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DeMeco Ryans, Chris Foerster, Brock Purdy preview 49ers-Cowboys Divisional Round matchup

Jan 19, 2023 at 5:53 PM

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San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, offensive line/run game coordinator Chris Foerster, and quarterback Brock Purdy spoke with reporters after Thursday's practice. The team is preparing for its Divisional Round matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

When getting ready for this Cowboys team, is it basically the same as last year?

"Yeah, they do a lot of similar things; the same things they did last year, so it is similar in that sense, but it's also different in that it's a new year, it's a new time, new team, new people. It is different with the preparations as opposed to how are we going to attack them? And we have to see how they're coming out versus us and their plan, so it's always different. Each opponent, no matter how many times you play them or when you play them, it's always a little different."

When you look at them on film, what distinguishes what they do offensively and the challenges they present as opposed to other teams you might face?

"The first thing with Dallas is the run game. With their offensive line, they do a really good job of blocking up front and the run game is really where they start. I think [Dallas Cowboys RB Tony] Pollard is a very explosive, dynamic back who can finish; home run speed. [Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott] Zeke is still playing well, a physical runner, so we have to do a really good job of stopping the run. And [Dallas Cowboys QB] Dak [Prescott] is playing at a high level. He did a really good job on Monday night of making plays, putting his team in position to win the game, keeping plays alive, so he's done a really good job there of leading that unit. And they're clicking right now. Their playmakers are making plays for them, they're playing really good ball on defense. They're creating turnovers, which is what you need to do to play great defense, so all around, it's a really good team we're playing and a really tough challenge for us."

Have you played a team with this kind of offensive skill and ability since Kansas City?

"We've had a few matchups; each team poses different threats. These guys have threats at the wide receiver level, running back level, so all skill positions, their tight end, [Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton]. Schultz, he's playing really well. He makes a lot of plays down the seam, so all around they have playmakers. This team is very talented at all levels, so it'll be a really nice matchup for us."

When you watch LB Fred Warner on gamedays and pregame warmups, halftime, he's constantly encouraging people, the energy guy. Is that what you did when you were a middle linebacker? Is that a middle linebacker thing or is that unique to Fred Warner?

"It depends on the guy, first and foremost. I was similar to that in breaking the team down in the huddles, making sure the guys were upbeat and into it, really motivating the guys. That's how I did it when I was a middle linebacker and Fred, he does it in his own way, but I love the energy, I love the leadership that Fred provides for our team. Not only for the defense. He's just an outstanding guy, outstanding player and he does an outstanding job of motivating the guys and making sure they're locked in, not just on game day. That's what sets him apart. Fred is the same way throughout the week, so it's not just on gameday for the cameras. He is who he is. He's been consistent for us. He's a consistent leader, steady in his preparation, steady in his performance as well."

DL Nick Bosa has had such an amazing year. The last three games, he only had one sack, which is not really Bosa-like. What do you see from him lately? Are there things you can do to sort of free him up?

"Bosa is Bosa. Nothing has changed. Bosa is Bosa. He's still a game-wrecker for us. We're anticipating that he can be that for us on Sunday."

I know you don't want to belabor your head coaching interviews, but physically, how are those conducted? Is that remotely? Do the teams come out this way? How does that go?

"Yeah, those will all get handled. They're all different. Some are Zoom, some are in person. So those all get handled differently."

Will the interview you have today be virtual or in person?

"That will be in person."

I know you're very tight with new Tennessee Titans GM Ran Carthon. What are the Tennessee Titans getting with him as GM?

"I think with Ran, the Titans are getting a dynamic leader. That's what Ran is. Ran has been a fantastic leader since the first day I met him here. He's very knowledgeable of personnel, college and the pro side. He's a very knowledge guy, very well connected, knows a lot of people, knows a lot about football. Seeing it from a lot of different perspectives with his father being a coach, him being a former player in the NFL as well, so he's seen it on all facets and he's done a really good job of scouting really good talent and really helping us to acquire some really good talent here, so I wish Ran nothing but the best. I know he'll do a fantastic job in Tennessee and I couldn't be prouder of Ran and the work that he's done and to see him get the GM job there, it's really cool to see and I'm proud of him. I'm happy for him."

