Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

What Kyle Shanahan and Trey Lance said ahead of 49ers-Texans

Dec 31, 2021 at 3:51 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Houston Texans on Sunday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Trey Lance spoke with reporters after 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 guys, injuries. [DL Maurice] Mo Hurst, out. [LB Dre] Greenlaw, out. [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair], out. [S Talanoa] Hufanga, doubtful. [QB Jimmy] Garoppolo, doubtful and [RB Elijah] Mitchell, questionable. Go ahead."

Are you ready to announce that QB Trey Lance will start against the Texans, and then what is Garoppolo's outlook for next week and beyond?

"No, I'm not ready to announce that. Jimmy's not out, so I'm holding out hope. He's got a chance this week, so he'll have a better chance next week."

Will you have to bring QB Nate Sudfeld up and have him as your backup this week or at least potentially?

"Yeah, potentially, we were able to flex him with the COVID flex. So we got him up for that, just in case."

We didn't see Jimmy throw. Was he able to throw at all this week? And if so, how did that go?

"That's why we didn't have him go out this week because we're told each day that we can push it off one more, it gives him a better chance for it to stay. So we're trying to hold him throwing off until tomorrow, possibly Sunday."

How did how did Trey Lance perform in practice this week?

"He had a good week, real good week."

You said that Jimmy does not need surgery right now. Does that indicate he will need it at some point, obviously after the season, to have that surgical repaired?

"I don't think so. They said that they don't think he needs surgery. That doesn't mean that it can't get worse and that you may need it, so I'm not sure about that. But he doesn't need surgery right now. And from what I'm told, I don't think he'll need it after the season, but there's always possibilities."

After we talked to you on Wednesday, you guys signed QB Tyler Bray to the practice squad. What was the thinking behind that and what do you like about Bray?

"That he's been in this league, that he's been around. I remember watching him when he came out. I've always liked how he throws. I've heard really good things about him from other coaches. We thought it was necessary to do that. Having a guy questionable to play this week, starting out the week. All the stuff that's going on with COVID too, things can get pretty bad, pretty fast as everyone's seen. So you can't be prepared enough for that."

What's kind of the confidence level you sense with the team around when they see Trey out there at quarterback? Do you feel that they don't need to do something extra, that they believe in him enough where they can just focus on doing their job, that they don't have to circle the wagons and help prop up a rookie?

"Yeah, I think so. I think anytime you have a new player playing with the team in terms of a guy who hasn't been out there much, it's tough at the quarterback position. You don't usually play two. So anytime the guy's a rookie, you want to do everything you can to help the guy out and make it easier. And to me, guys are locked in and they're helping him out in walkthroughs. But besides that, I don't think anyone thinks they have to do anything extra. I think guys believe in Trey. I think guys expect him to go out there and play well. By no means, like everyone, is he going to play perfect. But I think that guys, they got to see him Arizona week, they got to see him this week, in terms of how he handles himself. And I think that it's even stronger this week, he knows how to handle the part. He knows how to get in the huddle. He takes command. His preparation is very impressive and I think that gives the guys a lot of confidence in him."

I know you said Elijah Mitchell was questionable, I believe. How did he get through the week and what kind of usage could he have if he's available?

"Yesterday, I thought, was his best day that he's had. Just for a Thursday, that's really the only day this time of year that we're going full speed. And he was able to get more reps than he has had since this has happened to him. So I think that's very encouraging, especially when he does that. Today, he didn't feel worse, which was the key and he was able to get some today. Hopefully that'll continue all the way up to Sunday, but we'll play Elijah as much as he can handle. So that's about watching him, watching how his legs work, communicating with him, which is really what Bobby [running backs coach Robert Turner Jr.] does throughout the game. And when he is tired, if he's going, Bobby doesn't hesitate. He puts [RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.] in there, and we have a number of guys we can put in there."

As this has been explained to you, since he has a torn ligament in his thumb, does time give him better range of motion and less pain? Do you know in what ways Jimmy can improve and be able to throw given rest?

"Yeah. I'm getting really close to never talking about injuries again. Very close, but I've told you guys everything I know. I'll try to say it the same way again. The ligaments torn. The more you can heal, the better it has a chance to re-latch. The quicker you go back, the more it doesn't re-latch, That's the word I understand. That's about all I know. I'm sure you'll get one more though."

