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-Rams

Nov 11, 2021 at 2:24 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Los Angeles Rams on Monday 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, injuries today. [DL Maurice] Mo Hurst, calf, still won't practice. [DB] Jimmie Ward, quad, won't practice. [RB JaMycal] Hasty, ankle, won't practice. [WR Mohamed] Sanu [Sr.], knee, won't practice. [S] Tavon Wilson, foot, won't practice. [CB] Dre Kirkpatrick, ankle, won't practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, ribs, limited. [TE] George Kittle, calf, limited. [DL] Arik Armstead, neck, limited. [CB] Emmanuel Mosley, neck, limited. [CB] Josh Norman, rib, limited. Go ahead."

What happened to Moseley's neck?

"I'm not sure exactly, it hurts him. It's hurting him now from the game, but he should be alright. Have to be careful with him today."

The practice window of LB Dre Greenlaw, is that going to be opened?

"I don't think so. I'm probably going to have to push it off another week."

Is there optimism that Jimmie Ward could play this week?

"Yes, I'm hoping to get him some practice tomorrow. Just can't today."

Was DL Dee Ford on that list?

"No, he's on short-term IR so I didn't mention those guys."

How is the mood in the locker room right now? Is it different than 2017 when you were going through a rough patch where you had so many losses, but there was that kind of like an indescribable hunger to win. Do you feel like you still have that same sense of urgency and still the fun in the locker room?

"Yeah, I definitely think there's a big hunger to win. I think there's a huge sense of urgency. I think our guys have been through more than that group of guys and they've had more success, so there's a different type of disappointment, a different type of frustration. But the hunger, the energy, that's all still there."

As far as tackling, it seemed like tackling was not an issue. For most of the season, you guys were actually a good tackling team compared to the rest of the week. But then these last two weeks, it's been problematic. Can you explain what that is and do you spend extra time this week on that aspect of it?

"We're not going to tackle in practice and take guys to the ground. We have our tackling drills, but as much as you can that simulates games, but they're definitely not games. Going back to the most recent games, I know what the problems were tackling, especially on two of them. They cracked on our safeties and the back got out to the corner and one corner missed and the other one got ran over, which is something I tell the backs that if that happens, you guys should do that every time. But obviously they shouldn't. Our corner's got to step up and make those tackles. And I still believe our D-Ends can condense the hole a little bit to make it not as big for them. The other missed tackle was [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair] on that third-and-18, which they dropped back for awhile, we were way deep. He's got to throw out, if you're going to miss, you have to throw out the outside and turn in to your pursuit. He didn't and that's why they picked up 18."

When evaluating how QB Jimmy Garoppolo has played the last couple of weeks, he's thrown for over 300 yards in the games, been pretty efficient. At the same time QB Trey Lance has not played at all. Is there any correlation to that in terms of Jimmy feeling like he's in a grove and is that something you take into account?

"Not totally. I take into account when he's going to play in those packages, if that's what you mean. That's how I feel about it, helping the offense at the time. Chicago game, I didn't really plan on doing much of that because he was just coming off an injury. We had it in in both, but didn't plan on doing it unless needed and going into the Arizona game I thought we would do some, but the way the game went, we just never got into a rhythm offensively. You guys could see that. I didn't feel like the time to mix him in and change more stuff up."

Four of your games, you either have not scored in the first half or you haven't scored until the last minute of the second quarter. I'm Sure there are different reasons for that. Can you identify the sort of common thread to those slow offensive starts?

"Yeah, either not moving the chains on third down or having a turnover. I also know I haven't gotten through all the games like that right now off the top of my head. I think we scored on opening drive versus Indy, went right down. I think we did it on Detroit. I think we had a slow start versus Philly. I know Arizona and Green Bay took us until the end of the second quarter. Chicago, we went down, I think we missed a field goal on the opening drive. So it's about 50/50. We want to do better at that obviously. But there's not one easy answer for you. Each game's a little bit different."

When you watch he tape, how much different do the Rams look with Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford at quarterback this year?

"It's the same base. It's the same offense, they're a little more aggressive in the passing game. Do a lot more drop back than they used to. Still the same run game and still the same drop back pass game. I think the amount of what they do and what they major in is a little different."

We spent a lot of time asking about Jimmy blocking out the noise, but there's been a lot of noise around you the last few weeks. As head coach it comes with the territory, but how do you handle that and how are you able to block that out?

