Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Transcripts: What Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and DeMeco Ryans said ahead of 49ers-Vikings

Nov 24, 2021 at 2:43 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, 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:

"Injuries today. Mo [DL Maurice] Hurst, out. [RB JaMycal] Hasty is out. [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] is limited. [CB] Josh Norman, limited. [OL] Laken Tomlinson, limited and [T] Trent Williams will have the day off, vet day."

Is there any update on LB Dre Greenlaw or even DL Dee Ford?

"Yeah, Greenlaw we activated him. I think this is his second week practicing, maybe third. He'll go today and hopefully he'll be ready to go this week. Dee Ford, we should activate tomorrow. We're not going to practice him today, we don't like him to go three days, so he'll get out there tomorrow and hopefully be good to go for Sunday."

Minnesota has issues right now, obviously, with Minnesota Vikings DL Everson Griffin, but they're missing other guys on the defensive line. How does that adjust your guys preparation going into this game?

"Not at all. They're two good players, so it's unfortunate for them if they don't have them, but it's not going to change what they do."

Obviously, every week is important for you guys, but when you have a game like this where it's another NFC team and you're kind of in that playoff conversation, does that enter into your conversation? Is that a talking point at all with the team?

"It's not a talking point. People are aware of it, I would assume so. Usually you have an idea of the other team's record going into it, but no, I think they've been battling back this season, just like we have. Two teams that are probably playing their better ball of the year right now. And so I think our players are very well aware from the film, from what they've been doing, their numbers in a bunch of areas, it's going to be a real tough game."

There was a play on that first drive down near the goal line where every skill position guy was playing a different position from what he typically plays. TE George Kittle was playing fullback, etcetera, etcetera. I know that's not novel anymore, but it used to be like your running back is your running back and he always stayed there. For you, was there an influence as far as a coach or somebody that, where you saw like, 'Hey, maybe your tight end can be a fullback or your running back can be a wide receiver.' Was there a big influence for you? Or is that something you came up with on your own?

"I just think it's been that way for a long time. I remember stories I heard growing up, that play that was just because of man coverage and to see where everyone lines up is hard when they're nowhere it's expected, but a lot of people do that in the league. I remember back a long time ago when my dad had to come out here and live for two months without us and learn the Niners playbook, the [former 49ers head coach] Bill Walsh west coast system. He got fired from Denver and came here as a coordinator. And I just remember stories of him telling me that he had to learn their whole thing, which was awesome because they have it all on video and he could just watch all those guys coach it over the years. But then he started changing some personnel groupings and stuff like [former 49ers WR] Jerry [Rice] had ran for a while, then he'd have [former 49ers FB] Tom Rathman run it. And he said for a while there was a revolt because it was Jerry's play, not Tom's or vice versa. So then he had to explain that you can just change the personnel grouping, so I wouldn't say that in particular because I think that's how football is for all of us. But I don't know if it always was."

I think you said earlier that this might be the biggest wide receiver group that you've ever had. I'm just wondering whether you're seeing the results of that in sort of the downhill blocking, that sort of gritty element of that position?

"Yeah, I think our guys have been pretty gritty since we've been here in terms of blocking all with that mindset, but when you have that mindset with some bigger guys, especially all three of them. Not all height, but just weight and their attitude and how gritty they are. It definitely has an effect and I think you can see that on tape this year, especially in these last few games."

When WR Deebo Samuel is in the backfield, what kind of confusion can that create with the opposing defense, just like getting lined up?

"It depends what coverages they are in. Man coverage, who's got him when he's outside, who's got him in the backfield, those are different run fits, can confuse linebackers on the runs and the passes. You just have to account for everything. Same with motions, same with where guys are going to line up, there's a lot of different stuff for it."

The wide receivers, with WR Devin Funchess coming in, is the plan as a veteran guy to just kind of get him up to speed in case you need him for later?

"Yeah, the personnel department, [general manager] John [Lynch], all those guys, they try to stay up on all that stuff. And they bring guys in almost every week and they liked his workout and we're going to give him a shot here and see how he is this week."

Do you see the practice squad as kind of a rotating group? What's your philosophy on what you want to accomplish with the practice squad?