What is the big picture of what the 49ers have done as far as developing head coaching candidates and also GM candidates?

"It's just an outstanding organization from top down. Just how things here are done, first class. [General manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] have done an outstanding job of just bringing in the right people. And when you have everybody that comes here, everybody's opinion matters. Everybody feels like they're a part of what we're doing here and I think that's the reason why the organization has been so successful. It's just built with the right people in mind. When you have good people, you can do really good things. And that's what we've done here."

Is there a player, a free agent that you guys have brought in in recent years that you remember working with Ran closely with to bring that player in?

"Not right off the bat. I wish I had one for you. We've talked about a ton of players, whether it's college or pro, so we're always talking about players and the type of player that we're looking for."

Kind of a broad question, but Kyle gets so much publicity for being a playcaller and a play designer, but beyond just the calling of the play, you have to be able to teach 11 guys to execute a play and do it during a compacted week. Is there anything you can relay to why he's good at that? Why do the 49ers seem so good at that one particular thing?

"Kyle is really good at that because it's the mindset and his approach. He's very detailed in everything that he does. That's why our offense, it's always clicking. It's not just putting in plays just to put them in. It's well thought out, it's well schemed and everything about it from the finest detail to the motions, the hat placement of the offensive line, hat placement of the tight ends when they are blocking receivers, their track, when they're blocking, everything is well thought out and that's why he's on the best playcallers in the league. He's not just copying plays from other people. He has that very creative mind and he's always putting his players in position to make plays. And that's what sets him apart from all the other coordinators in the league."

You strike me as a guy who does time management pretty well, so I'm wondering if that's being put to the test ultimately this week with balancing these responsibilities and the other teams that are interested in you.

"Yeah, with everything that you do as a coach, you're trying to crunch a lot of things in. You're trying to really dissect a lot of information in a certain manner of time, so time management is a very crucial thing to have. And I know how to make the main thing the main thing and the main thing this week is the Cowboys."

The 49ers offense, they scored 41 points last week and they see things that they can get better at. How's your focus this week as far as that goes on the defensive side? Do you have a laundry list of things that you presented to your players of this can be tightened up even better?

"For sure. Always. We're always trying to get better and that's one thing that's really cool about our defense. Like nobody's just resting on what they've done. Nobody's just satisfied with what we've done. I didn't like the way we came out last week that wasn't representative of who we are, so we can come out better to start the game. We can set the tempo better. We can play with better pad leverage on defense. We can get off of blocks better, we can finish better, so there are always things that we're pushing our guys to be better at. We're not satisfied. How can we play our absolute best at the time we need it most and there's no better time right now. Playoffs, Cowboys, Niners, our defense has to play their absolute best if we want to move forward."

Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster

Are there similarities to the team you faced in training camp every day in practice as far as the aggressiveness of that defensive line?

"Yeah, very similar. They play very hard. They're very quick, like our defensive line is. They're very physical. They've got good edge rushers, they've got good interior players. They're very well coached. They have good scheme. Dallas is a very good football team, very well coached and talented front group of guys to deal with and they've been a challenge for everybody all season. And there'll be a challenge for us for sure on Sunday."

What's stands out about Dallas Cowboys LB Micah Parsons?

"Oh, great athlete. There are these guys that when you go to block them, [Cleveland Browns DL] Myles Garrett is another one that comes to mind, even 90 [Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence] on their team is the same way, but they're coming at you and the next thing you know, they make one move and they move further when they go inside, they go from here to way over there a lot faster. They move, two, three yards at a time, when they sidestep and swipe you, they're just gone. And some guys do the same move and they kind of go like me, I'd go from right here to right here and somebody'd still be blocking me, but when it's them, it's bam. Like [DL Nick] Bosa and you think you have them, and then all of a sudden, they're gone. And that's what it is. He's got this great elusiveness, he still has some power with it. What he's really good at too is when he gets into your body for a guy that isn't a real big and physical player, not that he's overly powerful to push, although he can do it. He's really good when he gets into your body getting off a block, they don't stay blocked. I'd say that's the biggest thing you can say about all of them. They don't stay blocked."

