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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


Kyle Shanahan previews 49ers-Rams Week 18 matchup

Jan 3, 2024 at 4:10 PM--


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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters before Wednesday's practice, as the team prepares for its Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"All right, injuries for today. [DL Arik] Armstead won't practice, [RB] Christian McCaffrey won't practice, [TE] Ross Dwelley won't practice, [OL] Jon Feliciano won't with a back, [CB] Ambry [Thomas] with the surgery he had, [RB] Elijah Mitchell won't practice, he's sick, [S] Tashaun Gipson [Sr.] has a quad, he won't practice, [S] Ji'Ayir Brown, knee, won't practice. [WR] Jauan Jennings and [OL] Jaylon Moore are both limited with their concussions from a couple weeks ago. [OL] Aaron Banks and [WR] Danny [Gray] are full."

Do you plan on playing QB Brock Purdy against the Rams?

"No, Brock's the only guy for sure I know I don't plan on playing."

What went into that decision?

"One, you only can rest seven guys if nobody's hurt if you get two practice squad guys up. We have at least six guys injured right now. I only know for sure we can rest one and so I went with our starting quarterback."

Any thought to play QB Brandon Allen as well as QB Sam Darnold?

"Not right now. He'll be ready. He'll get some work in the week, but we're going like it's Sam right now."

Chemistry-wise, is this a tricky thing because you can't rest everybody and some guys have injuries and some guys don't and some guys are more important to your plan? How do you negotiate that and handle that so you don't have bad feelings in your room?

"You explain to everyone that it's not an option and you explain to them why so they get that. It's pretty easy to understand when you've got to dress 48 people so you only can pick five and you have more than five guys injured. So the guys who are injured are already not playing. So how many other guys do you get to pick? I can pick two up from practice squad, but that's all. Unless we start cutting a bunch of players there's no other option. So guys have got to be in uniform. They've got to be ready to go. It's nice with Brock because he can still be in a uniform and not count because he can be the third quarterback. Which if that happened, we'll decide whether to put him in a uniform or not so he could go in and hand it off if that happened. But, you've just got to explain it to the guys. Also, you work hard to get an off week in this league. I think an off week helps a lot of people, especially if you handle it the right way and stuff. Just this time of year it allows guys to get a little fresher and stuff, which what you don't want is two off weeks. No one gets two Bye weeks. We earned ours next week. We just didn't know we were going to do it already. So, we've got to make sure we get something out of this week. We've been in this situation before where we earned a Bye week, it was in 2019. But we didn't know we earned that until about 8:30 at night on the last play of the game versus Seattle. It was the first time it hit us, when the play before that we might've been playing that Saturday. So, we were very thankful we earned it. We needed that rest and we got it that week. Yes, we're in that situation, but we already know we're there. So that's why guys' minds got to be right this week. Two Bye weeks isn't good for anybody and that's why this isn't one. I know all these questions, those are things you first think of. I do because I didn't expect to know this Sunday night coming back on the plane. But, once you do sit and the reality hits and you think about it, you look at how a 53-man roster works with 48 guys and only allowed two practice squad flexes. You realize, one, it's impossible, but, two, it's also not the best thing for the team."

Which are you more willing to live with, the chance that someone could get hurt who's very important to you or the possibility that your team would be too rusty and not ready for that first game?

"It's not about the rusty, it's about one, how you pull off a game. Rusty isn't always about the game. Rusty is how you treat the week. The game is how you treat the week. The game's three and a half hours of, to me, what unfolded throughout the week and then you just get to cut it loose. So, that you've got to play accordingly. You've got to watch how the game's going and be as smart as you can. I also think people win in playoff games because you're a team. Yes, good players put you over the hump and everything, but you want to rest a good player, go watch what happens to all the other role players. You lose your whole role players before you go to a playoff and you just depend on your quote unquote good players you can be in a lot of trouble there too. So it is what it is. Our goal is to get better this week. Also our goal is to not have anyone injured, which both of those are a risk. We're going to work our hardest to do it, but resting the obvious ones sometimes can be the reason you lose because you lose all guys that you need to win that game. What allows big players to kind of do stuff that put teams over the hump that fans can see is a lot of what happens with all the other guys to do a lot of the dirty work and stuff that give you a chance. So, everyone's so important when you go through a playoff run."

