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

Dec 1, 2021 at 2:32 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Seattle Seahawks 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:

"[RB JaMycal] Hasty, ankle, limited. [DL] Maurice Hurst, calf, limited. [DL Nick] Bosa won't practice, just a rest day. [LB] Fred Warner, hamstring, won't practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, won't practice, just a rest day. [RB] Trey Sermon, ankle, won't practice. [LB Dre] Greenlaw, groin, won't practice. [LB] Marcell [Harris] is in the protocol. [WR] Deebo [Samuel], groin, won't practice. [C Alex] Mack, just a rest day, won't practice and [T] Trent Williams, rest day."

With Hasty and Hurst, is there a chance that they can play on Sunday?


Any WR Mohamed Sanu Sr. update?

"No, I don't have one."

As far as Fred, he's so prominent out there at practice, before games as a sort of an energy guy and as a leader. This will be the first game he's missed. Are you curious who's going to kind of step up in those areas for your team?

"Yeah, I think it will be [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair]. Fred's a leader, but on game day it's not like the big pump-up speeches or anything, it's how he does his job on the field. And Fred's the leader out there because he's the quarterback of the defense. He gets the calls, he gets everyone lined up being the MIKE linebacker and this week that'll be Azeez, who I think is more than ready for it."

What do you make of the Seahawks struggles, offensively? It's a team that you've played a lot of games with, but it looks like a very different version of them right now.

"I know it's a matter of time with them, they've done it before. They've got a lot of good players there, some competitive guys. I know their coaching staff too is a good coaching staff. People go through it, especially when your quarterback misses some time. You have different guys in there, it takes a while to get that continuity. But even though they struggled on Monday night, just like typical Seattle fashion, you saw how they almost won the game too. It took stopping the two-point conversion, having an illegal formation on the onside kick, so it really doesn't matter how they've been, you know it's always going to come down to the wire."

You've talked a lot about Bosa's physical abilities and things he does in terms of getting himself in shape and all that stuff. On the mental side of things, how have you seen him grow, maybe just in terms of the way he attacks opposing offensive tackles?

"I think Nick's one of the smarter players I've ever been around. He's extremely talented. But just the detail, he looks into everything. If you ever sit and listen to him and Trent Williams just have a conversation about one pass rush move. I mean, I barely can see it all and then you hear them talk about 25 different things that happened in three seconds. And you see the technical stuff that he's always on, so the more he goes against guys, the more he studies tape, not everyone's like that, but he soaks in a lot and he applies to his game, which has been real impressive."

When you have a guy like Deebo, do you have Deebo-specific plays or the carry over, say to this week, is it just like you guys have people who can do the same things, but maybe they play different positions or what have you?

"Yeah. It's usually like that. You give plays to whoever can do them. However, which way. Whether, it works in the pass game and the run game that way, but some stuff you guys have seen Deebo do, [TE] George [Kittle] has done that before. Not as much, but we've had [WR Brandon] Aiyuk do it before. If you think it's effective, then you do it."

When you guys get on a win streak like this, how do you approach it in terms of keeping them humble, but also trying to appreciate and carry over the positive momentum?

"I think our guys are pretty humble. We're not sitting here, we're one game over .500. They don't need me to tell them that. This league, it's different each week. We don't look at it as we just arrived. We look at it as we've done right three weeks in a row. We just look at it that way and we know where we have been at times this year, especially losing the amount in a row that we did. Whether it's young guys, sometimes you can worry about that because you learn through your life experiences and sometimes people don't get that until the NFL. I think our young guys learned how bad the NFL is when you lose. And I think some of them are seeing how much better life is coming to work and everything when you win. And it's good that they can learn that and everyone else who has been here I think already knows that."

Azeez has come through with big plays, like the last two games. Has his ascent been a gradual one in your eyes or has something just clicked in lately or how would you describe it?

