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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports


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

Nov 3, 2021 at 2:38 PM--


The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. 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, the injuries for today. [DL] Mo [Maurice] Hurst, calf, won't practice. [T] Trent Williams, ankle, won't practice, [WR] Deebo [Samuel], calf, won't practice. [DB] Jimmie Ward, quad, won't practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, rib, won't practice. Go ahead."

Is TE George Kittle going to be back at practice today?

"Yes, he is. Yeah. Him and [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.]."

No K Robbie Gould?

"And Robbie. Yeah, don't tell him I forgot."

Is the hope that Elijah will be able to practice at some point during the week?

"Yes. Yeah, the hope is."

What about LB Azeez Al-Shaair and DL Dee Ford?

"Yeah, they're full go, they're back. Yeah."

Do you expect George to run and be ready to play right away?

"I'm not sure. I'm not counting on it a hundred percent. I'm waiting to see how he is today. We're going to slow it down a little bit. Just been banged up the last couple of weeks. We're going to go pretty slow today. But I think the real test will be for him tomorrow."

How has it been preparing for Arizona not knowing Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray's status, just how big of a challenge is that?

"Not much, because we're preparing like he's going to play, so we're not looking at it any differently. If he doesn't, we'll adjust to that."

Is Deebo not practicing just out of precaution?

"No, he couldn't go today. Hopefully he'll be able to go tomorrow. I'd be surprised if he can't go by Sunday, but he definitely can't go today."

How much has he meant to your offense this season? He obviously has a large chunk of percentage of the yards, but with everybody else just kind of getting back in the flow and losing George these last few weeks?

"I think he means a ton. I think he did last year too when he played, when you guys look at those games and whenever you can get a playmaker like that out there and guys got to worry about it, not only does it help him, but it helps other people around him. And I didn't expect Deebo to have such a big game versus Chicago, but the way the guys around him stepped it up too I thought it made things a lot easier just to allow that to happen naturally. And it was good on everybody's part."

Did he reaggravate his calf or is it just sore?

"Reaggravated it. It was hurting him the week before and he played a lot and through a lot and it felt worse after."

I think you said after the game that WR Brandon Aiyuk had a hamstring?

"Aiyuk?"

Yeah. Did you?

"No. Yeah, very wrong. I mentioned [TE] Charlie [Woerner] just being tighter throughout the year. I think that's what I said, but I could be wrong too. I don't remember the press conferences as well as you guys do."

On the Deebo screen for 83 yards, obviously C Alex Mack and OL Daniel Brunskill got way down field, was that a key to that play?

"Oh yeah. That's what gives you a chance to get a touchdown. That's the stuff that you have to be good at to have a chance to get a first down in those situations. Usually, you do it perfect and it leads to fourth-and-two. So there was some really good effort on that play from everybody across the board and then Deebo just having the speed to almost get it down there."

Was it specifically those two guys, the center and the right guard, or just whoever didn't release?

"No, it's everybody, but usually the backside tackle from the whole front side on. And Trent started it off. He overran [Chicago Bears LB Alec] Ogletree a little bit, which they always go there and back door him and for him to shut it down and stop it, which allowed it to go and hit. We ran a play to Aiyuk two plays before it, the exact same play, and we ended up getting a clipping on it, which put us in that longer yardage, but all those guys are coming out hard going against the grain and it's hit or miss."

I also noticed after the bomb to Deebo that Mack was the first one down in position at the snap while most everybody else on the field was still running way behind him. Going back to Atlanta, has he always had that kind of awareness? And I guess that's a showcase of his speed too.

"Going back to Cleveland, he's always been that same way. That's why I used to call him, I still do, I call him our golden retriever because he does that in practice every play. He's always running down the field, chasing the, I say, the tennis ball wherever you throw it. And he enjoys playing football and he never stops and that's exactly how he is in practice every play."

We saw the video of you after the game and there seemed to be some words that maybe were silent that maybe it looks like your mouth was moving, but there was nothing on the audio. Is that just kind of like when you have that postgame address to the team, like, what's going through your mind? Are you just, is it just stream of consciousness?

"Yes, you don't have time to do anything else, so you just talk and I haven't seen it, but I can imagine. I don't have the best vocabulary. I probably know a total of like 80 words, so I have to use those words sometimes to express myself and that's why I do a lot better in meetings and stuff where I'm allowed to do that as opposed to stuff like this."