"I've gotten, I don't think I was always good at it. I don't think everyone does. You get better at it with experience and fortunately I've, and unfortunately, I've had to get good at that throughout my career. So, it's something that I'm pretty used to. I'm very focused on my job. I don't focus on that other stuff. It's something that when I'm home with my family, I'm just with my family. And when I'm here in this building, I do everything I can to try to prepare our guys to do better and get a win on Sunday. And that makes it a lot easier. I always have to be prepared to come in and answer your guys' questions and stuff like that, but that's about all the time I focus on that stuff."

Do you expect that Trey Lance will play more in the second half of the season?

"It depends how our season goes. I've said the same answers with that since the beginning. So, I don't know how many different ways I can say."

Well, what do you mean? Because you do have packages for him every game.

"Yeah, so you guys know that answer. Right? Every time he's up, there'll be packages for him and he'll always be an option to play."

But your answer was, 'we'll see how the season goes.'

"Because I thought his question was, 'is he ever going to become the guy?' And that's how I have to see how the season goes. When he's ready, when our team's ready. Obviously, there's nothing to play for, you make that decision for a lot of guys trying to prepare guys for the next year and stuff like that."

There was a report last week that said people inside the building had said Trey had regressed a little bit since the start of training camp. Is that true?

"Yeah, he's gone up, he's gone down just like every player in here. So when someone has a report that he had a really good first week of training camp, he did have a really good first week of training camp. He also had a good fourth week, a good third week. I can't remember exactly how it goes, so there's probably some accuracy to that report, which I think would be accurate with every player on our team."

Am I right to assume you don't want to reveal who's going to be your starting right tackle?

"No, I don't want to reveal it."

You guys have, both general manager John Lynch and yourself, have talked about how OL Aaron Banks has been coming on. This doesn't seem like it would be the time to have two different starters on the right side of your line, but how are you kind of approaching, what's your mindset as far as trying to figure out which pieces go in which spots for this upcoming game?

"Well, we have one spot open and when we feel that Aaron Banks is ready to go and can be more consistent than [OL Daniel] Brunskill, and that's the way to go, we'll do that. We obviously don't feel that way yet. On the right side, we lost our right tackle for the year, so we're going to try to figure out who's our best right tackle to replace him. Aaron Banks doesn't play tackle, so he's not in that conversation."

What about at cornerback? CB Ambry Thomas was in uniform this last game, does that indicate that he's going in the right direction like Banks is?

"Yeah, he's had a real good last few weeks. And I've been excited about him. He's been doing better each week and he's earning the right to be out there more, earned the right to dress. And hopefully, sooner than later, he'll earn the right to be out on the field on defense."

In what areas has Banks progressed, in your mind?

"Just being more consistent. He's been real good in the run blocking since he's been here and he's gotten more used to running. Missing all of camp, it took him a while to get his weight down and to get into football shape, which that's come just with each week. But the pass protection is the main thing he's taken steps forward in. And that's what he needs to continue doing."

How's RB Trey Sermon progressing?

"Trey's doing good too. Like I said last week, Trey, I thought, as you guys saw, when he got his opportunities with the injuries when all those guys got hurt, I thought he did better in his second and third game than his first game. And then we've got our guys back, but losing Hasty who we'll see if he's, he probably won't be up this week, will give Sermon another opportunity to get back at it."

Banks does look a little more, I don't know what the right word is, streamlined than he did in the summer.

"He looks more what?"

Streamlined. Like he's lost weight, skinny.

"Oh, leaner."

Is that right?

"Sexier (laughing)."

Is he lighter than he was?

"Yeah, he is. And he's a big guy, so it's not as much about, I want him to be big. I want him to be one of our heavier guys, but it's about being his right weight. And that usually comes with eating right, getting out to practice, doing it four days a week. And then it usually happens naturally if he's disciplined away from our building. And I think it was harder in camp because he couldn't get out there. But now doing about a month of it, practicing, eating right, I think he's doing a lot better."

When you lose five of six, everything comes into question, so there's been some talk about what leadership, and you guys have a lot of established guys who are kind of more quiet leaders, lead by example types. So, the conversation is well, you need someone to rattle some cages. Do you think you have enough guys or a guy who has the stature and personality to maybe say this, 'what's happening here, can't be tolerated anymore?'