When you guys run out the 21 personnel with your five main skill guys that you use, you have a lot of success. I'm wondering what the amount of guys who kind of can move around and play different positions. What is it like for you guys just designing things and kind of creating offense with those options?

"Well, I think that [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [offensive passing game coordinator] Bobby Slowik and all the guys that work with the skill players, they do a great job of interchanging people. I'm a little more, maybe with the fullback and the tight ends, I'll have a little bit of input with that, but we don't need too many cooks in the kitchen. We got a lot of guys to choose those guys a lot of different ways and Kyle is outstanding with his creativity in that way. And there's just a lot of different people we can deploy and do different things. I just love, and it was a couple years ago when Kyle and [Miami Dolphins Head Coach] Mike [McDaniel] came up with this series where [WR] Deebo [Samuel] is running the sweep, the one that [WR] Ray-Ray [McCloud III] scored on a few weeks ago against Washington and [RB] Christian McCaffrey is like a lead blocker, and we did it with [Miami Dolphins RB] Raheem [Mostert], we did it with [Miami Dolphins RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.]. Everybody did it. We had receivers doing it when we played the Rams a couple years ago as well, all these guys. These guys, they're just football players. Yes, they're a halfback. Yes, they're a fullback. Yes, they're a receiver, but they're football players and they all do what football players do. They run, they catch, they block, they do a lot of different things. We're real fortunate in that way."

It seems like something that requires a lot of buy-in and teaching, and that's been talked about in the past that you guys do a really good job of showing on tape why receivers and running backs have to block. What do you enjoy about that process of being able to show guys and then seeing that translate on the field?

"Oh man, when I took the job in Washington 2010 with [former NFL head] coach [Mike] Shanahan on Fridays, they said you're in charge of this run meeting that they had run in Denver for years that [former NFL coach] Alex Gibbs had run. And it was Alex's chance to kind of make everybody accountable to the running game, from the quarterback, to the receivers, to the running backs, tight ends, everybody and Alex kind of ran the show there. It was my turn to do it and it took me a while to learn exactly what they wanted me to do, but as we learned to do it, it was so enjoyable to say, 'Hey, a receiver didn't do a good job on this play.' Instead of just ripping [former NFL WR] Santana Moss or whoever the receiver might be at that point. It was more of, let me show three good clips of Santana doing something during the week or during the game the week before and then building upon that and say, now when we do this it all ties together. How every single person from the angle of running back to how the receiver is blocked to the linemen and they can see it and they get a vision for it and they all start to buy in that their little piece is why we can have success doing stuff. And it's crazy. It's so much fun to watch the buy-in because it all kind of fits together like a puzzle when it's right and you guys have seen some of the plays. We're fortunate, again, Dallas could come in here and they'll get after our butts and we'll be lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage in some way, but I'll tell you right now, when you see one, like the one that went the other day with Christian for 60 something yards, it's just cool. It's really cool when everybody buys in and does what they're supposed to do, sometimes you hit it right, might have been a bust on their part, it doesn't matter. It shows up good and then everybody says, Hey look, if I do my part, it's a big play, keeps us on the field, gives everybody a chance, gives a receiver a chance to catch another pass, a running back to get another run. Whatever it is, it all ties together. It's a cool process."

You mentioned the run accountability meeting in Washington. Do you have something similar here?

"Yeah, so what happened was when I was in Washington, they gave it to me and I put my spin on it. When Kyle went to Cleveland he took the meeting over and he's been doing it since then. I think he did it in Cleveland, I think he did it in Atlanta and he's doing it now. And when I did the meeting too, they'd always come to me and say, 'Hey, we love talking about the runs as much as you do, but boy, it'd be really nice if you could tie in how the play action fits with this,' and I could, but we're about running the ball, we're about knocking the crap out of people and trying to get yards. When Kyle took it over, it becomes more of a gameplan meeting. Where on Fridays, he's able to do that. When I worked with Kyle and he was the coordinator Friday or Saturday night, he did more of that meeting with the whole of offense because he had the offensive meeting as the offensive coordinator, because now he's the head coach, he has other things to do on Saturday nights with the team, now that meeting has kicked to Friday. While it has a run emphasis some weeks, it's more of how the whole tie in is and how our whole plan and approach is to attacking the team as opposed to just the run game."

