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Kyle Shanahan talks 49ers minicamp, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, more

Jun 4, 2024 at 3:51 PM


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The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their mandatory minicamp this week. Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to reporters after Tuesday's practice. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

What are your thoughts on RB Christian McCaffrey and his extension? He really seemed to deserve it after last year.

"Every year he's been in the league, it seems like he's been the same guy since he's walked in the building. He's the same guy every day on and off the field. And I'm pumped to have him here for a long time."

Are WR Brandon Aiyuk and T Trent Williams the only guys not here?

"Yes."

Were reasons given by either of those two as to why they're not here?

"Trent's daughter is graduating today, should be here tomorrow. And BA, contract stuff."

Is Christian here right now?

"Yeah, Christian is here."

Will he participate tomorrow?

"We didn't have him do anything today. He was out there working out, but we didn't put him in any reps and I doubt we do tomorrow too."

Obviously, you don't deal with all the negotiation stuff. But when it's players of this high profile, do you take a peek in there? Are you at all kind of monitoring these things?

"I do to a certain time, and then I kind of check out of it. When I don't have as much to do, players aren't in the building, it's kind of hard not to just check in and ask how it's going. But there's not that many updates. That stuff takes time and everything, but now, especially with guys in practices, mini camp, it's stuff I don't ask about at all."

Up to this point, when we've asked you about Brandon, you've said 'It's voluntary' and in similar situations the last four years, people in contract situations have been here for the mandatory mini camp. Does your view change on Brandon and his status with the team now that this is mandatory and he's not here?

"No, to me it doesn't change at all. You find out when guys are in those situations, whether they come or not. Some guys come because they want to avoid a fine, and some don't. But regardless, it doesn't change anything when those guys have come. We know what the process is, we know what the business part is, and that's just how they decide how they want to handle this week."

Where is DB Deommodore Lenoir today?

"He's out there. We just kept him outta practice. There's a of couple guys we kept out just because they've been here for a little bit, tightness and stuff."

Why is WR Ricky Pearsall wearing the blue, non-contact jersey?

"We just like to single him out so you guys can find him [laughs]. No. He had a little soreness from a couple weeks ago and when it's like that we still want him in there but it allows guys to avoid him as much as possible."

He's been prolific in the practices that we've watched. What is your early assessment on how he's doing?

"I mean, I wouldn't say prolific but maybe I don't understand that word very well."

He's made a lot of catches.

"Yeah, he's doing a good job. He's got really good hands so he's rarely going to have a drop. We're getting him a lot of reps. He's getting a lot of different routes, trying all the positions and we've been really impressed with how he started off."

How do you see TE Logan Thomas fitting into this tight end group and what do you expect from him?

"I really wanted to just up the competition there with the group and get a guy in there who has had success in this league in the run and pass game, who has been on a few teams and done it before. We like our group and there's some competition there, but having the opportunity, at this point in the season, to be able to add a veteran like Logan, with his skill set and be able to get him in here to come compete and him being ready for it, was something we were kind of pumped to pull off at this time. We're just gonna have him watch this week because he just got here today, and we'll give him a chance to come in into training camp and compete with those guys."

Does TE Cameron Latu expect to be ready for camp?

"Yeah, he should be ready around camp."

Any setbacks?

"No, there hasn't been."

We haven't talked to you since WR Jauan Jennings signed his contract. What does it mean to have him back out there and know that you have him here for the next couple of years?

"I think everyone knows how much we love Jauan. Just his style of play, his personality. Him in the building and the way he plays on the field is just the example of everything you want. So he's been great for us here so far. Pumped that he's gonna be around here a little bit longer."

You've got the three veteran wide outs, you drafted one of the first round, you drafted another one later, maybe lost a couple blocking tight ends. Is it possible that you're looking maybe a going with more three wides?

"No, I don't think we have a change in philosophy on anything. You just named five receivers and you usually keep six. Sometimes you can keep five and keep three on practice squad. So that's kind of how the numbers work out and we had a couple guys who had been here for a while that we lost for agency and you have to replace those guys. It won't be easy with [TE] Charlie [Woerner] and [TE Ross] Dwelly, but we do have a group who have been here. That's also why, we anticipated that could happen. That's why you invest in guys like [TE Cameron] Latu and [TE] Brayden [Willis] the year before, and hope that they get work so they're ready to take over that role. And that was tough on Latu, missing that whole year. But Brayden got a lot of work because of it and it gives him a better chance now to try to go earn that spot with the guys he's going against."

