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Kyle Shanahan previews 49ers-Vikings Week 7 matchup

Oct 19, 2023 at 3:28 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters before Thursday's practice, as the team prepares for its Week 7 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"Injuries for today: [LB Dre] Greenlaw, hamstring, won't practice, [RB Christian] McCaffrey, oblique, won't practice, [WR] Deebo [Samuel] shoulder, won't practice, [T] Trent [Williams] ankle, won't practice. [CB] Isaiah Oliver, knee, he'll be limited. [OL Aaron] Banks with an ankle, won't practice."

McCaffrey oblique, does that mean rib has been ruled out of the equation?

"It means just oblique."

What was the results of that MRI?

"With Christian, oblique."

Does that suggest it's a strain?

"I don't know what it is. It's something that makes him day-to-day though."

Then are you expecting all three of those guys to play, McCaffrey, Deebo and Trent Williams?

"Not today. They're not practicing today."

RB Elijah Mitchell?

"He's full go."

Was the MRI on McCaffrey encouraging in your view?

"I thought it was. Anyone who's day-to-day, it means they've got a chance."

So it's not a long-term thing?

"No, it's just each day to the next day."

So they're all day-to-day?

"Yes, except Isaiah, he's limited. There you go."

Christian is on pace for almost 400 touches. Is that a sustainable thing? Was that your plan to feature him as much as you guys have in the first part of the year?

"I mean, we treat him as our starting running back. So, I don't really think of how many touches we want to get somebody in a year, that's week-to-week and how the game goes. But, he gets a lot more extra because he gets thrown to so much in the passing game. I'm happy with how he's being used. I'm happy with how he's been playing, and we'll see how the rest of the year goes."

TE George Kittle's targets are down a little bit the last few weeks. He's had some big games but also some quiet games with one catch. What goes into that? What do you see from him on film?

"George is doing a good job. He's been banged up a little bit a couple times where sometimes that limits him. Especially during the week where he has done a good job just getting out there and ready for the game. But, had a number of opportunities. He had all his opportunities versus Dallas, he did a hell of a job, came down. He didn't get many in this game, not many guys did, but it just goes that way sometimes. George does a lot in our run game, does a lot in our pass game. Sometimes George's opportunities get taken in half because when backs get out on routes, someone's got to block, which receivers aren't an option on that. So sometimes that's George and he is really good at it. So that limits some of his percentages, also."

It's well documented your interest in Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins back in 2017/2018. Throughout all this, the injuries you've had at the position and things like that, have you ever allowed yourself to think what if we had followed through on that plan?

"Not really. I mean, you think that all the way up to the moment. But when we got the opportunity that we traded for [Las Vegas Raiders QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] we were still thinking about it, but after those six games he played we moved on and we've moved on since then and really haven't looked back."

And where you are now with QB Brock Purdy, how much trust do you have in him and how much do you view him as like, this is it, we finally have some stability here?

"Yeah, I mean I felt that with Jimmy when he was here too. I felt we had stability and everything and just those injuries were tough. And then Brock, when he came in last year, you're not sure. You know how he is in practice. We knew he had an opportunity, a chance to be like that. But those seven games last year that he played in, you knew it pretty well. He earned a lot of trust with me, earned a lot of trust with the players. Going into the offseason, how he handled his injury, how he just handled himself when he wasn't able to practice, just in the meeting rooms and everything. And through every experience with him in games this year, he has earned as much trust as you could have in a quarterback."

Kirk was talking today to the Minnesota media about his time in Washington and his relationship with your father and yourself and Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and that staff. And even though it wasn't the most stable environment that he got his feet wet at that point and he thinks back to it often. What do you remember about him during that time?

"I mean, he just came in in a such a weird situation. We traded up, we got another quarterback with the second pick in the Draft. It was a good story that, I remember we had the sixth pick and I knew if we were going at six, my dad wanted to take [Tennessee Titans QB Ryan] Tannehill. I was hoping to get Kirk in the second round and go a different direction and we traded up to two and went with [former NFL QB] Robert [Griffin III] and I remember him telling me that, my dad really liked [Denver Broncos QB] Russell Wilson and he said, 'We're going to take Russell Wilson in the fourth and get two quarterbacks in there that year.' And then we got to the fourth and Russell was gone, and I remember him coming to my room. He was like, 'Hey, do you still want your guy Kirk?' I was like, 'I don't know about that dad, we've gone another direction.' He was like, 'No, the plan was we're going to take two, we're still taking two.' Then we ended up taking Kirk, which I was pumped about because that's who I wanted originally. Then to be able to get both of them. I know it was a weird situation for Kirk to go into a place where you know you're not going to have that opportunity, but he just kind of sat there and soaked everything in and learned a lot. It was a fun two years just working with him every day. But, didn't get to coach him much in games, I think we had three games with him. But he was awesome in the office."

