a couple games. Obviously you're not a doctor, you misdiagnosed yourself, but what was it about the injury that made you feel like it was more severe than maybe what it was?

"It was about what, I mean, yeah a couple of weeks thing was a little aggressive, came out the gate with that. But yeah, I don't know, I've done it before in the past similar injuries to that. So it was I just kind of knew my body and knew it was going to take a couple of weeks. It was just a little pull. It wasn't anything too serious."

Here's another self-diagnosis not body-wise, but just offensive-wise, what do you think that you guys need to do to be the kind of offensive you want to be?

"Well, I think when we're at our best is when we can get into a rhythm. I think when the run game, passing game are working together, get a couple easy ones, get the play-action game working, I think when all of those things are clicking and we can get into a rhythm that's when we're at our best. Get the first, first down and really get into a drive, get things rolling. But when we go three-and-out and we get off the field quick, it just puts our whole team in a bad situation. You know, that's the complementary football that we've played in the past here. That's when we play our best and when we kind of lap teams and turn one score into two real quick. I think if we can get back to that we'll be in a good spot."

The running game has changed without TE George Kittle out there and without RB Raheem Mostert and basically rookies at running back, how has that changed the running game?

"Not tremendously. I mean, obviously you want your starting guys out there, but we're pretty deep right now. And I like the guys that we've got rolling. Hopefully we get those other guys that are injured back, but it doesn't matter who we have out there. It's pretty consistent I would say for the most part, with a little tweak here or there, but it's about us going out and executing at this point."

You've lost three in a row and coming off the Bye week, how much does this feel like a must-win game, at least as it could at this point in the season?

"They're all big games. I mean, going forward every game is a big game and we're treating it as that way this week. It will be a fun atmosphere Sunday night here and get the Faithful rolling again and give them something to cheer about. But like I said, every game is a big game going forward now."

Going into the Bye, head coach Kyle Shanahan joked that you and QB Trey Lance would be spending the Bye week together rehabbing. Was that the case? Were you on the same rehab schedules with the trainers and then did you do anything aside from, you know, physical rehab? Did you spend time in the playbook or anything like that with him?

"Not together, no. Our rehab processes are kind of in different spots, I guess you'd say. But yeah, we were here at the same time putting in the work and everything, but physically kind of on different pages, I guess."

How would you describe the presence Indianapolis Colts DT DeForest Buckner had in the locker room and as a captain?

"DeFo was a great locker room guy, great teammate, great friend. Just a really great individual. He really was. I can remember when I first got here, DeFo was one of the first guys to come up to me and I knew his name and everything, but didn't really know him personally. He was very welcoming. I mean, a guy of his stature, you know, he has a presence about him. And so that's the tough part of the business to see guys go like that, but I've been on both sides of it and seen it. So it'll be cool to see him, but yeah, it's business I guess."


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