"Azeez in college or even when he got here, I thought Azeez was always a kind of a splash player. Anybody who runs without hesitation and is very physical and is running through people and doesn't hesitate, those guys make plays. Now, sometimes they mess up plays too, because they're out of control. So I always think Azeez has made some plays for us, but I think the more reps he's gotten in these few years, taking a starter role. I think him making mistakes, he's got a lot less and the more that happens, the more confidence you get, and that's why he's playing at his best when he is doing those things."

George talked about just how Deebo has been everything for this offense and the mismatches he creates just by defenses not knowing what you're going to do. Given how effective he's been as a runner and just creating those mismatches, do you feel like you have to find a new recipe to create that?

"Yeah, usually you have to find a new recipe almost every week, but regardless of what you do, people are usually going to be able to stop it. And Deebo was still able to break a few big runs here three weeks in a row. But regardless of who breaks it, whether it's Deebo, it's not some real trick. It's real good blocking and having a good runner who's got a chance to break a tackle and make an explosive, not just six-yard gain. I think Elijah has done a pretty good job of that. And I think we've got some guys who are capable and the more big plays you get, the easier it is to win."

Does the MIKE always wear the green dot?

"On our team, he does."

So, regardless of who it is and what's the purpose behind that?

"It has to be someone who doesn't come off the field. People who play with a lot of DBs they usually give it to a safety, but it has to be a guy doesn't come off the field."

It seems like LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles could have a big role on Sunday too. What'd you guys like about him coming out and as far as converting him from safety to linebacker, what were you kind of seeing in him?

"When you're looking at a draft, you have to see where you can get guys. And he was a guy who was a later round safety. And he didn't go, he wasn't drafted, we got him as a free agent. It was [New York Jets head coach Robert] Saleh and [defensive coordinator] DeMeco [Ryans] just looked at him as they thought he had the capability to play linebacker. The style he played at, knew it would take him a couple of years, so we tried to beef him up a little bit, teach him the ropes at linebacker. And we put a lot of time into him, just from a coaching standpoint and he's been great here. He's had some setbacks with some injuries, especially in 2019, I believe it was his biggest one. But he knows how to run the defense inside and out. He's been good in his pass game and as he's gotten bigger, he's learned how to play inside the box."

I feel like there's almost a morphing of safeties and like SAM linebackers, it feels like a lot of those guys have some of the similar responsibilities and some of those guys switch positions. Do you feel like that's happened over the last few years in the NFL?

"Yeah. It's all cyclical, 3-4 defenses are very interchangeable. If you go back and watch old games of some of these defenses and you see it's not much different than now. Especially with some of the 3-4 teams and the stuff they're doing. I think when you have four-down lines, it's harder to change stuff up, but you see less of those. You need a lot of different packages and the more packages offensive guys do, the more packages defensive guys do. Some years more than others."

What's your confidence level with your cornerbacks, CB Josh Norman and CB Emmanuel Moseley going against Seattle Seahawks WRs D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett this week?

"I know it's a huge challenge. Those are two really good receivers and you've just got to make sure it's not just those two versus each other. Most corners, if you just go out and it's one-on-one all day, I don't care what the receiver is, they should eventually get you. So he's got to make sure that they compete, go hard against them. We have a good pass rush. We mix it up in coverage and try to confuse the quarterback a little bit, not give him the time when he has the good looks and when he does have the good look, you have to make sure you come down with a few."

You mentioned when your dad was the offensive coordinator here, he sat and watched all the Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh installation tapes. Have you done that?


How long did that take?

"I think it took him like the first three months in the hotel building. I did it, things have changed a little bit. It's not the exact same thing, but I just did it for entertainment and it was pretty cool to watch."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Opening comments:

"I just want to start off by telling you guys what [former 49ers special teams assistant] Stan Kwan meant to me. Obviously, you guys got the news. He was a great man, a great sense of humor and a loving spirit. We spent, coach [former special teams assistant and current Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Michael] Clay and I spent more time with Kwan than anybody in this building. And Kwan was a legend. He is a legend and all the players love him. And I got numerous amounts of text messages on him, his family as well. I know he's in a better place and like his family said to me, I know he's looking down smiling on all his colleagues and all his players and we definitely appreciate him and he was definitely a joy to be around."