What are you learning with the new kickoff rule in terms of – do you have any theories on, is a different skill set as a returner going to work with the ball today? Where are you on that?

"I'm not sure totally on the returner. They're all so different. It's not like the styles of kicks used to be the same you wanted hang time as far as you could go. But now are you getting that or are you getting squib kicks? Are they bouncing? Do you want a shortstop who can just center, who can just get the ball off the ground clean? Do you want the typical guy who can just hit that seam? Do you want more of a punt returner who can be more at a dead stop and go side to side to find the crease? If there was one style of kickoff, I think we could come up with that, but I think they're all going to kind of be different. I think it's going to be all types of players. I do think when you eliminate the space and everything that it'll probably be more big guys and stuff up front on both sides."

How excited are you that QB Brock Purdy and Pearsall seem to already have a little bit of an on-field connection and look like they've repped it?

"It's been fun to watch both of them. I know Brock doesn't always get to watch how the route gets there, but he knows when guys end up in the right spot and they catch it. That's where quarterbacks get comfortable and I think he can fill that with Ricky right away. I mean, he's been getting to the right spot and when he has made mistakes, he understands it and corrects it. I think that's why those guys are gonna have a lot of fun working together."

There's talk of possibly changing the schedule of the offseason and coming back earlier in July and not doing some of the spring stuff. Do you have opinion on what would be good or bad about that?

"I think eliminating an offseason so you can have a seven-week training camp isn't the best idea to me. They used to do that, but they did seven weeks because people didn't make as much money and in the offseason, they had other jobs. They had to leave whatever jobs they were doing and they didn't work out in the offseason, so you had to go to like a seven-week training camp to get guys back in football shape, which took a while. Nothing is worse than a seven week training camp, even as a young ball boy. And so, I don't totally like that. I also like the idea of – I just believe that when you end a long season, you need to get away but you don't just get better in that training camp right before the season. I liked spring ball in college. For myself as a player, that was the last time I played, but I felt like in spring ball, you could go and improve on stuff and sometimes you look bad in it, sometimes you look good, but there were things you worked on and then everyone got away. And then you had two months or a month, whatever that summer is, to gain on those people, and to go work out and get in shape. I just worked on football and then offseason that was provided, because I can't go play in the Olympics or the YMCA or anything like other sports or a batting cage and things like that. And then now I have this month to gain ground on guys where, you don't if you take that away. And I also think it's tough, because when you do get guys, like right now we're in decent shape, guys will go away for 40 days, they'll come back. We have so much science on that. I can't tell you guys how much we've altered our program over the last seven years. What we do on day one to day two to day three to the first off day to the reps on day one to day two before preseason game and after. So that's why the soft tissue injuries do get better. But if you don't do anything as a professional athlete for those 40 days away without us watching you, you might pull a hamstring. We're gonna do everything we can to protect that. But if not, and you're still pulling them, us making you come a month earlier might help that person. But I also think anyone who doesn't know how to work out in their 40 days away, you're not going to make in this league very long anyways. So it's not too bad to weed five of those guys out."

Why is it not so important for the veteran leaders to participate in these practices? Is it because you're installing things that they already know?

"No, it's that you want all guys to work and I don't think anything hurts people. But you can get hurt anytime whether it's here, whether it's anywhere else. But when guys haven't been here through Phase One, Phase Two, Phase Three, just to throw them out there in that stuff, we're not going to risk that. And when I think of the risk reward on that, I'm definitely not going to risk it because no matter what happens today or tomorrow, no matter what happens, we are going to get away and we're not going to come back for 40 days. So you hope guys learn from these moments and stuff and that does apply to what you do later, what you do while you're away. You stack days and you get better. But to think what someone does exactly on a rep or something is going to change their body in a month from now, that's different. And we got guys learning formations, cadences, how to come off the ball, how to run, how to move together and guys are all over the place. And they're going to get away and most of them will go work on it on their own and study it, watch tape, know how they're training now. And when they come back and we do the exact same things in training camp, a little with more pads, they'll actually have a chance to know what's going on and hopefully make a team instead of a practice squad."

Christian's obviously not an old guy, not even an old player, but we know that position can age fast when you get closer to 30 and be replaceable. We know what the salary's been like. What is it about Christian in your mind that tells you that this could take him to his thirties, that he's still going to be this valuable that long from now?