"You always would love guys to develop on practice squad, a 53-man roster isn't enough. We have five receivers, one guy gets hurt, the practice squad guy is dressing the next week and being a part of that gameplan. For a while we've only had four linebackers with Dre being on short-term IR so, the next guy up. We've only had three safeties, which means our backup safety at one position has been practice squad each week, so that's why you always wish there was a minor league. That's why it's hard to develop a practice squad quarterback too. There's just not enough backups, so most of those guys, they're labeled practice squad, but they're usually your third-string because you don't have that at every spot."

I think Funchess is around 230 pounds. Any thought about doing a TE Jordan Matthews with him to see if he could convert to tight end at all?

"No, we haven't seen him for a few years and I think he had an injury in training camp and it sounds like he's healthy now. So, we're just going to take a look at him, see how to use him."

Are you getting out of WR Jauan Jennings kind of what you thought you might get out of former 49ers WR Jalen Hurd just in terms of a bigger body and kind of the mentality out there?

"No, Jalen was different just because Jalen was a college running back, so we knew he could have played there. We also thought he was going to be a tight end, eventually. Also could be a fullback and a receiver, so that was a little bit different. Jauan is a receiver all the way. It's nice that he does have a big body in that size he's similar to [WR Mohamed] Mo Sanu [Sr.] and how he's wired. And Mo did a hell of a job for us throughout the year. And it's been nice that he allowed Jauan to get more ready and Jauan has done a good job when his opportunities have come here these last couple of weeks."

What do you mean by how he's wired, how they're similar?

"Just how they're wired in terms of how they create separation with their size, their speed, their agility, their hands, just certain ways that they are wired to get open. It kind of depends on the type of routes you choose for people. Each one of our guys is wired a little bit differently."

Annual Thanksgiving question. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and then also do you or your family participate in Black Friday, Cyber Monday stuff at all?

"No, I don't. I really don't get much of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is awesome for us because we speed up the whole schedule. And so it feels like we get a little bit of vacation because on Thursdays usually you get home at 10. But we speed up the schedule so we can get home by like seven. And then usually, when I walk in the door, I see about 12 people very upset with me and very hungry and very irritated because they didn't get to do it at two, like they usually do. But when they come to visit us, they've got to wait until I get home. And then I go to bed pretty quick after and they get annoyed with me and I tell them, just let me go to bed because if we win, then I'll hang out a lot more on Sunday night."

One more Thanksgiving question. Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dish?

"Yeah, growing up my mom always made this noodles dish that was really good. And my wife makes this really good green bean casserole."

After you made the trade in March, you said QB Jimmy Garoppolo is better when he's ticked off. And if Jimmy plays really well and stays healthy, that would be a great problem for you guys to have. You have to make a decision after this season and do you stick with Jimmy, is there a chance he stays here in 2022 and remains your starter?

"I think there's a chance for anything, but I think we made it pretty clear that [QB] Trey [Lance] is our guy of the future, whenever that'll happen. But it was also nothing against Jimmy that we took him, but we do believe Trey will be our guy of the future. And like I said, I think it'll be really hard if Jimmy's on it for him to beat them out right away. So it is kind of going like that right now and I'm not thinking much past that."

Teams change so much year-to-year in the NFL, but are the 49ers and the Vikings in terms of coaching-style, personnel, systems of football, pretty similar to the teams that faced each other back in the playoffs after 2019?

"Yeah, I believe so. [Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer] Zim has done what he's done for a long time and so has our coaching staff, and I know we have a different defensive coordinator, but still very similar style and very similar defense. So schematically, I think it's very similar. And usually there's a lot of turnover in three years, but you go back and watch those games and they're still some of the main guys, especially on their side of the ball and you can see our guys too."

I have a football philosophy question. You mentioned you wished there was a minor league. Do you think it could work, like a spring league?

"Yeah, anything could work. I don't know if it could make money. I don't know how that could go for anything, but that's just what's tough. It's tough to develop guys when you get only OTAs and training camp and those are getting taken away a lot. So it's really good for veterans who've made it, who don't need to be developed, but everyone else needs time. And especially at certain positions like quarterback, but it's almost impossible to do that with just the practice squad."

How close did you guys look at Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson in that draft last year and what have you seen from him? Why has he been playing so well?

"Oh yeah, we looked at him real close. We looked at all those receivers real close. And we were huge fans and I think he's one of the best receivers in the league, if not the best. So, I think he's been unbelievable. I love his style of play, he reminds me a ton of [Buffalo Bills WR] Emmanuel Sanders back in the day. But he's a hell of a player."

Arden Key has come on with sacks, I guess the last three games. But were you seeing things before the sacks actually came that showed progress with him?

