49ers Minicamp I: The value of a little perspiration

The 49ers wrapped up their first minicamp of the offseason yesterday.  The second day brought a second Mike Singletary press conference.  I've placed the transcript after the jump, but was intrigued by much of what I read about these practices.

I realize that professional football players do plenty of running and calisthentics to build up their wind.  However, in reading Maiocco's and Barrows' various posts on the minicamp, I can't help but notice how much they discuss the running and boot camp style exercises that Singletary is using.

I'm sure there was plenty of working out under Nolan, but I don't recall it quite at this level.  It makes me wonder how much of a difference this might make, if any.  One Barrows comment:

During yesterday's intense, Marine Corps-like training circuit, Singletary said he was prepared to end the session early when tight end Vernon Davis piped up and said he and and his teammates wanted to complete the task. Singletary said he was very happy with the attitude of the team.

Given the big bucks these guys are making, is this something that could wear thin at some point?  This past season the team showed improvement under Singletary so one might say "things were good" and people didn't have as much a reason to get pissy about the drill sergeant routine.  If things go south at some point this season (certainly a real possibility), how quickly do people turn on such a routine?

My favorite line of the press conference transcript (again, after the jump) was in discussion of a sort of "workout hill" put in at the 49ers facilities.  After some discussion with the strength and conditioning coach, a hill was built for additional work out options:

[T]here’s something about the hill. It’s beautiful to look at but what it’s going to do for our guys is it’s going to bring about something that you can’t really get in the weight room. Something that you really can’t get on the track. It builds something that’s kind of a mystery. But all the guys that I know that worked out on a hill, they were a cut above some of the other competition around the league and they had a long playing career. So I’m excited about the hill and it just adds another dimension to our workout and it gives Duane Carlisle a little more of an option so I’m excited about it. He’s really excited about it. He’s familiar with it and we’ll go from there.

The best part of the discussion about the hill?

RE: Does it have a name?
...Pain.

That reminds of my favorite line from Rocky III.  If I can get down to training camp again this year I definitely want to check out this hill.  If anybody reading this gets out to training camp, definitely try and get a picture of it.

All of this just has me wondering about the Mike Singletary coaching method when it comes to practice.  When the Jags and Giants were struggling, Tom Coughlin's drill sergeant routine did not go over very well.  When it comes to Singletary, I kind of think it's not quite drill sergeant, as much as just hard work.  I'm sure he can yell with the best of him, but I don't necessarily see him as that type.  I actually think he could inspire more fear delivering a tough speech with a calm demeanor.

Either way, is this something that can last through the lows that are bound to happen in most any season?

MIKE SINGLETARY

RE: Is this mini-camp giving you an opportunity to refine what your expectations or your shopping list is heading into the draft? Is it a clearer picture?
“This mini-camp really satisfies a number of things. First and foremost, it’s for our team to have a chance to see who they are. For the coaches evaluating, particularly the new coaches, and just really getting a look at the guys and really set the tone for the offseason and the season coming up of how we’re going to do things, the mindset and the right mentality. The most important thing that we can do is create the mindset that we need to have going forward, as well as guys to really come together and get a look at some of the changes that we made in the game plan. So it’s really a great thing for us. I’m really glad that we have this opportunity to kind of start all over.”

RE: When you got the job at the end of the season, you said that the players had to expect to work when the season began. Was that training circuit out there what you were getting at?
“Just a bit of it. Obviously the most important thing for me is to really gauge where we need to go, how we need to get there and some of the things along the way, along this journey that we’re on, how do we get that. We know we want to be a physical football team. We know we want to be a tough football team. We know we want to be smart. All of those things. Well, it’s nice to have them on the board but it’s another thing to accomplish that. So, along with our staff, when we sit down and talk about, ‘What do we want to have? What is our vision? What do we set the first day in place?’ It’s work ethic. Of all of those things, the foundation of what we’re going to do is the work ethic. And if I had guys that aren’t afraid to work, we can accomplish anything.”