What is the practice plan for Brock this week?

"Brock, we're treating this as a normal week. So this is a normal Wednesday at this time of year, which means we go half-speed on everything. We don't do anything full-speed this time of year on a Wednesday. Brock will get half of the reps with the ones. Sam will get the other. I want our team to treat this week as Brock going down on like the first play of the game. Now, that's why I want them both repping it. I want Brock to get some work this week. That's something I'd like us to be ready for if that unfortunately did happen. Thursday when it's all full-speed, probably give Sam majority of them. We'll talk about that after today. Friday, we're back to walk-through."

Might it be good for your 35-year-old left tackle to have two Bye weeks?

"No, I don't think it's good for anybody to take two weeks off, so not at all. You should see how [T] Trent [Williams] was when he came back after a month off or three weeks. It's not good, but we'll see how the game goes and everything. His mindset this week's got to be that he is getting ready to play."

With the amount of players that you have as opposed to what you have in the preseason and the way you're approaching this game, it's dramatically different. Is the game plan and what you're going to put into it preseason-like?

"Yeah, there's a good chance we're playing this team in two weeks. So, I think both sides will be pretty vanilla on that. I'd be surprised if there's too much stuff. But, we also know each other pretty well, both teams, and the schemes. When we play each other, I don't think a lot goes into that anyways. Every game affects the next game so we're going to be smart how we do everything."

I know you're not really preparing for the Rams, but how have they improved as the season has gone on?

"We're preparing for the Rams big time. We could see how good they could be in Week 2. Anytime that you have a quarterback like [Los Angeles Rams] Matt Stafford who is as good as anyone that I've ever studied, anytime you have that you always have a chance. He's always that guy. But where they've improved the most is how much their run game's going. It's as good as any run game in this league. You put those together with that type of quarterback, their defense started out with a lot of young guys, but they've played all year. That's what we had to do in '17 and '18. When you have a generational player out there with [DT] Aaron Donald, with what they're doing on the other side, that gives them a chance to be just as dangerous as anyone in this league."

With the one seed, is the balancing who rests, who plays, how much, one of the harder things you deal with this coach?

"It's just different. Harder is when everybody's hurt and you don't feel like it's going to be really hard when you watch that tape to figure out how to win. So I'd say those are the worst. This is just different. It's stuff that you think it's going to be one way because you haven't totally thought through all of that. Then once you really sit down and think about it, you realize that's not really at all what people think it can be. I want to try to do everything as much as anybody thinks we should. But then when you really think about all the things that connect, it's not that simple. What I've got to make sure is this week doesn't hurt our team and that's what we're going to make sure of."

Have you thought about how much the 48 guys you suit up, how many can you get by with playing in a game? Is it 40? 38? Have you thought about that?

"Yeah, which one of those guys got hurt. That's why there's no absolute. You can get by with 22, I'd say one out of a hundred times, a thousand times. But I mean, it just all depends how something plays out. It wasn't until a couple years ago they allowed an eighth O-Lineman to get up and if they wouldn't have had that new rule, we would've done our last three series of Baltimore with [TE] Charlie Woerner playing tackle. So, I mean that stuff happens. We went 20 years without having to play a third quarterback and then all of a sudden it happened in an NFC Championship Game. So when we were in Atlanta we went all year only dressing two running backs and it didn't hurt until the Super Bowl when we lost [former NFL RB] Tevin [Coleman] for the whole game and [former NFL RB] Devonte [Freeman] was hurt. So it's all risk and that's stuff you've got to balance out. That's stuff you've got to be ready to see how it goes. But it's man, you've got five receivers up, you want to sit a couple. Well, how do you get practice squad guys up? You can get two. Well, we also have a corner down in Ambry who had surgery. We had Gip who probably won't be able to go with his thigh. [S] Erik Harris is out of practice squad so we've got another. We're already down to [S] Logan Ryan. So do you go with three safeties or do you cut people to get up an extra practice squad guy receiver? Christian's probably not going to be able to go. He isn't. So do you go with two backs in that situation and just ride one? Or do we flex one of those practice squads and go with one less safety and one less corner and only have three or four there, which maybe could work unless someone gets a cramp? It's everything. So, I wouldn't waste your guys' time learning it just like I don't waste my time learning all the injury names for Eric. It's not easy."