Are you guys kind of under the assumption that you might get flexed into the Saturday game next week since the NFL hasn't assigned those teams? I guess it's a guessing game, but are you kind of braced for that if that's the case?

"Honestly, I haven't even thought about it, until you just asked that. I guess that does make sense, but I haven't thought past this game. They're all big, but we know how big this one is, so if that happens great. We'll be ready for it."

QB Trey Lance

We've heard a lot from teammates and coaches about how much improvement you've been making behind the scenes. How do you feel better prepared and where do you think your improvements have been made most since you last played in the game against the Cardinals?

"I think all around. It was a long time ago that I played, or it seems like a long time ago, in the Cardinals game, but all around. I've gotten to see [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] go through different situations, whether it's in games or in practices. Also having [QB] Nate Sudfeld in the room is a huge help for me. Just to have another person to bounce ideas off of, to ask questions too. And Jimmy also, like I said, has always been there to answer my questions. From a health standpoint, I think I feel probably the most healthy I've felt since I've been here. But yeah, getting more reps, getting to see things like how Jimmy prepares in a short week last Thursday. Things like that that would've been really hard for me just as a rookie with no vets in the room. I think those things have helped me a ton this year."

As far as scout team and overlap with what you guys do on offense, just wondering if there have been some games, some weeks of preparation that have been more valuable to you? Or another way to phrase it, I guess, is which weeks have sort of stood out to you in preparation?

"I don't know if any are more valuable because I think the way I look at it is whether I'm playing as [Chicago Bears QB] Justin Fields when we played Chicago, obviously he can move. Then I went to play [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk [Cousins]. I think I gained a lot from both of those. Obviously, our D-Line is really good, so I appreciate it when I can play kind of how I play and be off-schedule. But when I'm emulating, for the defense, a quarterback that doesn't move necessarily a lot and doesn't play off-schedule, I think there's things that I gain from that for sure. I get used to making different throws that I don't necessarily see myself making. But at the same time, it's good to get those reps."

Can you just tell us what this week was like for you running the first team, so much since you hadn't done so in about three months? And then DB Jimmie Ward said yesterday that you completed a couple passes on him. So I'm wondering how helpful that is to go against the first team defense, which you've done most of the season anyhow?

"Yeah going against those guys is awesome. And obviously it's a huge challenge with [LB] Fred [Warner] in the middle, Jimmie. I could name the whole defense, but yeah, Jimmie's locker is right next to mine, actually. So we get to talk a little bit after practice and it's always good to get reps against those guys and obviously practicing with the first team this week. I don't know if Jimmy's going to be able to go or not on Sunday, but for me to be able to get those reps, I think was huge. Whether I go on Sunday or not, I think I gained a lot from them."

Fred Warner mentioned the other day a conversation that you guys had a while back just about maybe you cutting it loose a little bit more in practice, taking some more downfield shots or trying to throw into tight windows and things like that. Do you remember when that conversation took place and maybe kind of what clicked for you when you did have that conversation with Fred?

"Yeah, we've had that conversation a couple times. Sometimes maybe more heated than others. I don't necessarily want to say heated, but I'm a competitor, Fred's obviously one of the best competitors I've ever been around. And for him to care, not only about the look they're getting, but also my development. Him kind of pulling me off to the side or maybe us shouting across the line of scrimmage, whatever it was. It's kind of finding a happy medium between giving those guys a look, obviously, and finding a way to make myself better. Not necessarily finding a happy medium, but finding a way to make myself better while giving those guys the looks. And even if it's throwing a ball that I necessarily don't want to throw, it's important for those guys and obviously I can get something out of it too. Finding a way to complete that pass."

Not having talked to you since your start against Arizona, when you looked at that game, what were your takeaways and how valuable was it as a learning experience?