RE: Are you taking notes on who’s giving you 100% and who’s not?
“No, it’s one of those things that it sort of jumps out at you. I think more importantly, the players are taking note. Yesterday, one of the things that I saw that was very nice to see was some of our leaders were leading the pack. Whether it be Vernon Davis or Frank Gore, whether it be Alex and Shaun, the quarterbacks, they were leading the way. And that’s what you have to see. That’s what you have to have if you’re going to have a championship football team.”

RE: What did you see from Alex in how he was able to throw the ball? Do you like the progress he’s made?
“Certainly. He and Shaun are doing a good job. Some of the mechanics, the refining, some of the small things, it’s always the small things that you have to do in order to be the best that you can be. So I’m excited to see some of the things that they’ve done very well so far. It’s going to be real interesting as we continue day by day to just see the progression of the quarterback position alone as well all of the other guys continuing to make strides.”

RE: One thing you’ve done since you’ve become head coach is you’ve been very straight in your talk with players, letting them know where they stand with you. For instance, Mark Roman. And you’ve been pretty straightforward with Isaac Bruce: you’d like to see him here. Do you think Isaac, a veteran player like that, appreciates the straight talk from you? Do you think he’s reacting positively to it? What’s your take?
 “I never know how players are going to respond to it, I just know that I’m going to be consistent in who I am. Isaac, obviously he’s played a long time and I’m sure in his mind he has every right to say, ‘I’ll let you know when I get ready.’ But at the same time, we have a football team and if you’re a part of that team then you’ve got to let us know at a certain time. And he will. I have no doubt about that. As well as some of the other guys, I just believe in letting guys know this is what I see. I could be wrong, and if I am wrong you need to let me know. But this is what I’m seeing. So body language says a lot. You can say one thing, but body language says a heck of a lot more than that. So I just want guys to know that they can count on me to be up front. They may not like it, but I’m going to do that. I owe them that.”

RE: What have you discussed with Jonas Jennings about his situation here with the team?
“As far as Jonas Jennings is concerned, it’s just a matter of knowing that we’re going to continue to go in the direction that we’re going and Jonas has got some decisions to make about what he’s going to do but the 49ers are going to continue to go forward here. So that’s kind of where I’m at.”

RE: So do you have to wait for him to get healthy before you can do anything roster-wise with him?
“As of right now, it’s just one of those things I think right now we just evaluate and at the appropriate time do what we have to do. For right now, once again as I said yesterday, I really want to focus and concentrate on the guys here and all of those other things off the field – why guys aren’t here, all the other stuff – it’ll work itself out in time. It won’t be catastrophic. We’ll just make decisions as they come.”

RE: You mentioned changes to the building and the team, and one of the changes is very obvious. The hill over there has grown quite a bit. What’s the reason for heightening the hill?
“I talked about a hill to our strength and conditioning coach, Duane Carlisle, a couple of years ago and he misinterpreted what I want and what I was talking about. So he came up with his version of a hill. I said, ‘No, that’s not it. But we can’t change it right now.’ And we sat down and we talked and I told him what I was talking about and he said, ‘Oh, I know exactly what you’re talking about.’ So it was just a miscommunication. But there’s something about the hill. It’s beautiful to look at but what it’s going to do for our guys is it’s going to bring about something that you can’t really get in the weight room. Something that you really can’t get on the track. It builds something that’s kind of a mystery. But all the guys that I know that worked out on a hill, they were a cut above some of the other competition around the league and they had a long playing career. So I’m excited about the hill and it just adds another dimension to our workout and it gives Duane Carlisle a little more of an option so I’m excited about it. He’s really excited about it. He’s familiar with it and we’ll go from there.”

RE: Walter Payton was famous for running a hill near where he grew up. Does that go along with that?
“That’s a very generous deal. Compared to what Walter ran, it was a heck of a lot higher than that. The hill that Jerry Rice and those guys ran, it was a lot higher than that. The hill that some of the guys and I ran on, it was closer to that size where you could do a lot more things. You had a lot more options in terms of things you could do on the hill. So that’s why I’m excited about that one. There’s a lot of versatility to it.”

RE: Does anyone in the building know the exact dimensions of it?
“To be a little bit more specific, it’s about 45 to 47 feet. It’s about 45 to 47 feet. If you go over there and just walk up, it’s about 45, 47 feet. From the lip of it at the bottom on the front side. On the back side there’s just a different slope to it, spot that will give you a little bit more but that wasn’t exact.”

