Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Transcripts: Kyle Shanahan, DeMeco Ryans, Jimmy Garoppolo provide final updates ahead of 49ers-Titans

Dec 21, 2021 at 3:58 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday. 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 for today, [LB Dre] Greenlaw, won't practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell won't practice. [DL] Maurice Hurst won't practice. Huf [S Talanoa Hufanga], we're still trying to evaluate him to see if he can. [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair] will be limited and [S Jaquiski] Tartt will be limited. Go ahead."

General Manager John Lynch said on the radio today that Mitchell might be a little bit better than you guys had thought, is that correct?

"Yes, it's true. Yeah, he had some encouraging things happen this weekend."

This is a 5:30 p.m. practice, it gets pretty dark at that point. How are you going to actually practice physically today?

"Because of the sun not being up?"


"We're going to all hold our iPhones up. No, we're going to go in the stadium. We've got lights in there and we're just walking through, so they won't get mad at us for messing the field up."

How is everyone feeling today a couple days after that win, but now with your focus to Tennessee?

"It seemed good. Guys seemed energetic in the meetings. There's so much to put in, in such a small amount of time. We see them in the meetings. I see them quickly, then we all break up and they're all just cramming stuff in. And I'll see them out here for our first walkthrough in a little bit and we'll come back in, have another meeting and then go out for a longer walkthrough later tonight."

This is a really random question, but somebody wanted to know how long did WR Deebo Samuel practice before becoming the quarterback?

"How long did he before we moved him there? He made a hell of a play, but did that guy who asked that question see him throw the ball?"

He did.

"It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't very good either. But Deebo can do anything he works at, so I'm sure one day he'll get his opportunity."

You had one week where WR Brandon Aiyuk was running a play where he might have a chance to throw it, the next week Deebo does. Do those two guys have a back and forth, kind of lobbying you to get a chance to do something like that?

"They all do. That's what they do every week and every year. [WR] Jauan [Jennings] had one early in the year and none of them had done great on them so far. None of them were great looks either, but we'll keep trying to work at that. [WR Mohamed] Sanu [Sr.] has got the best track record because he's been doing it for a long time."

How is RB Trenton Cannon?

"Trenton Cannon's doing good. He was in the meetings today. Got to see him for the first time in a little bit, but it sounds like he's doing a lot better. Still in the protocol, but just his health and how he's feeling seems pretty good."

There was on that, I think TE George Kittle's first catch, the screen. Aiyuk had a really nice seal block. Is that the type of block either like technique-wise he wasn't capable of making like earlier in the season or effort-wise? Is that like an example of, 'Okay, that's better'?

"Yeah, that was all three of those guys. That was a hard block to execute. It was when we were backed up, we hadn't done anything yet, so we needed them to take some pressure off us with that play. We had switched the splits a bunch during the week trying to get it right and those guys, they had the easy look down, but that was the hard look. And that was just from getting some reps in. Those guys listened to what they did good, what they did bad and it was him and Jauan who were on it because that was very tight. And I thought the defense played it pretty good, but if they were a half second off, Jauan or Aiyuk, Kittle would've taken a pretty big hit in the backfield."

Both of Tennessee's safeties seem to be putting up a good year, what particular challenges do they present your offense?

"Their whole defense just as a whole, we haven't seen them for a few years and it's not just their defense, it's their whole team. They're extremely physical. It starts with their front seven, with their D-Line and their linebackers. But then it goes all the way back to their backend, both safeties, they come up, are very good tacklers. They don't make many mistakes and they got real good ball skills that'll make you pay too."

CB Ambry Thomas, what have you seen from him? And I know at that position, whenever you get beat, that's what people talk about. What's his mindset and how does he take those kind of adverse plays?

"That's what I've been most impressed with him about in these last two weeks. Sometimes it takes guys a little bit of time and you don't always have time in the NFL. But not every single guy right when they get drafted, no matter where it is, is ready to play right away. And I thought it did hurt him missing his last year of college with COVID. Coming in here not getting him into OTAs and getting used to football and at the same time getting used to NFL football and those preseason games. I think it was a little bit of shock to him and some of our other guys. And then he didn't get an opportunity for a while and when he did, you could tell that he had learned from what he had done earlier. It didn't look like a shock to him, by no means was it perfect. He got beat a couple times, had some penalties. But his body language, his demeanor, he kept competing, kept trying to be physical. And by watching him and how he was moving, you could tell he wasn't looking to hide or looking to get off. He was competing."

Do you think that having the work that you do with him, what the defense back coaches do with him, up to this point, has made him more equipped to handle that than if he'd just been thrown into the fire early in the season?