With Kittle, you or general manager John Lynch or both you in the past have talked in the past about you're trying to lessen his workload in 2018. That's why you keep four tight ends to start the season. I understand why you wouldn't want to take George Kittle off the field much, but his workload hasn't been lessened and asking in light of the injuries he sustained, really throughout his career, and then these last couple of seasons are injuries that you can't play through. Do you have to look at that at some point?

"Yeah, I think when you talk about workload for tight ends, it's about training camp, it's about practice, it's about stuff like that. When a guy's not healthy, you've always got to do that. But I haven't heard of people managing a tight end, especially one like Kittle. Tight ends go. They play every play usually. Lots of them, you have different personnel groupings, but most tight ends are over 80-percent of the game. But Kittle is always going to play through stuff and go out there when he isn't a hundred percent. And when he's not a hundred percent, that's when you've definitely got to do that. But I've never done that with a tight end before though."

Is there any concern at all that the qualities that make him such a special player and an inspirational player in terms of aggression and contact could also be things that could limit him in terms of the recurring injuries?

"Yeah, I think it depends on the injury. I think we're dealing with an Achilles, calf thing and that's also because of how explosive he is too. That happens with explosive players who are especially not in the 170s. I think we deal that with Deebo. When you have the size of him and you're as explosive as you are, things do happen. I used to have it with [Tennessee Titans WR] Julio [Jones]. Not many people who are 230 can run 4.3, so the impact of that power and size putting it into the ground every play, there's always a higher risk of that type of stuff. So yeah, you have to be concerned with that, but Kittle does take care of himself. I think he got off to a rough start this year and tried to play through some stuff and it's been lingering. Hopefully this break helped him and hopefully we'll have some better luck getting back."

The fourth down tries throughout the league are way up. How has your philosophy on fourth down changed? Has it changed at all since you've been a head coach or is the same way?

"I'm the same way. I go for it when I think it's the right decision to go for it, not just because of what analytics say. I do listen to analytics a ton, and I think it makes a lot of sense, but when it comes down to fourth-and-one, I think I explained this a few weeks ago, but it's about how you feel in the moment. Where you're at on the field? What's the call that you have? What are the fronts that they played? Do you think you can block their guys? How good is the quarterback on the other side? What's the moment in the game? What's the weather? There's a lot of variables that go into that. And I know a lot of people have upped it in the NFL. Especially on their own side of the 50, which is somewhat surprising, but I think guys have had some success with it, which has helped them win games. And I think guys haven't, which has helped them lose games, so there's never a right or wrong answer until after the play."

Do you worry knowing coaches that go for it a lot because it gives them an extra down, so when you're going against that, is that something that you're aware of that this guy might really go for a lot of fourth downs?

"You're aware of it to prepare, you understand a lot of people go for it that might make their third down call a little bit different than what you're used to. It might be more like a second down call knowing that they have two tries to get it. When you're expecting that a lot, you don't always have to be as risky on third down, so I think it changes maybe a little bit how you play. But just because someone's going to do it doesn't mean you're going to play it differently on offense. If it's working and they're getting more points than you and you're having trouble stopping them, then you've got to adjust and you've got to go, but you always wait to play out the game however it's unfolding."

What are you guys getting with DL Charles Omenihu?

"One, we'd been banged up there at our D-Line, outside and inside. Especially here in the last couple of weeks, so we thought it could be important to add some depth to us. Also looking into everything, the fact that getting him this year, a guy that does have another year on his contract. We don't want to do anything that, we'd love to do something that can help us this year, but you don't want it to be at the expense of next year. So that made total sense to us. And we just got him in here today and we'll get him out to practice here this week and I think he'll fit in."

Did you follow his career at Texas?

"We studied him coming out, so I'm aware of him coming out, but no I didn't study him here. That's what the guys upstairs have been doing. They gave us a tape, our coaches think that he could fit in and I'm excited to have him here."

You mentioned the other day that LB Dre Greenlaw still had some tests to pass to get his window opened. Is that still possible this week or are you looking at next week?

"No, we're looking at next week. Yeah, he didn't quite get to where we want, scared of just re-injury and rushing back a little too early, so we're going to have to put it off another week."

With Former Las Vegas Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III situation, obviously it's terrible and common-sense stuff, but do you have to address anything like that? Or just, how do you talk to your team about situations like that?