Some of your players have talked about when, when players are called out for doing something good, there is some light ribbing and joking and teasing, but when something goes wrong, they come together to really help that person get better. What does that say about the chemistry that you guys have built?

"Yeah, our guys stick together really well and we have a good group of guys that hang together pretty tight. We're real fortunate right now and yeah, obviously there is a lot of ribbing when you get called out good, you don't want to get called out good too much and when it is bad, they do rally around each other. It's a good group. I think that as a lot of good teams that you're on, and we're in a good place in our season right now, but guys like working together to help each other get better. They all see the benefit. They've all pulled together to get this far in the season, so at this point it doesn't benefit anybody to really be working independently or things like that. Everybody at this point just realizes that if we just keep building and working together, we can do something special."

How well do you know Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and how difficult is it to go against a Dan Quinn defense?

"Yeah, I've been going against Dan, personally, for a while. And I don't know him personally like Kyle obviously does because he worked with him, but they do a great job. All those guys that came from [Seattle Seahawks head coach] Pete [Carroll], the Seattle system, they play hard. They're disciplined, they're in the right gaps. They know defense, they know how to stop offenses, they know what gives you problems. They're just very well coached and they're fundamentally sound, that's the thing I go way back to [former NFL head coach] Tony Dungy, [former NFL coach] Monte Kiffin, those guys all had some time with Pete and then these guys, Dan Quinn and [Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator] Gus Bradley and those guys, they all are just so fundamentally sound in what they do and so, they know how to stop the run. They know how to play good fundamentals with it, they know how to give you trouble. Things that we saw Seattle do in the weeks previous and how they did this the first two times, they did it different, so there were adjustments during last week's game from the very first snap. It's like, oh, why is [Seattle Seahawks DT] Al [Woods] playing like this this week? We thought he was going to be playing like that and our whole set up during the week had to change during the course of the game and some we didn't adjust to very well and they did a great job of coming up with a different way to try to keep us from doing what we want to do."

You worked with Kyle in multiple spots now, he's on his third quarterback this year. The offense is putting up some of its biggest numbers. What is it about Kyle and his system that has been able to kind of perpetuate success from QB to QB to QB to keep it this efficient?

"Well, you think about when he started coordinating back in Houston, he was one or two years as a position coach and the next know he is calling plays, so that was pre-2010 when I met him, so it was a couple years, I don't remember his first year as a coordinator, but he's been calling plays since that time, so we're going on 12, 13, 14, 15 years where it's been his system, his plays, his verbiage, his terminology and it's built from what he learned from his dad to what he learned from [former NFL head coach] Gary Kubiak in Houston and then what he's done since then, which has been outstanding. And so, when you own it like that, you can plug and play. You can see where things that you've done fit this skillset or they fit that skillset or we had [former NFL WR] Pierre Garcon in this spot. He had [Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR] Julio Jones in this spot. Now he has Deebo in this and what's the skillset of these players? When we had [former NFL QB] Robert Griffin III, how we had to adapt to him and make it all work within our offense and still keep the basic tenets of this offense, but yet marry it to the zone read and things like that. Kyle, to me, I'll reference him in every press conference because it's his deal and yet he's managed to always understand. He has such a great grasp on it. I remember we put a play in this year, and I wanted to name it a certain name and I named it that and we ran it out at practice. And he goes, 'you can't name it this.' I said, 'why?' Well that's a formation. I said, 'Kyle, I haven't heard that formation in two years,' but it's in the book. It's the formation. We can't call it that. We had to change the name. I'm like, 'okay, it is a formation and we hadn't used it in a while.' And that's the kind of stuff that he has recall that goes back forever. And he is obviously very smart and has great recall, so there's this whole encyclopedia or this whatever you want to call it, just years and years of it. And that's why he is able to mix and match and understand how it all works, because when you just have a complete knowledge, three of the big plays that we've made, okay, the play to [TE George] Kittle up the sideline in Mexico that we had against Arizona. Kittle against Washington and the 75-yarder to Deebo. None of those three players were on the gameplan. Not one of them. If you've seen the call sheet, if you've seen it held up, there's a lot of writing on that. He says, 'no, that's what they're doing, this is what we're going to call. And he calls something based on what he sees in the game that isn't even on the list. And they're usually big hits and big plays because he just knows what is going to work. And even though we made out a plan for it, you're like, oh, they're doing this this week, so now we go to that and it's forever. I've been amazed since I've worked with him and I don't stop doing that. It's just how he does it and it's just his grasp on what he's doing."