"Yeah, because I don't think he was ready. I think we learned that in preseason, so that's why we tried to give him more time and you don't always get that when injuries happen. Fortunately, we were able to bring some veterans off the street who had done it, which bought us some more time. And the good thing about him was the experience that he got in preseason. I think he was honest with himself. Some guys will fight you and just think of excuses. 'It's your fault for telling me I'm not ready,' or something like that. And he wasn't like that. He kept working, didn't get discouraged and guys stayed with him after (practice). He's done a lot of work in the weight room. It always is, with me, how hard they go on scout team because we watch all those reps. And even though they think they're playing a different coverage, that's some of the stuff I watch the hardest because I'm watching the offense too when I get to evaluate them there. That's where I started to notice [CB Emmanuel] Moseley the most, his first year. So just taking advantage of all that stuff and knowing that when he did get his opportunity, he was going be ready. And yeah, he still has a long way to go and still has to get better, but when he did get it, he was much more ready to play and help us out."

I think that Week 8 game in Chicago was the first one where DL Nick Bosa did a lot of moving side-to-side. I think it was the first one where DL Arik Armstead played a lot inside. Did something happen in the game before that against Indianapolis that told you, 'Okay. We need to make some changes moving forward,' on the D-Line?

"Yeah, I think it was holding out the hope that [DL] Dee [Ford] would come back because Dee, when he was out there and healthy, was effective on that side. And then we could have our two best pass rushers there on the edges and move Armstead inside just on third down and allow him to really work on the outside on the first and second down. And once we kind of realized Dee wasn't going to be the and [DL Javon] Kinlaw, putting him on IR, we knew it was going to be tough to hold up if Arik wasn't inside predominantly. So we made that change so he could get better at it and we could use one of our best players there and then start getting the other guys more consistent on the outside. And it's also what made it easier to move Bosa around."

How has Tennessee managed to keep the running game strong, even without RB Derrick Henry? They're not used to using a lot of backs like you guys are and then to lose a guy of that stature.

"Yeah, you would expect when you lose a player like that, you turn the tape, it's going to look different, but you can tell that's their philosophy. They commit to the run. I think they call more runs than anyone in the NFL and in almost all situations, they'll do it on third down too. First and second, it doesn't really matter the down and distance. They'll do it when they're behind. That's what they believe in and that's why they've been hard to beat these few years, especially even with injuries. They had it with Pittsburgh. They dominated that game and then they just turned it over three times in the fourth quarter, which I can relate to. It's tough to win games when you do that, but they've got a good formula where they play real good defense, they run the ball. And when they don't turn it over that's when they've won more games than most teams here the last few years."

I guess all NFL teams want be physical and dominate and all that, but I guess that's their kind of ethos or whatever just because Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel is a former linebacker, but are they similar to you in that they want to punish you and do those things as far as the run game and all that?

"Yes, its's very obvious. In all three of their phases they kind of take on the same mentality. I'm sure it's a lot like how Mike played, but you can see it at all spots. He does a real good job of it, no matter who's there."

I've got your favorite kind question, a holiday question for you and it's a two-parter. What are your favorite Christmas traditions? And do you have any wishes for the coming new year?

"My favorite is I always read to my kids the night before Christmas, which was more fun when we were younger. Now, it's kind of just becomes laugh at daddy when he doesn't pronounce the words right, but that's a good tradition for us. And what was the other question?"

Your wishes for 2022?

"That we're still playing football longer than a week into it."

You talked about the importance of sleep for your players. What is your sleep schedule like on a week like this?

"Not the best, but that's more to regenerate your muscles. I don't have any, so I don't have to worry about it. Just so you get your legs back and everything, you recover. Coaches, we get sleep on the plane on our way out there and I'll take cramming four days in. You can do whatever in four days if you get three days off, so we're not complaining about it as coaches."

Was it a couple years ago, I think it was the Thursday night in Arizona where you said you basically stayed in your office during the week, because it's so condensed?

"Yep. That's what we usually do. Some people do it a lot, but I usually just only do it on Thursday night games."

Did you sleep here?

"Do I look like I did? Yes, but it's nothing special, most of us do. We have to."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

This happened several times in this past game, whenever there's a set of downs at the goal line, how much does the intensity for you raise as the defensive play caller when you know it's do or die in that situation?