"Yeah, Arden has got good movement and he can create some edges on guys, so when you get some one-on-ones in there, depending which way the center goes, he's got as good of a chance to beat a guard or tackle one-on-one. So he's got those pass-rush skills and I think we've been playing a little bit better coverage here lately. We've been aggressive in our man, more aggressive in our zone and I think that leads to our D-Line also good more opportunities."

OL Laken Tomlinson, is this his best season?

"Maybe. Usually I can't tell you until after. Lake's been pretty consistent for us. He shows up every single week. He's been a very solid foundation for us over the years. He is having a good year, but I think it's similar to his other years that he's had, but I'll tell you after the year when I study all the cut-ups."

Can you shed some light on Trent Williams' performance at this point in the season and what you expect from him in Sunday's game?

"I expect Trent to be one of the best players on the field every week. Everyone knows how talented Trent is and the way he plays, he enjoys playing. And he's been playing at an extremely high level this year. I probably would say it's probably the best year that Trent's had just up to now. Just consistency and playing up to that level every week, but we're just past halfway there. So, he's got a lot more to go and we need him to play like an A-player this week too."

Are you talking about versus his entire career that this is the best he's played?

"Yeah, I would say so."

At this age, does that shock you?

"No, because we see him in practice. You look at his age, he's still to me the most talented guy. I don't see many people more talented than him. So usually when, as you get older in age, the talent goes and you still can execute a level with wisdom and experience. But I see the same talent and I think he's got a lot more wisdom and experience."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

I think we know how head coach Kyle Shanahan feels about Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins after all these years. What's your thoughts on Cousins and what makes him a good quarterback?

"I think Cousins is really playing at a very high level right now. I think he's making really good decisions with the ball, has a ton of playmakers out there helping him make those plays. But think Kirk is just one of the best at when it comes to delivering the ball, getting it out and making the correct read and going where the ball needs to go and if it's not there is probably one of the best at getting it to his checkdown and allowing them to get four or five yards there. So when you see Kirk, he's just very decisive quarterback. Also a very smart quarterback who puts those guys in a lot of good situations."

Have you gone through a process or your players, have they gone through the process of trying to figure out how every position group, every level fits together and how you coach them, how you want them coached, position coaches and personnel all coming together? Has that been a process?

"I think it has been a process going on. We have new coaches that are here with us, just learning my style of how we do things. So it has been a process, but I think overall, we've had a core of guys that have been here that it hasn't had to change much. And it's been a very smooth transition with the guys and our guys understand how we play. And it's not about me. It's just about the Niner way and the type of players that we bring in. That's the most important thing, guys who love football, guys who are passionate about it, guys who are going to play with a ton of energy. Those are the types of guys that we bring in the organization. So from that standpoint, it's easy to coach guys when you've got the right people in. So we don't have to worry about the person. We just get the player correct with their techniques and where they're supposed to be. But we have guys who love football, love playing football, and they're excited about it. So that makes it easy."

So what do you think we've seen? The last couple of weeks it's been pretty good. What do you think you've seen? What has coming together in these last few games?

"I don't think there's anything drastic that happened. I mean, we're doing the same thing. Guys are just owning the fundamentals. I think I talked earlier a couple of weeks ago when things didn't go well, you know, in the Arizona game that everyone talks about, but we didn't play good fundamental football. We didn't tackle well, we weren't where we needed to be. We didn't make plays on the ball. And when you don't do that, you don't have everybody running to the ball like they should. Everybody's not taking the proper angles. When you do that, no matter what week it is, you're not going to have a good outing. When you're giving up explosives it's not going to be good. So what you've seen over the past couple of weeks is guys are just owning the fundamentals. Guys are just doing their job. Coverage is tight. Guys are being where they're supposed to be. And guys are just doing their job. And that's the one thing that happened. We had to letdown and that wasn't us. It was very uncharacteristic of our defense that particular week. But I mean, how guys have been playing, that's who we are, that's who our guys have been."

When DL Arden Key was with the Raiders he had the reputation of the guy that kind of flashed on you a little, but never quite finished. In fact, I don't think he ever had a sack. And now he's got three in the last three games. What have you seen from him since he got here and his progress to now?