"Yeah, I believe so. But I think all those guys got to play better too. It's not just, we don't have the right guy yelling at guys and saying, 'this can't be tolerated.' I mean, that sounds good and all for everyone, but those are just words. It's got to be with actions and not just wanting to do it, but performing at a high level. So when you have those guys that can hold people accountable, they also better be doing their job at a high level too. And I look less about who's going to get all these guys going to play their best. That's our job as coaches, as players, to try their best, to work their hardest, to get as healthy as they can for practice all the way up to Sunday and perform as good as you possibly can. And that's what you have to do as individuals. And you push everyone as a team, your team pushes each other and then your whole team rises together. I think it's very rare that you have one guy in that way. I get what you're saying, but that's usually not what answers it. It's a guy playing the right way, leading by example, doing it the right way, performing. And then we can all hold accountability and try to get a certain standard for every single player."

So, you're saying your best players have to be the leaders?

"Your best players got to play like, I say this to our team a lot, your A players got to play like A players every week. What I used to hear when I was younger is any coach can get a C player to play like a B player, I believe. But really good coaches get A players to play like A players every week. And that's how you push guys."

Is that an issue?

"Yeah, I think our A players can play more like A players. I think we've been missing some of them too. And I think we need to get them to, and that starts with me."

Is there a reason WR Trent Sherfield has fallen out of the rotation last few weeks? He seemed to have such a strong offseason.

"Yeah, and he was strong to start. That's why he pushed [WR Brandon] Aiyuk and at that time he was, we were rotating it, but he was ahead of Aiyuk coming out of camp. Aiyuk closed that ground up each week and Aiyuk's ahead of him now."

With Sanu possibly out, would you envision Trent Sherfield getting a little more playing time in the future?

"He can get more playing time. [WR] Jauan Jennings can get more playing time and so can [WR] Travis [Benjamin].

If RB Jeff Wilson Jr. is back 100-percent, do envision maybe more of a, maybe not 50/50, but something closer to that, as far as RB Elijah Mitchell and Jeff with the workload?

"Yeah, we expected to get that last week. The game didn't play out that way. But yeah, I expect Jeff to get some carries and you never go into it saying it'll be 50/50. Elijah's our starter right now, he's earned that. You open the game up with him, but they both can do some things. And Jeff also can help on third down, which he's always done in the past, which helps with Hasty possibly not being out there. But we also know Jeff can run the ball well too."

With the Norman situation last week, when you said coaches, it wasn't your decision to keep them out of the game, was that a defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans decision or a defensive passing game specialist/secondary coach Cory Undlin decision?

"Yeah, anytime that you're on the other side of the ball, just like me, like, when I've had a defensive head coach talking to me and there's been an issue and if they don't see it all, they click over and you've got to have someone you talk to and rely on and I always go to the defense coordinator. He's the head coach of the defense. It's always my decision, but I'm not going to sit here and just react and make these decisions when I don't know exactly what happened. So, I always go to the defensive coordinator to see if he saw it and then we go to the position coaches."

How much of a wildcard is Los Angeles Rams OLB Von Miller that he's never played with the Rams before?

"It's a wildcard in terms of he's a real good player. You don't know exactly where they're going to use him, but it's not a wildcard in knowing what Von is. He's very good, but they've got a lot of other guys over there to worry about too."

With LB Fred Warner's responsibility kind of going up and down, it seems like when his responsibility off the field has gone down, he's played better. How do you assess how he's been playing this season and important, I guess, in conjunction with his responsibility level off the field?

"Everyone knows we gave Fred a new contract and he's learned every single bit of it. I think Fred can play at a higher level. I think he agrees with that also. Everyone on our defense can and everyone on our offense can. Everyone sees our record, what it is. We need coaches, players, everybody to play to the best of their ability. And Fred's one of our best players and one of our leaders. And I know no one's working on it more than him. It's not more important to anyone than him and Fred will play better and that helps the 10 guys around him. When the 10 guys around him play better, Fred will play a lot better also, so it all goes hand in hand."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

What kind of captures your attention when you look at the Rams and the units they put out there?