I'm assuming that's extremely unique to call a play that's not in the gameplan?

"Yeah, a lot of guys can do it. I just always marvel at him because of the timing of it. Calling it, there's just a lot that goes into it. Obviously, you can say, Hey, the corner is jumping the receiver, we're going to call a double move and throw a touchdown pass. There's certain things and it happens a lot. He's really good at it and when he does know and as a result we're, you've heard this before, but we've always gotten unscouted looks things because they really don't want him to know what they're doing, because if they do, he has a pretty good grasp on what to go to in his offense and how to do it, so it's a real pleasure for a guy like me to work for him because when you do that, he has such good direction on how he wants you to go, so when either you're a player, whether you're an assistant coach, whoever you are, there's a great leadership or direction as here's what you have to do to do your job. Here's what I need you to do to make this thing work."

Does he encourage you and the other assistants to recommend stuff that's not in the gameplan?

"No, there's not too much of that. I'm telling you, there's plenty to call. He's just looking, where's that dagger? Where's that play that I think will really get them on this one? And that's what he's sometimes looking up and doing that. Yeah, can you suggest some things that maybe aren't in there? There's been a couple of those through the year, but it's mostly coming from him."

There's a lot of offensive Iinemen in this league, what makes T Trent Williams different than most, if not all?

"Well, I remember when we drafted Trent in Washington in 2010, I'd coached [HOF OL] Jonathan Ogden, who was a Hall of Fame player. [HOF OL] Randall McDaniel, who was a Hall of Fame player and a bunch of other Pro Bowl players through the course of my career. I've been really fortunate to work with some guys. And when he said, 'who do you compare Trent Williams to?' I said, 'nobody.' And he said, 'why is that?' I said, 'well, there's nobody that was 6-4, 320 something pounds, vertical jumped through the dome, ran a 40 like he did, all of the explosive movements that he had,' I'd never seen a guy that big. I'd seen guys that were smaller have that explosiveness. I've seen guys that were bigger, that were as smooth an athlete as he was, but the combination of strength, power, quickness, explosiveness and then the thing about him, which I didn't know was his wealth of knowledge, he's such a good football mind, so those things all combined, wrapped up, make him into a really special guy to coach."

QB Brock Purdy

When you look at the Cowboys defense, particularly their defensive front, what kind of pops out at you?

"Yeah, I feel like they're just talented across the board, up front. I think they're well coached, you can tell with their scheme and everything that they do, there's definitely a plan that they have and they go at it and all five of their guys, four of their guys, whoever's on the field, they pay attention to detail in the pass rush, which I feel like is a good challenge for us. I feel like we've played a handful of teams that, do a good job and are well coached up front, but these guys are probably one of the best at it and it will be one of the best challenges that we've seen."

What have the last seven weeks been like for you and how have you kind of stayed grounded through it all?

"Yeah, it's been football, man. I don't try to make it more than it is. I'm a faith-based guy, so that's how I stay grounded. I don't look at football like it's literally everything. It's do or die or anything like that. It's a game and it's my job for sure and I take it very seriously, but at the end of the day, I know that I'm not defined by the wins or losses as a person, like that's not who I am. I'm not just a quarterback. I wasn't born to just to be a quarterback and play football, and that's it. Like I have a life and everything like that. And I remember that, but at the same time, man, I'm a competitor. I love to compete. I want to win at all costs and so, I've been enjoying that as well, so that's where I'm at. That's how I stay grounded with it all, but I'm definitely thankful and blessed to be here."

Along those lines, there's a story that after the game you went to a restaurant and received an ovation in the restaurant, did that occur?

"Yeah, I don't know if the whole restaurant stood up and clapped or anything, but there's definitely people that recognized my family and I walk in."

What's that like?