"I see Arden as a very, very athletic rusher. And one thing that Arden has that you can't coach his length. Arden has very long arms, it allows him to be able to get to the quarterback and get him down. He's very good when he's rushing inside on guards. I think that's probably his best suit, but Arden has just done a great job working with coach [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek in our stunts and games that we work. He's really taken grasp of it and really owned it. And he's just doing a good job of executing those particular stunts. And he's done a good job of just rushing when he has his one-on-one opportunities. You know, he's come away with pressure on the quarterback and he's gotten the quarterback down in some very critical situations that has helped us to win some games."

The other day DL Nick Bosa was talking about how he's kind of improved his plan for taking on the double teams and all the things that are thrown at him. I'm curious, what kind of growth have you seen in him from just kind of the way he approaches the game on a mental side?

"Yeah, I think overall Bosa is just, he's still, he's a young player and as young players you think you know it all, but you have to keep going and learning and the more you do it, the more experience you have. And I think that's what we see with Bosa is that he's just gaining experience and the more experience he has, he's being able to play smarter, understand how teams are trying to attack him and understanding how we need to counteract that so he can still be who he is and be a dominant player who can affect the quarterback. So Bosa is definitely, he's learning, he's gaining experience and he continues to get better each week. That's the most impressive thing about him. He continues to get better. You can see he's in a really good space physically and he's doing an outstanding job for us."

How do you help him? Because he was talking earlier in the season that he was frustrated with all the double teams and stuff and kind of would get defeated a little bit, even on the field. How do you kind of help him through that, knowing that, "Hey, you're not going get there even one out of 10 times probably." How do you help him get through that?

"That tells me he's one of the best players out there. They're going to put two on you. So that's the one thing he has to understand. He's garnered a lot of attention, which is rightfully so. He deserves it because of how affective he is. And you know, that's a compliment to him first and foremost, that teams are paying that much attention to him because he is a guy who can wreck games. So you just, you're appreciative of that from other teams. But you also, we've got to find a way as coaches to move him around and put him in better situations so he doesn't have to worry about those double teams as well."

This obviously isn't just the 49ers, but your offense has a lot of positionless players. From a defensive perspective when a team does that, what is the challenge for a defense when the fullback is split wide, for example?

"I think the way our offense operates with [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice, [WR] Deebo [Samuel], you never know where they're going to align and that's the beauty of our offense and the way they scheme up plays it's you don't know where guys are going to align so as a defense you can't do too much because you don't know where these guys are. So you can't do too much schematically. You just want to be sound, want guys to know exactly where they need to be no matter where those guys are in those different positions, but it does make it tough on a defense. If you're trying to match up certain guys and you don't know where they're going to be, it can make it very challenging for teams defensively. And I think our offense is one of the best in the league at moving guys around, putting guys in certain positions. I know they probably never thought Deebo would be lined up at running back and making plays there. So it's just, it's a credit to those guys, Kyle and the staff have done a tremendous job of, as a coach your job is to put players in position to make plays and that's what our guys I think do the best in the league at."

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

"Favorite Thanksgiving dish would be the macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes."

Along those lines, what's your family's Thanksgiving traditions and do you or anyone in your family do any black Friday shopping?

"Our Thanksgiving tradition has always been, we would always, all the family always came together at one place and everybody brought their best dish. So that was your one time of the year to try out everybody's best. So it's always fun to just have family around, good eating. And with the black Friday, I haven't done that in a while and now everything is online so you don't have to worry about getting out at stores and going, running to Walmart and Target and standing in long lines. So you don't have to worry about that anymore, doing it online now. So I don't get involved with the black Friday."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

"That's a good one to start with. I'm a stuffing guy, personally, stuffing, cranberry sauce. Those are two good go-tos."

Can I do a Thanksgiving follow-up? What are your favorite traditions and do you do any black Friday, holiday shopping, cyber Monday stuff?

"Not really. I'm not much of a shopper, during the season's tough. But yeah, I'll get online a little bit, maybe. Tradition-wise, not really, just kind of go over to one of the guy's houses. I'm having my family over this time for Thanksgiving, so, yeah a nice little setup."

You've faced the Vikings a couple of times. What kind of challenges does their defense present?

"Well, they don't give you anything easy. That's where it starts. Their linebackers are really talented, kind of play high to low on things, a challenge in the pass game with some of the two-high stuff, try to take away the play pass and things like that. And it makes it tough on us."

What does it mean when the linebackers play high to low?

"Similar to our linebackers, actually. They'd rather play the 10-yard route than the five-yard route and make you just check it down and march down the field."