"The intensity is very high in those moments. It's something we always talk about, just give us a blade of grass to stand on and we have to stand up and make plays there. And it's just a credit really to our defensive line. It all starts with them, the way they set the tone of resetting the line of scrimmage, giving our second level guys a chance to shoot through and make plays. So it's all about those guys up front and the way they set the tempo for us. And those guys did a fantastic job on Sunday of making those plays and not blinking. That was the cool part about it. No matter what adversity we faced there early in the game, nobody blinked, nobody worried what was going to happen. Everybody just took it upon themselves to go out and make plays to put us in a good position to win the game."

Speaking of the defensive line, DL Arik Armstead made a nice tackle down there early on. Have you seen, since he's started playing defensive tackle predominantly, have you seen him getting better and better each week just as he's gotten used to that role?

"Yes. Since we've moved Arik inside, he's definitely gotten better each week. Each week you see his game just increase, he's making more and more plays inside. I feel like he's continuing to be the dominant player he was on the outside. He's just as dominant inside now. So it's just a matter of him just getting comfortable. Any time you change positions, doing something different, a little different technique, different footwork, it takes time to develop that and it takes time to really take off with it. Arik has done that. He's done it in a fairly short time. He's done really well with it and I continue to see him doing better. So I'm happy with what Arik has done inside and it gave us a chance to really play better against the run having Arik inside."

Tennessee has been committed to the run for the last few years, much like you guys are, except for they've done it with one guy. And then that one guy went down, and they're still running it. What are they doing that enables them to do that?

"Yeah, I think it is just the mentality of their head coach. They want to be physical. They want to establish a ground presence and it doesn't change no matter who's been in for them. I know they've been dealing with a lot of injuries, guys in, guys out, but it doesn't matter. Their mentality is, starting with their O-Line. They want to push you around. They want to run the ball. They want to be physical. That's their mindset. And it hasn't changed, no matter which running back is back there, you can tell they all have that same mindset. They want to run the ball. They want to be physical, so it's going to a really good challenge for us against a really good running offense."

Is that a, I don't know, a good opponent for a short week in that, 'Hey, line up and play.' We have to beat the guy in front of us as maybe it's not as complicated as another game would be?

"Yeah. I think that's the kind of ball you get into. The more you keep playing in December, when you're playing meaningful ball, I think that's the type of ball games you play in. It's going to be run game heavy. Guys not trying to make mistakes, offensively, not trying to turn the ball over. And defensively, can you be sound and detailed in your assignments. And it's going to be, may the best team win at that point, but it's not a lot of tricking going on, it's just line up and see who can beat who."

Has CB Ambry Thomas played well enough to hold on to a starting job?

"Ambry has done some good things for us. I think he's still a young player, I think it was Ambry's second game at corner. One of the toughest positions to play on a defense. So a young guy out there, he's done some good things for us, some encouraging things. He just has to keep growing, keep getting better."

We can see how he does on the field. How has he been behind the scenes when you talk to him? What are those conversations like?

"Yeah, Ambry's been fine. I've seen a difference in his confidence level. I think he's fine. Mentally he's been doing a really good job. Great job in the meetings. Great job in practice, so I can tell that he's definitely moving in the right direction, becoming a pro, he's doing a much better job for us. And I'm encouraged with where he is now. He just has to continue to keep growing. Go challenge guys, don't back down, keep challenging guys and keep fighting to make plays."

I'm going to try, but will he start Thursday?

"We'll see."

Going back to a couple of weeks ago and on Sunday, we talked about how important it was for your defense to make this their home, to truly take advantage of being with their fans. And on Sunday, I got to see DB Jimmie Ward kind of get up and chat it up with his fans. Do you feel like they finally have that home field advantage like that energy's finally there?

"Oh, for sure. I think the energy in our stadium here at Levi's Stadium has been outstanding and it's also a credit to the way we've played. I think that's it. Fans need something to cheer for. So it all starts with our guys, offensively defensively, special teams, guys making plays that's what gets the fans excited. So we just had to stand up on our home turf and make plays, give the fans something to be excited about, give them that pride they have in our team. We had to allow them to be able to do that, and I think that's what we've done over the past couple weeks. And now we feel the energy from the crowd. You feel guys making plays and it's a totally different atmosphere than it was in the beginning of the year. So we definitely appreciate our fans for representing, being loud as possible, making Levi's a tough place to play in."

On Armstead's stop at the goal line, DL Kevin Givens knocked back the center. Does that stop happen without what Kevin Givens does? And he's the guy we don't talk as much about. How has he been coming along this year?

"Kevin's been coming along really well. That's what Kevin does really well is disrupt. You see the play he made versus the Minnesota Vikings when he shot through and he forces a fumble there and creates a turnover for us. Kevin does a really good job of penetrating, getting in and playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage. And that's no different from the play he made on the goal line with Kevin, Arik, [DL Nick] Bosa, all those guys penetrating. That's what allowed us to make that play."