"Yeah, it's cool. For me, I just want to enjoy my family and friends after a game. I'm not trying to go out into the public, like I'm seeking a celebration or anything for my performance or anything like that. It's cool that The Faithful is awesome across the board and out in public they want to show their appreciation for their players, so I'm very thankful for that. It's cool for my family and I to see that and yeah, just see the support, it's pretty cool, but it's not what I look for or anything like that. It is what it is."

Brock a lot of notice for head coach Kyle Shanahan's playcalling, it's like a weekly thing that people talk about, but aside from that, if you don't have 11 guys doing the right thing, what you call and how you design it doesn't mean a lot. I'm curious to your observation on what makes Kyle so good at getting you to execute the plays that he calls on a weekly basis, what do you see from what your standpoint is?

"Yeah, I feel like he expects a lot out of us, the way his offense rolls, everything ties together. Even though we're running the ball, the receivers have to do their part outside on the edge. Quarterback has to do his job and carry out his fakes. It's takes all 11 guys to do just one play, whether that's a run or pass, he pays attention to detail on every little thing. He's the one that's installing the plays every single day, which is pretty cool to have your head ball coach be the one that teaches you what you're running. And so we know that, he holds us at that standard. We all hold each other at that standard as well. And everyone just has to do their part in order for us to be successful and to set up plays down the road in the game, so that's how we look at it. Every little thing matters. It's not like he's just calling a play. We can go out there and just be better than someone across from us. It's man, he's calling this play to open up this or that, and the receivers know, that fullback knows it, the tackles know it, everyone knows it, and we just have to do our job and do our part to be successful. It's not a one-man show."

Can you see that now? Can you see where he's called a play where you know that it's setting up something for later and you know what it is?

"Yeah, there's times where he adds things throughout the game, things that we haven't even gone over at practice or that are off script, because he's thinking about things as well, so he'll tell us going into half or for the next drive and he's like, 'Hey, I'm thinking of this.' And we're like, 'dang, that makes sense,' and so it's pretty cool to see how he thinks as a coach and everything and how he calls plays, but it definitely takes everybody."

I know you said your dad has kind of kept you in tune with the whole history of the league with HOF QB Dan Marino and things like that. What was your kind of level of awareness of this particular rival in terms of playoffs and things like that? What's it like being a part of that?

"Yeah, obviously in the '90s they went at it, there's a lot of history, there's a lot of Super Bowls between the two organizations and to be a part of it, I'm very thankful. It's pretty cool. It's like, 'man, you've seen all those highlights from the '90s and now you fast forward to 2023 and here we are, same two teams going at it, fighting for the same thing, which is pretty cool. And I just look at it like, we just want to win. We want to do our part, and all the other stuff will fall into place. It's not like, man, this is going to be some kind of Netflix documentary or anything like that. I'm not trying to make it bigger like than that, but I'm very thankful to be a part of it, the rivalry and everything and having it come back, 2023, so it's going to be a good one."

Have you watched clips of some of those old games before?

"I can't really remember specific games or anything, but I've definitely seen highlights and the two teams go at it with the names on both teams, obviously Super Bowl MVPs and Hall of Famers in those games, so it's pretty cool."

Can you describe what it's like with your pocket awareness? Are you seeing like a blur of Jersey colors? Is there a mental clock going on how long you have in the pocket? Can you just kind of take us through that part, basically when you know how to escape?

"Yeah, I just feel like every play has a rhythm and timing to it, so for me, I'm going through my reads obviously, but if something's not there on time or in rhythm, I know like the mental clock is ticking in terms of, the pocket is closing, guys are coming around the edge or wherever. I don't drop back and just look at the defensive line and say, he's coming here or he's coming there. I don't have time for that. You have to keep your eyes down the field, obviously to see what the coverage is, but I feel like as the play goes on, then I get a sense of, 'alright, if this isn't here, I can feel the left side closing. I can escape here or here if I need to, but it's definitely not a thing where I go into the play saying, alright, I'm going to escape this way or go that way. I just feel it out as my eyes are downfield for sure."

You've had success spinning out of the backside of the pocket, it seems like it's a part of your game. Is that something you have to be careful with when there's an athlete like Dallas Cowboys LB Micah Parsons on the edge? Is that something you think about it all, or is it all instinctual?