"I didn't address it as a team. I talked to guys individually, just because it's such a big deal and it's such a tragedy and it's such a sad thing to see. We went through the draft process with him a year ago and I think a lot of guys do know him, but just anytime you see something like that, I think we had the same reaction that probably everyone else on the planet has, it makes you sick to your stomach on both sides and something that happens too much in this world and something that everyone cannot see enough lessons on that and why it can end very fast."

Did Trent's ankle injury influence what you asked him to do on Sunday?

"No."

You mentioned GPS when asked about Aiyuk, not specific to Aiyuk, but how closely do you look at those numbers? Does someone bring them up to you and go, 'look at this' or do you look at these numbers yourself?

"No, we get a print up on everyone every day after practice and then on Mondays after the game. So, it's something that I've just gotten more into each year. Early on, I didn't always think they were that accurate, especially when I'd see [former NFL WR] Miles [Austin] throwing his pads around and showing that he could throw his pads 30 miles per hour and I know he couldn't run 30 miles per hour. But, you watch so much as coaches and you're like, 'man, the guys seemed dead today. Man, they seemed fast.' And you're always doing it with your eyes and it's really nice to match it up with some facts and that stuff really helps."

Does it really kind of equal some things you see?

"Yeah, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. Like one guy might be the fastest guy on the field that day, but he's the only guy that got a go route and the DB didn't cover him, so he finished it for the next 40 yards and was really able to open it up. Where everyone else was running some shorter stuff and couldn't open it up so it can be deceiving. And you've got to look in all of it, just because someone has the fastest time doesn't mean they were the fastest. They might have the best opportunity. Sometimes, some guys who can't run get the fastest time and I started trying to figure out how they were doing that. And then I noticed after our stretch, Juice [FB Kyle Juszczyk] and [QB Nate] Sudfeld were all sprinting to the next drill as fast as they could and so they were the only guys who really got like a track time on that day and they weren't--."

So the fastest times is what you get?

"No, I get everyone's time. Yeah, I get everyone's time."

But do you get like their fastest time?

"It'll say their max speed, their average speed."

Do the players get the print outs too?

"I don't know if they do, but we definitely bring it up to them. Yeah. Something that I am so glad they didn't have when I played."

You mentioned Friday, I think you said you'd have an announcement about DT Javon Kinlaw and his surgery?

"Yeah, not me. Someone who can explain it a lot better. Have they not done that? Yeah, the doctor who did it will it write it up for you guys and get it out and explain it all. So, I'll try to get on that."

Will you translate?

"No, I won't. I'll re-read it for you guys if you want."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower


Do you expect your punter to have a full week of good sleep?

"Yeah, let's hope so. I don't know if he'll get any sleep. Those are, you know, when you get new babies those babies cry at night and you've got to get up. You've got to get up to help mama."

What was that like Sunday? How did you go into that game figuring about, you know, how you'd be using your punter?

"I'll tell you what, we had a great plan in place there. Obviously we had guys that we felt could do it for us if we needed to. Our personnel department was always on top of that in terms of always having options. Those guys are phenomenal at that stuff. And then really it was a credit to [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] because Mitch gave us the confidence because he is a type of guy that is a consummate pro. He communicated throughout the whole thing. I couldn't say more about the way he handled that situation. An almost like take care of your wife, man. I'll see, talk to you later type deal, but he did a good job of taking care of his wife, did a good job of just communicating with us and it couldn't have happened to a better guy to actually be there. And of course we want him to be there for the birth of his child. He got a chance to do that and he got a chance to be there for his team. So he deserves that. I mean, he's an awesome person. You guys that don't really know him, and some of you got a chance to get to know him, but he's an awesome guy. So I'm glad it happened to him that way. And luckily he didn't have to punt. The offense took care of business there and that was a really good deal."

You've also got a holder issue, like he's the holder. Did you have that, backup plans there too?

"Yeah, sure. Backup plans there. Just like you saw when we needed him to kick in Seattle [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice held, so he's a backup holder. But yeah, you could have holder issues as well, but Mitch did a great job there. He actually held extremely well in the ball game. So that was good too."

Did he just come in on a commercial flight red eye Sunday morning to the hotel?

"He was there. I don't know what type of fight he was on, but [director, operations] Michael slap and their crew, they do a phenomenal job getting that stuff done. And he was there. He was ready to go. Saw him that morning and communicated, you know, they kind of just told me, 'Hey man, just go to sleep. Everything's good. Focus on the game.' And Mitch was there. We were good to go."

You didn't get a chance to see WR Brandon Aiyuk return punts a lot last year. This year, he's obviously doing it more consistently. Are you noticing more of a comfort level with him? How much better is he getting week-to-week just in terms of seeing things returning punts?