How did he maybe influence you either as a coach or a man or both?

"I don't have enough time to answer how much he influenced me because he was there from the start and I've been knowing Kwan a long time even through special teams world. Always kind, always a gentlemen and we were just blessed to be around him, but he influenced me in so many ways with so many different ideas. And 'Hey, you might want to think about this' and having a guy that was a former coordinator when I first started, I can't put a value on it."

Coming off of this last game, I'm sure you have a lot of coaching points to share with your guys. Where do you start?

"Yeah. You just start like where, nothing really, you don't make a huge deal out of something. Obviously we had a terrible play in the ball game and we can't have that happen, but we just go back to technique and fundamentals and basic. We have to make a tackle at all costs. We knew that kid was a really good player going in and they made a better play than we made. The sky's not falling down. We're not going to push the panic button. We're going to go right back to work like we always have and we're going to try to make sure that that doesn't happen again. Just like I say every week, we're going to try to set the defense up and put them in good field position and try to set the offense up. And obviously we didn't do that on that play and they made a better play than us on that play."

The TV cameras caught you getting emotional during the course of that. What's going through your mind as you're seeing that unfold?

"The main thing that goes through my mind when anything bad happens in a game is how it affected the team. That's what I care about the most. I'm an emotional dude by nature, but I'm also a passionate guy by nature. I believe in my players, I believe in the coaches, I believe in everybody that's out on the field. And I believe that when we get back out there again we'll prove that that was one play and it is not going to define us. That's our goal. So that's what's going through my head is letting the team down at that moment when they're depending on us to do something. That's what goes through my head."

Did you intend to kick to him on that second one? Because he had popped the one before halftime there too. Did you want to give him another opportunity or was that supposed to be a touchback?

"We try to move the ball around in different situations, in different plays that are usually different. The one that was popped to him, obviously we don't want that ball in that guy's hands at all. But we do believe in our coverage guys. So it's not on one person on that. And I guess if you, if you're asking should it be a touchback? I mean, we've got to cover and we didn't cover on that play and it's our job to cover and it's my job to get them to cover."

Did guys get out of their gaps or did guys just not get off blocks? What happened?

"So on that play, if you go back, and you guys can go back and look at it, but we just didn't get to the football. That's the bottom line. We didn't get to the football. And we've got to do a better job of getting to the football and I've got to do a better job helping them get to the football. It's no one person. They blocked us and they did a good job of blocking us."

One of your core players, LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, could have a bigger role on defense this week. When that happens, do you expect that the special teams role lessons, and if that is the case, who would kind of step into his special teams role against Seattle?

"That's a constant battle that special teams coaches always deal with. And it's something that when they play more or some of those core guys, if they play more and when they play more, we've got to try to make sure we do what's best for the team. Keep them fresh for defense or offense, keep them fresh for special teams. And that's something that we dealt with last year when a lot of guys went down, and we kind of dealt with it last game too, but it's not an excuse. When guys go down, we believe in the guys that go in there to go in there and they have to have the confidence and we have the confidence in them and they have to go make plays. The bottom line is making plays and I'm never going to steer away from that. I'm never going to make excuses. Whoever's on the field, we have to make plays."

K Robbie Gould, can you talk at all about just the game went for him and his health, how he's coming along?