"I think it is instinctual, but also at the same time, you have to account for those kinds of guys on the defense. With a guy with that kind of caliber and then obviously the amount of games that I've played, so they obviously see that I've done that, so you sort of just have to keep it all level in terms of if it closes, I can still go out, but at the same time, I have to know they probably know I'm going to go left or whatever it is, so it's always good to know that you're going against guys that are very athletic like Micah and all those guys up front. Yeah, I think it goes both ways, but you just have to make sure that they're studying you as well."

Offensive lines don't get a lot of attention unless things are going poorly, how have you seen this one be consistent and what have they done to make your job a little easier?

"Yeah, I think that they've done a tremendous job all season, even before I got in. And then obviously with me as well, being able to extend plays and whatnot, that happens when the defense does a good job in covering our guys, but if you look at our pass protection, those guys have done a great job all year. Both of our tackles, guards, center they communicate very well and they give me a pocket to step up in and to make plays and to make my reads. So honestly, I tell them like, 'man, I'm sorry if I bounce it too quick because you guys gave me a pocket,' so that's something that I need to grow and continue to be better at, but what they've done and how they've been coached by [offensive line] coach [Chris] Foerster, man, it's been a blessing for me to be able to grow in terms of trusting the pocket, go through my progressions, so they're awesome. They're a veteran group, they've played in big games and they've done very well against very talented defensive fronts, so it's going to be a good challenge for them this week too."

Speaking of trusting the pocket, the first touchdown last game to RB Christian McCaffrey. Is that a good example of you executing what you want to do? It seemed that you did trust the pocket and you moved within it, was that a kind of good teach, tape moment?

"Yeah, I feel like it's definitely something that [quarterbacks] coach [Brian] Griese and I have talked about being able to step up in the pocket, go through my reads, and then if it's not there, find a lane north and south rather than bouncing everything outside, so I feel like that was a great example of the o-line doing their job. The defense, did a great job in terms of covering all of our guys. Christian did a good job of leaking out and for me to move up in the pocket and then hit Christian, that was definitely something that we had worked on at practice and it was nice to see it pay off in the game."

Kyle and general manager John Lynch when they first got here, really found it important to find guys who love the game of football. We've talked to a lot of your teammates and that's one of the important things for you. Does that resonate with the success you're having now throughout the locker room and you personally?

"Yeah, I feel like if you come here and look at football like it's a job, which at some parts it is, but if you have that love and that drive to play this game that you've been playing since you were a kid. I think it helps you set yourself up for success because you love it and you're willing to do what it takes to make yourself better, make the people around you better, to win and have that will to win. And that's something that I think I've always had, I love the game, I love competing, I love making a big play and having the crowd go crazy and, there's that thing in me that you just want to win. You want to have all those other guys on the field celebrate with you for doing something good, so whatever that takes, if that's extra studying, extra film hours, extra time in the weight room, whatever, I feel like that's something that a lot of guys on this team have that they're willing to do and so, I'm just another guy that likes to do it as well."

Without having to do too much and sometimes in college you felt like there was pressure to do that. You had this interception, I'm sure you'll love to talk about against TCU your junior year, it brought you a lot of unwanted attention. Was that in some ways sort of a transformative moment for you or what did you take from that?

"Yeah, you could just tell I was pressing. There are times where I've always felt like the play's not dead and that I can always make something out of something. We had two guys come off the edge, I'm pretty sure and instead of either taking a sack or throwing it away early, I'm getting sacked and I go to throw it to a guy on the opposite side of the field and it gets picked, goes the other way and yeah, in that moment it's like, man, you're doing too much. You've put all this unnecessary pressure on yourself to make something happen when it's not there. Yeah, that was the point in my career where I had definitely to take a step back and be like, 'man, just do what, do what's asked of you. Don't try to do too much. You're hurting the team when you make those kinds of mistakes,' so you just have to learn from it and just not press."

Do you remember facing DB Deommodore Lenoir in the Fiesta Bowl?

"I do, but I forgot like who I was throwing to, like was I throwing to his side or not. I forgot about all that."
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