What's Nick Bosa like in meetings when you guys are going over film, whether it's the pass game and he's getting a sack or maybe looking ahead and seeing opportunities for the upcoming game?

"Bosa, he's the same as he always is. Bosa, he is quiet, he's always locked in, quiet guy, but very detailed in what he does. He's a very smart player and he knows what he's doing. And probably one of the most detailed rushers I've ever been with. And he's just constantly, always around the quarterback. I'm happy to have him on our team. And I think I said it before last week, but it's every week, he is as productive as anybody in the league and to do that coming off of ACL injury, it's unheard of. And definitely should have some type of promotion for whether it's Comeback Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year. Like, Bosa definitely deserves that from what he went through last year, being out of ball, coming back from a really tough injury to come back for him and to be better, it says a lot about him and it's very impressive."

Do you get the impression sometimes that he's not telling you everything he knows? Because it seems like sometimes he'll come out with something like, "Whoa, okay. You were paying attention."

"Oh, I know. That's why I said Bosa is a very smart guy. He's calculated, he takes everything in, he listens and he wants to be better. He always is looking for the information to be better and Bosa is a very smart guy. He's definitely listening, paying attention to everything that we give him."

Holiday question for you, what are your favorite Christmas traditions?

"My favorite Christmas tradition is really just Christmas Eve the family normally gets together and we all just get gifts from everyone. That was one cool part about growing up, whether it was a pair of socks, a toothbrush, candy, everybody was able to get something from grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody just being there together, sharing that time and that moment with family. That was the most special part about Christmas for us, we don't get that much time nowadays to do it, but my favorite memory is just being around my family during that time."

Just going back to the Bosa question, does he ever open up to you about potential frustration on certain calls? Because when he comes in here and we ask him, he's kind of like, I'm not going to talk about it. I'm not going to get fined. Does he open up to you about that? Do you give him any advice on how to just keep his head cool?

"No, he doesn't open up to me about that. It's not been an issue. He just has to keep going, keep working like he's working and we'll be just fine."

DL Arden Key and his effectiveness at defensive tackle, has that been season-long or was there a point where he started playing more of those pass rush situations there?

"Yeah, I think Arden has progressively gotten better and he's proven to us that he can go in and be an effective pass rusher for us. And he's, man, the past couple weeks, I don't know if it's been every week, but he's consistently hitting the quarterback. And when you do that, that just gives us more confidence to give him more opportunities to go out and rush the passer. And that's what he's been doing, I think Arden is having a career year, the most sacks he's ever had in his career. I'm so happy for him to be able to have the type of year that he's having. I'm proud of the way that he works and I'm proud of what he's doing on Sundays for us."

Is there a coaching point? Is there anything you can do to avoid the kind of call that went against him last week?

"I'm not sure. You just have to tell the guys that you just have to be careful. Everybody's sensitive with the quarterback, so you have to be very careful with how you're landing on the quarterback, how you're hitting the quarterback. You just have to be very conscious as a rusher and it's hard because, first things first, it's so hard to get there. And then when you get there and now you have to think about, 'well, how am I landing on him? Did I hit him too hard?' It's just, it's hard. The game is changing in that way, which is tough on players."

Do you have to teach them to roll? Like is that the--?

"Yeah, you just have to teach them and we understand that we can't put our full body weight on the quarterback when we're taking him to the ground. So we have to kind of roll off to the side when we are taking him to the ground."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

You're leading the league in yards per attempt. What does that mean to you and is there any stat that you look at individually other than wins that matter most?

"The yards per attempt really, I wouldn't say that dictates winning and losing. More about third down and red zone. I think those are quarterbacks' true stats when the money's on the line. But yeah, as long as we're winning games, I could care less what the stats are."

How do you feel like you're playing? On Mondays or whenever you go in and start analyzing how you played, a lot more positives than negatives I would imagine?

"Yeah. There's a lot of good things. A lot of things to improve too. It's just, you know, December football it's you never know which play's going to determine your season or that game and you're trying to be perfect. We all are at this point, but you know, that's why you've got to love it."

T Trent Williams mentioned that your offense is getting more and more confident. Do you feel that way and what's helping you stay confident?

"Yeah, you can definitely feel it. Guys are just talkative on the sidelines, feeling it. Guys are asking for the ball more. So that's always a good thing. But I think it just goes back to us being in a rhythm. It starts with [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] calling plays, but just the way we're executing on the field you could feel it. I don't know if you could see it. We feel it in the huddle, but there's definitely a point in the game when we get into a rhythm and things are rolling."