"Yeah. Robbie Gould is doing good. His health is good. He's fine. He did a good job in the ball game with the pop kick. He popped that one kick after the penalty where you see [TE] Charlie [Woerner] make the tackle there inside the 20-yard line at the 17. So he executed that situation perfectly. He had another kickoff in the game that was a touchback. So that was outstanding. And then he had his field goals and extra points. He was really good on those up until the last one and he hit the ball with good contact. It's just football. He just missed it. And I know he'd love to have it back and we would all love to have it back, but we've got a ton of confidence in Robbie Gould. He's made a number of game-winning kicks for us and we expect him to do it if it comes down to the wire in Seattle, and I know he's ready to do it. That's one thing I know about him is he can't wait to go back and kick another one."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Your My Cause My cleats, can you talk about the genesis to that and the good tidings foundation?

"Yeah, kind of similar to something that we've done in the past. Just getting all these little kids to draw portraits and collages and kind of putting them all together on the shoe. We spent a lot of time on it. It's not fully done yet, but I'm pretty excited with where they're going right now."

What kind of memories do you have of playing in Seattle? Because we're kind of at two different levels of it now.

"Some good, some bad. Obviously the first one that pops in my head is when [LB] Dre [Greenlaw] made the big plan on the goal line. But yeah, they've gotten the better of us these last couple of times. This will be a good challenge for us, going into their home turf, it's going to be a hostile environment. We know that whatever the records are, but we'll be ready for it."

What makes that defense a tough matchup?

"They're just, they're always flying around, honestly. It's the way they move, the way they chase the ball, they're sound in their coverages, they don't do too much to complicate things, but it's just they're very sound and they tackle very well in space. So it's all that added together makes for a good defense."

Of all the places you play, is that one of the toughest? They're right on top of you there and those guys are pretty loud up there.

"Yeah. They get after it up there. But it's a good challenge. We try to embrace it, get the silent count going. It'll be a little different than last year. It was a nice luxury without the crowd last year, but yeah, it's a tougher spot to play."

As much as you guys try to stay humble during a win streak, is there times where you can enjoy it and realize the fun that goes into it?

"There's always moments where you could stop and smell the roses, but those moments go by pretty quickly. So you've got to enjoy them for a quick second and then the season just is always, the train's rolling. You've got to jump on it and keep moving with it. So, we're into December now, so this is when football really starts."

As an offense, you guys have been very efficient on first and third downs. But the second down efficiency is way down this year. Is that something you guys pay attention to? Is there any theory or explanation behind that?

"I think there's more, you might have to ask the coaches more about that one, but just avoiding I would guess penalties, negative runs, things like that to put you in second and long. Maybe make it more difficult, but really I don't know. We haven't talked about it too much."

I know you're not in meeting rooms with DL Nick Bosa. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was just talking about how technical he is and how much he pays attention to the small details in terms of his study and all that. Have you seen that and what ways maybe do you see him in that light?

"You definitely see it. It's hard to see with Bosa. Bosa is kind of quiet in general, but when you get him talking a little bit and he starts talking about techniques and stuff like that, there's a lot going on up there. I mean, he really is breaking down the game inside and out, the pass rush, the coverage, all this stuff tied together. He's very in tune with it. But yeah, I mean, when you have a guy that could do what he does and he's that tuned into the details at the same time, that makes for a special player."

You lose RB Raheem Mostert at the beginning of the season, don't have RB Jeff Wilson Jr. until recently. What's it been like to watch the run game evolve, to get back to a really strong place, particularly last week?

"It's been really cool. It really has, just with all the running backs, like you're saying motioning in and out, injuries, whatever it is, riding the hot hand, but they've done a great job of it. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] too. I'll throw him in that group. But no, [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] has been carrying it great, the O-Line's been blocking for him great. It's all those things tied together. And then like you said, we get Jeff rolling again it makes us dangerous."

I think you've thrown 67 passes and run it 125 times in the last three games, which is pretty skewed league-wide but you think as a younger player you would have been maybe more anxious to throw a few more passes? It didn't seem like it matters to you now.

"Yeah, I think so probably in my first couple of years. You always want to, it's just part of being a quarterback. But now I guess as I've gotten older, it's just about winning and in this league, that's all it is. And you keep doing that good things will happen to you."