"What captures my attention with the Rams, obviously they're led by [Los Angeles Rams special teams coordinator] Joe DeCamillis who's a veteran, really good special teams coach in this league. But when you look at their players and obviously I know [Los Angeles Rams head coach] Sean [McVay], we worked with Sean and those guys are detailed, really good coaches. When I look at their players, obviously [Los Angeles Rams P] Johnny Hekker has done a really nice job for them over the years. He makes it tough to get returned. They're sixth in the NFL right now in punt coverage and are doing a nice job with that. Their gunners are doing a really nice job. So is their interior. [Los Angeles Rams K] Matt Gay, who is the kicker, he does a nice job. Their specialists are playing really well right now. Obviously you guys know he went to college with [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] and was drafted when Mitch was drafted. He's a really good, young player. He's doing a nice job for them on field goals and on kickoffs. And then they've got a really good core. In terms of the guys that they had, they've got a couple of young guys that they drafted. Some of those guys are hurt right now. Like obviously [Los Angeles Rams WR] Tutu [Atwell] is hurt, but 18, [Los Angeles Rams WR] Ben [Skowronek] he's a really good player. Number 44, [Los Angeles Rams LB] Jamir [Jones] is a really good player. So they present some challenges just like all units. But we're really excited about the challenge. We're excited to implement our plan and go to work against these guys on Monday Night Football. It's going to be a great challenge for us and I think our guys are really ready to showcase what they can do. And that's what we're excited about."

With Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel there for so long, they were known for doing a lot of the trick stuff with Hekker, specifically. Do you see signs of some of that stuff still or how much do you still kind of have to be aware of it even though he's not there anymore?

"Yeah, anytime Hekker's back there, he can throw the football. I mean, he's completed 13 out of his last 22 attempts. He's really good at that. They tried one earlier this year as well. So even though Fassel's not there they've thrown the football this year. We have to be prepared for any type of fake at any time any week, anybody we play. But obviously they've done a lot in their career and with Fassel at the Rams and then Joe De has done it quite a bit in his career as well. So we've got a whole cut up on coordinators. We usually take them back as far as we could take them to non HD if we've got them even from 2007 and we watch all of the specials and everything they've done over the years. And obviously you have to cut that out and trim it down and give the players what they need to get prepared. But us as coaches, coach [assistant special teams coach Matthew] Harper does a hell of a job with that stuff. And coach [special teams quality control coach August] Mangin does as well, cut all that stuff and pull all that stuff. And I still have some that I collected from when I started. So we've got a pretty good file, but we still have to be prepared for anything they throw at us."

On the same token, you guys haven't run any fake special teams plays this year. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you have in the last few years. Is there an urge to, I mean, when you're in a losing streak, is there an urge to maybe try some more things and be more experimental at practice to see what works in case you do need to change the momentum of a game in that way?

"Yeah, we always have in, I think every coach in the league always has them in and up every week. But it also goes to what look are you getting and if you can take advantage of something. I think guys get in trouble when they run fakes just to run them. You know, there has to be a structure that you're looking at. You have to make sure that you can get it or have a high percentage chance of getting it or is your offense better and do they take over that? Which our offense has been really good here over the years and still good. I mean, it's still good. So we haven't had the need to do that a ton. I think if that answers your question."

Without being specific, have there been instances where you had a fake in but didn't run it because you didn't get the look?

"Sure. Yeah. They're always, just like on offense or defense, there's always plays in that you have that you could can or check out of or whatever if you have a look and we thought we had a look and didn't have a look and guys get out of it. That's happened several times. Yeah. And that's why you've got to have your guys in there trained that know how to recognize looks. And I think for us, we've got a lot of different PPs that can recognize that. And I can point out just [CB] Dontae Johnson and a consummate pro he's being throughout this. And he's very smart and he knows how to look at those things and we trust him a ton."

What have you seen from WR Brandon Aiyuk's 27-yard return last week and do you kind of see that there are going to be more opportunities like that in the future? Just the way that unit is meshing together?