"Yeah, he's getting better and better. The maturation process applies to all positions, to all players. He's getting better and better at that. I thought he did a really nice job of getting to that football and filled in that football. That was a really good sequence of plays us. We felt like the kickoff, obviously we were down there at 16-15, on the kickoff that we had there and got that stopped at the 16 yard line because that dude's a dangerous dude. And then come out and we have the defense stopped them in five plays. They punted to us. Aiyuk had that explosive return, 21-yards out to midfield. And then the offense takes the ball six plays, 52 yards there and scores. And we take our first lead of the game, you know, 23-16. So that was a huge play by Aiyuk. And we're seeing him get more and more comfortable. We're seeing the blockers do a better job, but again, that's one game. That's over and we're excited about it, but we're really excited about playing against a division opponent this time for the second time. And you guys know how I am, whether win or lose, we move on to the next one and we try to play good football to help the football team. So that's what our focus is now and that's what our goal is."

If Mitch couldn't have gone, is there somebody that would have been able to punt? What would you do in that situation?

"Yeah, we have somebody able to punt. We're always ready. I won't tell you exactly what I would do in that situation for competitive reasons, but yeah, we always have backup punters, just like you have to have the backup safety on kickoff. Just like you have to have a backup five, you have to have a backup holder. You have to have a backup kicker. You have to go through all situations and scenarios, whether they come up or don't come up, you have to make sure you've got a backup punter. You've got to have a backup long snapper as you guys saw last year when [OL] Justin Skule got in there and long snapped for us in the Giants game. I mean, those things you've got to continuously work on and go through. And we've got a great staff in coach [assistant special teams coach Matthew] Harper and coach [special teams quality control August] Mangin, and those guys bring up situations and we bring up situations back and forth. Sometimes I bring up crazy ones. They'll tell me to throw out a down, that might not happen, you know, but we always try to go through every scenario possible because for us, we don't get second down. We don't get third down. We only get one down and we've got one down to be special. And if you mess up that one down, sometimes it's magnified. So you want to make sure you go through every situation, every scenario, everything you get and try to have a backup plan for it."

Do you have punting tryouts in training camp?

"We always have tryouts. But yeah, we do. We do."

How is your preparation different when you're facing a team that you saw recently, like a couple of weeks ago?

"We basically approach every game the same way, like it's a new game. There are things that maybe you had in the last game that you maybe really liked and some things that you didn't like. But the good thing about when you're playing an opponent that you're familiar with, things change from time to time, but you know you've got some type of idea what you will get. I try to go into every game like it's a new game, to answer your question. And then just whatever information we have from a previous opponent or previously playing them, like when we played Green Bay a couple of times in a year, you use those things on the back end."

We saw K Robbie Gould on the field a couple of hours before kickoff. How's he looking? Is he ready to go?

"Yeah, I think he's ready to go. You guys know Robbie. Robbie's a consummate pro. Happy to have him back on the field and he knows how to take care of his body. He's been doing it a long time. He'll be ready to go."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo


Seeing the post-game video of you guys in the locker room, it just seemed like there was a lot of, I don't know, stress relieved, a lot of excitement. Can you kind of explain, and you made the comment we're getting right back to work, but can you kind of talk about how you felt in the locker room after that, what it kind of meant, and then that process of getting back to work?

"Well, whenever you go on a four-game slide like we did, to get out of it and get that win, getting back in the win column, you've got to enjoy it for that moment, while you're in the locker room, plane ride home. And then when we get back here, I think our group does a good job of turning the page and moving on. We've got a good game plan in this week for Arizona. We know it's a tough team coming in, one of the best in the league right now, they're playing good and it'll be a good challenge for us."

Can you tell that, obviously the game plan is different because you're at quarterback than it was whatever that was three weeks ago, does that create an advantage for you guys in the sense that you could kind of sit back and watch that defense?

"Yeah. I mean, there's advantages, disadvantages. It's just a different style, I guess you could say. But yeah, I think our guys game plan-wise, feeling pretty good about it right now. We're in a good spot. We've just got to go out there and what we did last week so well was we executed the little details. We spent extra time on it, whatever it took last week we did it and that's just what we have to do going forward."

What's it going to do to get TE George Kittle back on the practice field? From the energy and everything?