What sticks out to you most about that '19 game with the fans and maybe silencing them and just the momentum and the changes that you had that game?

"That was a dog fight of a game, man. It really was. Just all 60 minutes. We knew it. It always is with these guys, but yeah, just that atmosphere, that was one of the coolest atmospheres I've ever played in. I can remember pre-game sitting there and just kind of soaking it in for that split second moment, but it'll be a dog fight, we know that going into it. We have our minds right."

Deebo Samuel has made things look really easy for your offense at times the last few weeks. What's going to be the key to playing well on offense without him this week?

"Guys stepping up. I think [WR] Trent [Sherfield] did a great job of stepping into the game when Deebo went down, you know, made a big third-down conversion for us. Other guys stepping up and just moving some guys around, I think it will be a little easier this week with the week to plan for it, but just you know, guys have to step up, whether it's at running back, receiver, making YAC with the ball in your hands, it's all those little things will add up this game."

Going back to your early years in the league, how valuable was it, this is a QB Trey Lance question, to kind of run the scout team and just observe and do those sorts of things? Looking back to that first year, do you kind of appreciate it more now than you may have at that time?

"Absolutely. Yeah. At that time, I mean, you just think you're a scout-team quarterback, myself I'd never done it before, so you don't know how to fully embrace that role, I guess. But a lot of good could come from it. It's one of those things that the defense might have you circle on a receiver and you have to throw this ball and you have to find a way to stick it in there and beat the coverage. And those are the tough spots that you get in, but it makes you a better quarterback, I think."

I know you're not the only quarterback to do this, but you have an ability to throw flat-footed and just kind of torque your body to generate whatever is happening there. Have you always kind of done that and have you ever had coaches say, no, no, you've got to be stepping and that's not proper?'

"Well, you want to have your feet in the ground. I mean, the more cleat you get out in the ground, the more force you develop. And I think that's part of it. But yeah, I haven't put too much thought into it. I think just when you're in a good rhythm as a quarterback, that's when you can really be your best. It's just different on each play. Whether it's the coverage, the blitz, what you have to do in the pocket, if you're flat-footed or on your toes moving, I think it just depends on that play in particular."

Your throw to Sherfield was not a flat foot. It was more like a back foot, which I suppose you don't do that. Obviously it worked out. Do you sometimes have to toe the line between what goes from flat foot to back foot?

"Yeah. I think half of it's honestly just reaction and instincts that take over when you're in, like the one to Trent, there was a push from the left side and I kind of just felt it and tried to fade away with it. So, I mean, there's plays like that, that happened and you don't even really realize what you're doing until you've watched it on the tape."

WR Brandon Aiyuk, have you seen him get into it with defensive backs before like he did on Sunday?

"I've seen B.A., yeah he gets a little chippy at times, but it's a good thing he's got those long arms."

Is that a shift from maybe where he was earlier in the season? Whether it was urgency or having a different mentality? Is that a sign that maybe he's at that point now?

"I think it is. I think whenever a guy's doing, you know, whatever you want to call it, chippy stuff, blocking hard, whenever he's doing little things like that it means something to him. And you could see that on the tape, you could see that on the field, you feel his energy. So all those things, yeah, I think whatever it was with B that made him flip the switch, it's been working for him."

When you guys aren't doing much play-action, how predictable do you think it is from the defense in terms of I guess try not to tip your hand or have any tells of what you're going to be doing?

"There's a fine line. There definitely is. But I think our coaches do a good job of that balancing act of run, play-action, drop back, mixing it all in, keep the protection moving, things like that just to keep the defense, keep us in the attacking mindset rather than vice versa. So I think it all plays a role in it, but that drop back stuff you don't want to get too predictable."

Have you had any tells pointed out to you in your career?

"I haven't. You got any for me?"

No, but I heard on the radio somebody said Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson did, that every time he took his mouth guard out it was running play?

"Someone's always watching."


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