"Well, the running back market's different than everything. So I think that we feel very good with where we're at with that, with Christian especially. I think we got, contractually, I think it's four more years. But when you look at Christian just as an individual, I'm not going to compare him to anybody else. Christian is one of the more talented people I've ever been with in my life. But if I didn't speak about that, I'd say he is almost the biggest overachiever I've been around in my life, in terms of how obsessive he is with every little thing and you guys have heard us talk about him, but that's where he is extremely unique. As you get older with age, you lose a step or something, that's not what makes Christian great. That's how he is the same player down in and down out. And yeah, it's great to have all the talent that he does have and he takes care of his body as good as anyone. So you don't picture him losing any of that because of a number. But if that stuff does happen, Christian's always going to be a good football player until he decides not to be. And we're not really concerned with that at all with this type of personality."

How much does the front office come to you and say, 'if we're going to get this contract, we need this player to be good for three more years or will it be two more years?' Does it get that specific in conversations with you?

"Just like reporters, everyone tries to get that specific but only God knows that question. So you got to evaluate everything. You think of things and you think of your history, you think of the history of whatever numbers you want to read, you think of how your roster is, where it's going to be and then you think of the individual and then you try to figure it all out what's best. I like to say we're not, we don't think in absolutes in anything we do. So I mean there we're never going to say, 'hey we don't do this at this age or we don't do this for this position.' Each individual is unique. I think Christian does as much of that as anyone I've been around."

What do you think of the state of the wide receiver market? It seems like it's exploding unlike any other position.

"Yeah, it happens. We've seen it with quarterbacks. You're seeing it right now with wideouts. It's happened with D-linemen. It's just part of it."

CB Charvarius Ward was working on the sideline. Is he on the same timeframe as TE George Kittle has to come back?

Yeah, they're both coming back from the core surgery, I think. They'll both be back at training camp."

Looking forward towards him, he's also set to be a free agent coming up. Is that something that you are emphasizing going forward? Him and Deommodore?

"Yes, definitely. I would say there isn't any who are going to be free agents that we don't want around here. We've got some good players. We've built a good roster. And you can't keep everybody around. But the guys that you're asking about, they're as much on our mind as anyone."

Christian had 339 touches last year. What'd you think of that usage? Do you see that number going up this year or you think it's more likely to go down?

"I don't think it always needs to be that case with all the runs. Like we have guys that can run the ball. We have to protect Christian from himself. He doesn't like to ever come out no matter what the situation is and I do think that's something we could protect him with more. When you are such a threat in the pass game, it's a little bit different. And when you get touches from a running back, a lot of times you're the last choice, just everyone's deep and you throw it to a checkdown. So, halfbacks can get six targets in a game without one play called for him just because they're on checkdowns a lot. And so how do we feel about those touches? Man, I'm glad he was out there for that checkdown. That means no one's around and he is getting up the field and he is as good of a threat on a checkdown as there can be. But if he's just taking the wear and tear with 20 carries and stuff every game and he's definitely good enough to do that and he is proved he can stay healthy. But you'd like to take some of that off of him and give it to other guys also."

Have you guys finalized plans to practice against the New Orleans Saints down at UC Irvine?

"Yes."

It's basically now three road games that's a home game week. What were your thoughts on playing the two road games and then practicing on the road when you have a home game?

"Just that I like practicing. It's more important to me to practice against someone than even play the preseason game. I think it's better for your team. So I wanted to make sure we got one out of that. I didn't want to do it the last week, just with it being so close and that we plan on playing our guys more in that game. And then I also don't like bringing teams here because we don't have as much land. We have two fields and you kind of need a third field. I don't like how tight it is and stuff. It's just too tight out there and it kind of messes our grass up for so long. So it's better when you can go to a place that has three, sometimes four, even five fields."

Will it be the same day off before the day before the game that the practice is two days out?

"Yeah."

Are you looking to do scrimmages in Nashville?

"We actually wanted it, but because of the travel and stuff we'd have to go out too early and then it would be an issue. I would love to scrimmage versus them, but because we're going on the road for the next week in our home game, then it's going to end up feeling like we truly are on the road that long. So we'll just go to Nashville the day before the game and come back the next day."

Have you talked to CEO Jed York? I assume you guys act together about the field situation?

"No, I better not say it. Jed's on that stuff, but I have an idea, but nobody wants to hear it."
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