"Yeah. Again, every week's a new week. I'm really happy with the job that they did on that particular play, but there's always more and there's always room for improvement. And that's what I'm always going to push these guys to do. But on that particular play, [WR] Trent Sherfield and [RB] Trenton Cannon had a double team down at the bottom on the left gunner and they did a phenomenal job eliminating that gunner from the play. Up top you had Dontae Johnson and [CB] Ambry Thomas working together on that play to get those gunners stopped on the right side. And Ambry had a beautiful what we call a hip by down the field, basically like a high screen block where he put his hands up and didn't block the guy in the back. You know, he did the right thing. You don't want to block in the back and bring that ball back. So he did just like the league coaches it and wants us to do how they coach the coaches to do it. And I was proud that the players did it in that situation. Another guy that you want to point out on that play, I mean, I know Aiyuk gets the credit on it, but [TE] Charlie Woerner did a heck of a job coming down the field and recognizing what we call turn and burn. When there's nobody in front of you, you want to turn and burn up the field and create a convoy. And [WR] Jauan Jennings had an outstanding effort blocking the wing on that play. So there were a ton of guys, [LB] Marcell [Harris] did the same thing Ambry did and didn't get called for a penalty. He did the right technique in that situation. When you're in the trail position, you want to do a hip by and make sure you just screen the guy right in front of him. And then Aiyuk did the rest. He caught the ball, really caught it square, got around the edge. Outstanding explosive play for him, really needed that play after the defense, Mitch pinned them at the 11-yard line and then the defense went three-and-out and in that play to the plus 36-yard line of Arizona and we ended up getting points out of that drive. So Aiyuk's coming into his own, but so are his blockers and they're getting a chance to feel the way he returns. And those guys are trying to the best as they can to mesh together. And we've just got to get even better. So yeah, it was a good play, but we want to try to put it in the end zone."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

You've talked about how the offense is at its best when you're able to distribute the ball to multiple people. How much has WR Brandon Aiyuk's kind of little resurgence here helped and what's helped him get there from your perspective?

"It always helps me. Whenever guys are coming on like that and playing better every week, it makes a quarterback's job easier. But I mean, when you could just distribute it differently, you guys dropped the stat with [WR] Deebo [Samuel] having such a high percentage a couple of weeks ago, when we could get away from that and get other guys the ball, we have a lot of playmakers on this team and so whenever we could do that, it's always a good thing."

What about him specifically, Brandon, that's kind of from your perspective has helped him?

"It could be a number of things. I think it starts with his mindset and just what he brings every day into the building. I think other guys have helped him, talked to him. [WR Mohamed] Mo [Sanu Sr.] played a big role just being the veteran leadership in that room, I think Deebo, and then all the coaches obviously playing their role in it. But it's a group effort. It's not just one guy, but B.A. has been showcasing some good things lately."

You guys played the Rams in 2019 without former T Joe Staley, without T Mike McGlinchey. And you won that game pretty handily. Does that get revisited at all this week that, you know, even with some injuries you guys are capable of beating this Rams defense?

"Definitely. Yeah. I think whenever you could go back to last year's game, you know, players change coaches change, but their players haven't changed a whole ton. They brought in some new pieces here and there, but their key players, we know who we have to handle and obviously they brought [Los Angeles Rams LB] Von [Miller] in who's a hell of a player. So it'll be a challenge for us, but yeah, you could always rely on last year's tape and even just we've had injuries here in the past, so it's nothing we haven't dealt with before."

In 2019 your offense had such a clear identity. Do you feel like you guys have established one yet this season?

"You know, I think that kind of just comes naturally. You never want to say this is our identity at the beginning of the year and we have to stick to it. I think with injuries, as the season progresses, your identity kind of changes with the season in a way. And I think we've had some games where our identity is clear cut and, like Chicago, we ran the ball very well and hit some play action off of it. And I think we're just trying to find that still."

You've had back-to-back games with 300 yards and QB Trey Lance hasn't come in to relieve you. Has that helped you get into a groove and do you feel like you're in one now?

"I really haven't put too much thought into it. Every week if Trey comes in or he doesn't come in, it really doesn't change what I'm doing out there. But yeah, I think you could say we're in a groove. I think there's a lot of room for improvement with us. I think we have some things that we could shore up just in the past game, especially just with crisper, getting onto the details and things like that. I think it will make us that much better."

The locker room back when you first here, there was a lot of adversity, you kind of sparked the offense and got into a winning streak. This year with all the adversity you're facing now, it's obviously a different locker room. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that you guys have been through so much more now, that it's a different, maybe a higher level of disappointment at this point. How do you manage that?

"Well, our expectations are very high so I think that leads to the more of a disappointing feeling. But that kind of is a good thing in a way. And I know it sounds weird to say, but when you are progressing as a team, as an organization, you start getting better, your expectations start going higher and that's the way you want to trend. And so, when you do have losses and things like that, it hurts. But I don't know if I'm wording this the right way, you are trending in the right direction because your expectations are going up. And I think that in our locker room as a whole guys have that mindset, have that feeling and we just have to go execute now."

Did you make any recruiting pitch to Los Angeles Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr.?

"In our building, I guess you could say. But no, I'm happy with the guys we've got right now. I just heard that news a little while ago."


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