"Yeah, it was huge. Any reps I can get I think I gain a lot from, mentally and physically. Looking back at the game, specifically a couple plays, obviously the fourth downs, converting the fourth-and-one on the goal line. I think if I score there, it changes the whole game. So I think that's probably one of the plays that I look back on most frustrated with myself that I didn't make that happen and let those guys down right there. But throughout the game, I learned a lot, some good, some bad. I think that's kind of how every game's going to go. But yeah, I'd say that fourth-and-one, not scoring on the goal line definitely hurt. And then obviously us not converting on third down, fourth down, that's tough too. It's tough to win games that way, but a lot of good too. I don't want to take away the good from it because we had a lot of guys that played really, really well. So it was a ton of fun and like I said, obviously, learned a lot from it."

Some of your teammates and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel have talked about how leadership-wise your personality has really started to shine through the last couple months. And as guys have gotten to know you better, is that just something that was planned? Is that just kind of who you are and really and what have you learned about leadership from Jimmy Garoppolo?

"I've learned a ton from Jimmy, the type of person he is, always willing to help guys out, whether it's offense, defense or special teams. He really cares. He's a really great teammate. For me, I think probably just becoming more comfortable. Finding my role, embracing my role a little bit more these last few weeks, is probably what those guys are talking about. But for me, it's about finding my role. Like I said, Jimmy's our starting quarterback, so if he can go on Sunday, I'm going to continue to do my job and be as prepared as I can in case something happens to him. But Jimmy's toughness, like him playing a whole three quarters of a game with what happened to his thumb. There's not a whole lot of guys that that could have done that."

The 49ers locker room is known for being very close. Tampa Bay Buccaneers DB Richard Sherman was in it previously and was kind of the guy who everybody went to as a resource. Who have you leaned on outside the quarterback's room, in the locker room, just to get some guidance and leadership?

"Yeah, I'm super blessed. I could name 30 guys. We have so many guys on our team that are different personality types, but lead in their own way. Obviously, Fred is a great one, Jimmie Ward talking about defensive guys. But we could go all the way across, from [C] Alex Mack, [OL] Laken [Tomlinson], our whole entire offensive line. [T] Trent [Williams], obviously. We just have so many guys that have been in the league for so long, so for me as a rookie, I'm obviously learning, not only football side of things, but outside of football. For them being able to teach me and kind of take me under their wing, I'm super thankful for it."

Just for clarity, you said as far as your locker room arrangement you're next to Jimmie Ward?

"Yes, Sir."

Do you think that was done on purpose? He's the longest tenured guy. He's the quarterback on defense. Do you think the 49ers arranged that, so that you would have those types of conversations with him?

"I don't know. That might be a little bit of a stretch, but I'll ask the EQ guys. It's definitely been awesome for me. It's actually Jimmie Ward and [CB] Jason Verrett. JV is on my other side. So it's been awesome for me, but like I mentioned, our locker room is super close. So me shouting across the locker room to Laken isn't anything."

You mentioned earlier about you feel healthier than you've ever felt for a while here. How much of an issue was your right index finger early in the season? And through that game against the Cardinals?

"It was frustrating, but it wasn't like I couldn't throw the football. It was more of a thing where the inflammation when I chipped the bone, it wouldn't straighten all the way. So it's kind of been a continuous thing every day, just working at getting it straighter and straighter and straighter and obviously getting the swelling to go down. But just finishing throws, I think was probably the biggest thing. When you can't straighten that pointer finger that you're used to finishing all your throws with, I think was the biggest part of it. But yeah, it's just continuing to get better."

What was it like taking a full week's worth of reps with WR Deebo Samuel, TE George Kittle and the other starters as opposed to working the scout team this week?

"It was a lot of fun. I think I gained a lot from it. I get a lot better for sure and obviously being around those guys, the energy they bring every single day, every single rep and just their play making abilities, obviously is a lot of fun to be around."

One more health question. Matt brought up the finger, but can you bring up just what it was like with the sprained knee? How scary that was the day after the game and just the whole process of recovering from the sprained knee?

"Yeah, it was kind of weird. I didn't know that anything happened until I was laying in my bed and I kind of rolled over and it just felt weird. So I texted our trainers and just let them know. Thankfully it wasn't anything too serious. I wasn't super concerned because I didn't really feel anything during the game, but I was just frustrated, obviously. I wanted to be able to be ready to go for the Colts game in case something happened to Jimmy. But thankfully Jimmy was able to be back for it. So, I guess that's all I've got to say about it. It was frustrating, but I feel great now."

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