There's a motion you do mostly with Christian but sometimes with other guys. It's kind of like a shuffle to the side and I don't think a lot of other teams in the league do it. What are sort of the benefits of that motion where you sort of might end up in a weird position behind the line and what are the drawbacks?

"Just watching how it moves the defense. Getting people out of positions. Watching people's adjustments. How they're going to treat it. I mean, when people haven't seen it before then it's cool, but then they see you do it so they adjust to it and you see what that does to people. Does it help something and open up another? But, it's just about getting people to move."

You mentioned Gipson may not play this week. Is there any concern with him or Feliciano those are kind of the two new additions?

"No. Gip ended up, I think we got it yesterday, he had a quad strain. So I mean, that could be anywhere, seven to 10 days. That can heal faster too, but just with our situation the odds aren't there. Feliciano, new thing came up, but we feel pretty good about it. So we'll just see how the week goes."

You guys have six returned to IR designations left. Is that on purpose? Did you guys resist putting some players on IR just so that you would have a lot heading into the playoffs to use?

"Well also, last year we ran out of them. We didn't think we'd have them all and then towards the end of the year we had to decide between [DL Hassan] Ridgeway and [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo]. We ended up losing Ridgeway because of that. So we wanted to make sure. We didn't want to do any just to do it. Sometimes you've got to do it because it's close to that time and you got to help get other guys on your roster. But we didn't have as many of those situations this year, so we've got extra left. But that does help you when guys do get hurt. It just allows you not to lose them so you can get someone else on your roster."

In a way, is this more stressful for you to coach a week like this than if you needed to win this game to clinch?

"No. This is just stuff that's a little annoying to think about but once you kind of do, which we had time to do the last couple days. I just had to talk to some players so they understand it. We're good. We're going to enjoy this week."

With Pro Bowl stuff coming out officially later today you came into this franchise and there were none in 2016, how you and General Manager John Lynch have built this roster to this level?

"I just think it's been real cool that most of our Pro Bowlers I feel like have come from here. We brought in Christian. We brought in Trent. But, it was just cool watching some of these guys who we go back and watch playoff games from 2019 and stuff and you just see rookies out there. Rookies with [LB Dre] Greenlaw and [WR] Deebo [Samuel] and second-year player like with [LB] Fred [Warner], first year player with [DL Nick] Bosa. You just think of some of those guys who came here and now they're kind of household names and they do it year-in and year-out. It's cool. It's awesome when you bring in someone like Christian, someone like Trent, just different type of players that we got a chance to add to this group. You think of some of the stuff we had to go through to build this up and it's just really cool. We hit on some guys that weren't only just talented guys but really made of the right stuff, which has allowed them to turn themselves into that and continue to get better each year after."

With the Walter Payton Man of the Year voting ending, what makes Arik just so deserving for his leadership on and off the field?

"Just how he does it day-in and day-out, year-round. I didn't even know about all this stuff. I've been here long enough where I gradually hear about it. He doesn't do it just for everyone to know about it. He does it because he has a passion for it. I know how with where he is from being close to here and how much he's helped for that area. I know Arik truly loves it, is truly a great person in that way. I know how much all of our team looks up to him in that way on kind of handle all social issues and just really how to be the best person you can."



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