"It'll be awesome. I mean, just having him out there for the walk-through just a little bit ago, you could feel him. He's got some fresh legs, so his legs are, he's looking fast right now. So I'm excited to get him back out there. Just another weapon for us. And we've got [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] coming back too. So it's a good Wednesday for us."

When you say focus on the little details, what are you talking about?

"Just, everyone sees the guy who catches the ball and makes the big play, but you know, whatever the route complementing that is, the backside, we had a couple of broken plays in the game and I thought guys did a good job of extending the plays with me. It's just little things like that, that kind of slip through the cracks if you're not on top of them."

RB Elijah Mitchell is taking on a real big role quickly in his career. What makes him so dependable?

"It starts with his mind. When you're in the huddle with him, you feel him. He doesn't talk too much, but you feel his presence. You feel when he's ready, when he's rolling in a groove like that. Just all those little things and for a young guy to have that it's, [RB JaMycal] Hasty had that last year, I would always say, and Elijah's the same way this year. It's just you'd like to look a guy in the eyes and know that he's ready."

In terms of percentage of yards gained, WR Deebo Samuel's percentage of the passing yards that the 49ers have accumulated is far and away the highest total in the league. I mean, way higher than Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp or another place. Does that figure have to come down for the sake of a balanced offense as the season goes on?

"You'd like to spread the ball around, definitely. I think some of that stuff just happens on the go, whatever it is, a broken play, maybe he's on the backside and they switched coverage up or something. But yeah, you'd like to spread the ball around and get it to the playmakers, let those guys just go do their thing, but it's whatever it takes. If Deebo has to get 99-percent of the yards, I think he's willing to do it. And vice versa. We'll do whatever it takes."

I know every week now is important, but do you look at these next two weeks with division opponents in particular, how important is it in terms of maybe the way this could, the next couple of weeks, could shape your season?

"Yeah, every week going forward is big now, especially with the little hole that we put ourselves in. So that'll be a challenge. It really will be. I mean, there's some good teams right now, good teams in the league, good teams in our division too. So it will be a challenge for us. But you know, that's the NFL man. It's every week's tough. It's going to challenge you in different ways and just it's how many times can you keep coming back and answering the bell like that."

Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt was such a big part of that last game and now he's done for the year. I don't want to say it's an advantage, but what difference does it make with him not out there?

"Yeah, just his presence. It changes some things for us, but not tremendously. They've still got good front. [Arizona Cardinals LB Markus] Golden, [Arizona Cardinals LB] Chandler [Jones] on the edge, they still present some problems for us. So it'll be tough for us, but yeah it's unfortunate. You never wish injuries on anyone, but just it is what it is."

I first noticed it after your deep pass to Deebo, C Alex Mack just sprinted down the field. He was ready, yards ahead of everybody else. Have you ever worked with an offensive lineman or a center that hustles like that, that gets up in front of plays like that?

"No, I mean, on a post that was impressive. He was moving on that one, but Alex is always like that. He kind of sets the tone for us offensively with that, just chasing down from the backside, getting a little extra block here or there. Those are the little things that add up throughout an entire game, maybe steals you a first down on second down or something like that. And it's just, I love having Alex like that. He brings that energy, good vibes that we need."

Do you notice him getting on some defensive players nerves? It seems like after the play times because he sticks with stuff.

"I don't know what you're talking about. But you love to see that though. Especially from the center, he sets a tone for the rest of those guys too."

I know you haven't been asked this specific question, but obviously with the Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers news, have you been vaccinated?

"I have, yeah. It's unfortunate for Aaron."

I think you guys had eight plays of 200-plus yards against the Bears. Maybe not as many big plays prior to that, this season. Do you feel that during the game? Do you know drives like, man, this seems like a lot of 15-16 play drives where maybe you can make more mistakes or things like that?

"Yeah. I mean, it's a week-to-week thing, just going against certain defenses that allow you to make some of those plays. But whenever we get an opportunity to take a shot you know, [head coach] Kyle's [Shanahan] as aggressive as it comes with that mindset of play calling. And I love him for that. So it's, yeah when it presents itself, we definitely try to take advantage of it, but it's one of those things you don't want to force it too much because then you get behind the chains and now you're in trouble."

The trade deadline passed yesterday. And I would guess over the last six, seven, eight months you were the subject of some rumors. How much did you pay attention to those? Did anything ever come close and did you ever have to use your no trade clause?

"I mean, nothing really ever came up. I mean, I was aware of it obviously like everybody. I've been traded last second before, so I know how that goes, but yeah, nothing came up with that and we're past it now."



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