You played the Titans, obviously when you first got here in 2017. Just top of mind, when you think about that game is there a moment, a play that strikes you?

"Are you talking like three years ago, or four years ago?"

Yeah, 2017.

"I mean, the two-minute drive was pretty sweet. That obviously holds a close place to heart, but a much different team. They're actually more similar to the Texans. We played that year just with [Tennessee Titans head coach] Mike Vrabel being at Houston then. So some similarity there, but yeah, much different team, but that was a very exciting game."

Their safety seems to be having a good year. What kind of challenges do they present to you as a quarterback in the chess match?

"They're very smart. They're just football players though. You know, they play within their scheme, but they've been playing together for a while now. And you could tell that the communication's pretty clean between them. They really don't give you a lot of easy completions, I'll say. They like to press it, kind of get up in receivers' face and challenge those guys. And it'll be a good challenge for us. They're good players."

How do you balance the desire to be perfect with the knowledge that one play can change everything in December with the need to be aggressive and bold and not be afraid to make a mistake?

"It's the, that's the line you tow. I mean, that's part of the position, I guess. You have to, I mean, there's a million things that go into those decisions though. The situation of the game, what's going on, who's been making plays for you, the defense, everything they're doing. So there's a lot that goes into it, but you've got to be aggressive. When you stop being aggressive, I think it gives the advantage to the defense and that's when they can get after you a little bit. We've got a good mindset here. It starts with Kyle and kind of trickles down to us. But, we like where we're at."

You said after the game Sunday that the offense is changing, just it's evolved from the beginning of the season. Have you and Kyle kind of, has there been more of a meeting halfway with, he's known as kind of being stubborn and this is what he wants from his quarterback. Has there been more of a kind of a melding of meeting each other halfway with what he wants and what you want?

"At times, yeah. I mean, it's Kyle's offense, so he has final say on that stuff. But yeah, I think there's a good balance. We're not doing just the old traditional stuff. We're mixing some of the new style of football and there's a good balance that we have right now. We ran the heck out of the ball early on, and now we're kind of getting to more of a balanced attack. And I think that makes us pretty dangerous."

Are you doing more stuff that you're more comfortable with and you feel maybe more natural doing?

"Whatever they put in I'll be comfortable with it by the time game time comes. I don't know, being a quarterback, you just have to adjust. I mean, there's some plays in the game that you've never run before maybe, and coach is putting it in so there's that trust factor of I'm trusting you, that you're seeing the right thing and I'm gonna go execute it. So there's a lot of back and forth, I guess you could say."

Have you seen, Trent Williams was in here before, he was talking about his documentary. Have you had a chance to see it and if not, do you know just the extent of everything he went through to get back out of here?

"I haven't had a chance to see it. I heard phenomenal things about it. But yeah, I mean just what was it, Chicago? When we were in Chicago, we stayed right down the street from the hospital Trent was at, and I can remember talking to him just, that was really the first, because I knew about it, but I really didn't know the extent of it. And that was kind of the first time that he opened up about it. I mean, that's real life stuff. It's different than football, different than everything that we're doing on a daily basis here. That's your livelihood, that's your life. Just the man that he is having gone through all that stuff, you really have to tip your hat to him, because there's not many people that could come out the other end and do what he's doing right now."

You mentioned the two-minute drive against the Titans and I think I have this right. You should never ask a question you're not quite sure about it's never stopped me before. But I think you were mic'd up or someone was mic'd up and like before that you were kind of saying, hey, this is going to happen. And then it unfolded. Given the fact that you were somewhat new here, do you remember the specifics of that and how you kind of knew how some of those things were going to unfold?

"Specifics, not entirely. I remember having a good feel for that defense. I think it was [former NFL coach] Dick Lebeau was the D-Coordinator. But yeah, we had a good feel for them. We were moving the ball early on in the game and we kept, if I'm remembering this right, we kept getting field goals and stuff and we couldn't sustain a drive, but we were moving the ball. And so I kind of had a good feel of that going into the two-minute drive. I don't remember the specifics, but it was a fun game."

I know you're focused on Thursday, but Christmas also right around the corner. Do you have plans for Christmas you actually have off and what are your favorite traditions?

"No, not really planned anything yet. Got the Christmas shopping done though. So that's a big one. Happy about that. Traditions, no just normal stuff. Christmas morning opened the gifts with the family. Yeah, just normal stuff. But yeah, we'll handle that when we get there Friday."

Do you get any special gifts for your O-Line?

"Oh yeah. Every year. I get a kick out of doing that. I can't give it away yet. They're going to get those soon, but you guys will find out."

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