You are synonymous with the outside zone run, obviously from your dad, but you guys have been doing a lot more gap stuff over the last couple of years. Was that a personnel thing up front trying to stay ahead of the curve, like what's gone into that decision?

"Just mainly how people defend our stuff. Trying to tie things together and defenses get better and better defending that stuff over the years, especially over the last eight years, seven years, since we've gotten here. People get a lot better at defending outside zone and when they're committed to defending outside zone, what do they get worse at? That's why we try to balance everything out. We try to make sure that they're playing certain things. I think we did a lot more gaps the last couple years. It might have gone down a little bit this year, but people are playing it more. So we just try to see what the defense is playing and we try to attack it."

With Christian and Deebo both limited in the last game, how much more did you put on FB Kyle Juszczyk's plate and how did he do?

"Kyle did a great job. I wouldn't say we put too much more on him because we didn't have to change any of his stuff up. It came more to kind of the receivers and the running backs a little bit, just with protections and formations and stuff. But I mean, Juice is as consistent and reliable a player as I've ever had. He's been here since the beginning and everyone knows that you're going to get Juice to do his job every single game. So he's as consistent of a guy there is."

He was in motion a little bit more than he'd been in the past pre-snap?

"Yeah, he may have been. Yeah, we wanted to move him a lot so he handled that pretty good."

What do you see from the Vikings defense?

"I see a team that causes a lot of issues. I mean, they blitz more than anyone in the league. You can never just relax and just call a play or run a play because there's always a thousand things that can go wrong just because of the threat of what they do in any situation. So they're on you a lot with that. They get you to make mistakes in that way. I mean, you look at the two games that they won it's because they created a turnover with those pressures where they didn't have a guy to block a guy. They didn't have a hot throw. The quarterback fumbles it and they return two for touchdowns there in the second half. That's got both of their wins. So, they're a team that challenges you schematically and everything and when they do that, you got to be on it."

After you reviewed the Browns film, how would you evaluate how Brock played in the game?

"Similar to everyone else. I mean, Brock missed a couple, so it wasn't his best game. I still thought he made some real good plays too. Everyone was underdressed in that, it was a challenge on all fronts and especially some of the down and distances we were in. But it definitely wasn't his best game. Just because it was his first loss and his first pick of the year, I still thought there was a number of things he did real well in that game too."

Following up on that, how are you expecting him to respond on Monday?

"Same way he always does. I mean, we will see. This is the first time responding to a loss, but in terms of not designating anything wins or losses. If we would've won in the last play of the game, he'd still have to respond the same way. So, it's him just doing his job and coming in here and being the same way he has been since the day we've met him. I don't think we're stressed about that too much because I've never seen a different guy."

What did he show you in the Vikings joint practices last summer where he kind of made a move?

"Kind of just everything he had shown versus our own defense in practice and OTAs and training camp. Then going out and going there against a different defense where you're not used to the coverages and stuff and just watching him still not hesitate and still not get a ton of reps. But when he did, he made the most of them. It was very consistent with how he was here."

The first-down play with 3:21 left when Brock got the intentional grounding, was he supposed to move RB Jordan Mason to the right to pick up the blitz? Was that his responsibility on that?

"No, no. Mason's supposed to be on the other side, so [WR Brandon] Aiyuk is open. But they're blitzing more than we have there. But we had part of the play called, the back's on the wrong side, so he wasn't able to get rid of it. So, there was nowhere to ditch the ball."

So he was aligned incorrectly?


Obviously it's a copycat League. What did you see that the Browns did on defense that you expect to see a lot more against you guys moving forward?

"I mean, Browns ran their scheme, so they did their scheme just very well. They played tight man coverage. They pressured. When they didn't they still got there with four and had a free linebacker playing eyes with man or they played a few soft zones just to mix it up, but that's what they do. They just did it very well. Most teams have got to do their scheme well and same with us."

Tomorrow is exactly one year since you traded for Christian. Can you just put into words how much he's meant to this franchise and to your offense since he's been here?

"Just a ton. I mean, just how good he has been from what you guys have seen, how dependable he has been, how reliable he has been, how he learns everything, not just the running backs and stuff. So, it's real easy to put a lot on his plate, move him around each week. I think just the example he sets for everybody and the guy is, I mean, he reminds me of just a basic mentality, like a walk-on guy, who's just trying to get people's attention for working so hard. He is one of the most talented guys in the league and was in college coming out and every single play it's like the biggest thing in the world, whether he is getting the ball or not. It's a really great example of how to be as a football player."

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