Obviously every game is important, but when you play a game like this, NFC opponent, both kind of right in the playoff mix, how much awareness is there in a locker room of what this could mean down the line?

"I think guys have had that awareness the last couple of weeks, honestly. Our backs were kind of up against the wall and we've kind of responded pretty well these last couple of weeks. So I think guys have that in their mind already. We've just got to keep riding this momentum we've got right now."

How much fun has it been to see WR Deebo Samuel play wide receiver and running back for your offense?

"I enjoy it. Moving him around, we had a couple formations with guys in different places last week. It just makes it tough on defenses to communicate, especially if they're in man and some of those situations could get hard on them. So it's been awesome. He embraces it. Not many receivers would want to be getting handoffs between the tackles, but he embraces that stuff."

The last time you guys played at home you won. I'm sure you probably could have done without the wave while you guys were on offense.

"I did notice that."

Just the atmosphere, you know, the game in primetime, now kind of a playoff-type of game. What do you need from fans or what do you guys get from playing in front of them?

"Well, the fans show up every Sunday, they really do. No matter what the circumstances and you've got to appreciate them for that. Just you know, be loud on third down, get out there early for us, from the kickoff starting and just be ready to roll. It's going to be an electric atmosphere. They're a good team. They're hot right now. So we know what we're in for."

It seems like WR Brandon Aiyuk has really played well the last couple of weeks, which maybe allows you to use Deebo at running back a little bit more. How important has Aiyuk's ascension been in the last couple of weeks?

"Really important for himself, for our team, everything. He's made some big strides. And I know everyone's been talking about it and everything, but you've got to give the guy credit when credit is due."

Do you think, well, head coach Kyle Shanahan said after they made the trade in March that if you stayed healthy and played well that would be a great problem for the 49ers. They have a decision for 2022. See where this is headed? Do you think it's a possibility you could still be here next year?

"I mean, honestly with the possibilities, I try not to close any doors too early. I don't know. It's one of those situations you've got to let it play out. We've got a lot going on with the season and everything right now. If you start thinking about those other things, you just get distracted, I think, but when we cross that bridge we'll assess everything then."

With the ways you guys have played the last two weeks and really dominated and in the locker room, was there any chatter about being flexed out of that Seattle game and taking that game out of primetime?

"Not really. I mean, I heard about it. Really doesn't matter when or where we play, just get us on a football field."

You've had WR Jauan Jennings out there the last couple of games. What does he bring to the offense and the team with his, I guess, style of play and also his bubbly personality?

"Yeah, it's a good mixture because he is having a good time out there, but he is locked in at the same time. I mean, you saw it in the Jacksonville game when he got into that little scuffle with the guy, he kept his cool, I was right next to him and he was smiling, laughing it off. And it's tough for a guy to do that in that situation, but for a young guy, it's pretty impressive. I picked up his helmet for him."

You guys have had back-to-back games with 40-or-more rushes. Do you think that's sustainable? Is that the kind of the formula for you guys to get the win?

"I mean it's any football team that rushes for 40 times I think you're going to have a good day offensively. But yeah we've done it in the past. It's worked for us well. Our offense seems to adapt to week-to-week and whatever the defense is giving us, we try to take advantage of that."

What kind of advantage can you guys get with them having to shuffle their defensive line personnel so much in the last two days?

"Yeah, it's a big advantage for us. I think, you know, the guys stepping in there are no slouches either. So we've got to be ready for that. But yeah, that's just the NFL. It's that time of year, everyone's dealing with something and next man up mindset."

The first series you had against the Jags, a 20-play drive, and the second and one, I think it was your bad throw to RB Jeff Wilson Jr. Sorry to bring this up, but the point is I think every skill position player there on the field was in a different position. Deebo was a running back, TE George Kittle was a fullback. Kyle said that was because they were in man coverage. Can you explain why that puts a defense in a bind when you have a fullback lined up at wide receiver when they're in man?

"Well, we were going quick too. So I mean the rush up to the line of scrimmage, our guys were set immediately. It's just hard for defenders to find their guys. I mean, the corner is used to the receiver being right here and now all of a sudden he's lined up at fullback. I mean, it's tough and it happened so quick that defenses, like the one to Jeff, it wasn't even designed for Jeff, but I saw him flash out of the corner of my eye and try to make a play on it, missed it. It's just with those plays, you've got to be ready for anything because they can mess it up or they could play it perfectly too."


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