RE: Does it have a name?
“No. Pain.”

RE: When you enter the month of April does your mindset switch solely to the draft or do you continue to think free agency as well or, this is your first draft, are you going to focus solely on the…?
“I think everyday my mindset is the same from today going forward and it’s just about whatever we have to do to get better whether it’s free agency, whether it’s the draft, whether it’s continuing to focus on the things that we need to do better in getting our players in better shape, whether it’s looking at an injured player and trying to get them back as fast as we can. I’m thinking about all of it in terms of what we have to do to get better and that’s not going to change. It’s an ongoing thing. As a matter of fact when you see me writing or something like that, I’m just constantly thinking about what is it that we have to do, to get there and that’s my focus.”

RE: I brought this up earlier, but has the minicamp sharpened any of that focus at all now that you’ve seen your assembled group here?
“The basic thing that I really wanted to accomplish here out of this, the first minicamp is to really set the tone and I really think yesterday when we were running and going through the circuits and what have you, I was very impressed by the response of the guys. I thought it was, for the first day of minicamp and voluntary minicamp they had no idea what to expect. Maybe the fact that they heard something about a circuit scared them to death and they just worked out more, but I was very pleased with what I saw and the coaches were and I think the players were. I gave them an opportunity to stop and I said, ‘You know guys, I think I’ve seen what I needed to see, we can go onto something else and I think Vernon [Davis] was the first one that said, ‘No, we are going to finish this,’ and everybody else chimed in. I think it says a lot about our team and it says a lot about our guys and I’m just really excited about it.”

RE: Did you see more of that and less missing pieces perhaps?
“Oh, there’s not doubt about it. I think the core of what we need is right here. I think the most important thing that we have to do is refine what we have and we’ve got some pieces here in place and guys that don’t know that they are a piece yet, but I can see it and some of the coaches can see it, they are the piece, but it’s just a matter of going through the fire to develop it and get there. So I’m very excited about that.”

RE: There were a few guys yesterday that didn’t practice, that I’m assuming are here, that had injuries. You talked about Tarell Brown. What is his condition?
“The thing that I want to say in response to the injuries. Here’s how it is for me. As the head coach, one of the reasons it takes me awhile to hire someone is because I really know what I’m looking for and when I see it, I hire it, but when I do that, I want to allow everybody to do their job. I believe in delegating and they have ownership and the most important thing for me, and this may be a bad thing for a head coach, but all I want to do is, if someone’s hurt, I want to find out, is it catastrophic. Is it going to set him back more than two weeks? Is it going to be something where he can’t be ready for the next minicamp or the next OTAs. If the answer is no, then let’s get it well and let’s go. So as far as the injuries, I don’t want to get into it. I just think some guys are a little bit sore. Some guys are a little bit nicked up here and there, but I don’t really…it’s March and I don’t’ really want to get into it.”

RE: So are you saying that none of those guys that didn’t practice have things that are going to linger?
“Absolutely.”

RE: They’re not?
“Absolutely. With the exception of Ray [McDonald]. Ray we will have to see in training camp and go from there, how that goes and we are going to be very gentle with that and we are going to listen to him a lot and specifically the doctors and we’ll go from there, but most of the other guys, it’s kind of a day-to-day thing and we’ll see at the time.”

RE: This minicamp there’s been some requests to talk to some assistant coaches. I understand the assistant coaches, you’re not allowing them to speak to the media. Is that correct?
“Well, you can say me, you can say we. I think the most important thing for us right now, is to really look at getting better and I want our coaches to focus on doing just that. Offensively, we are a little bit behind the eight ball, so Jimmy Raye and the staff has a lot of work to do to get the guys caught up. I don’t really want them thinking about trying to explain what the offense is. Trying to explain, give a rhyme or reason for this or that. Let’s get the show on the road, let’s go. We’ve got to get to work and get it done. At some point in time, on a limited basis, we will make them available.”

RE: On a limited basis?
“On a limited basis.”

RE: So you will not allow your assistants to…?
“I’m saying on a limited basis and at that time, we’ll figure out how much of a limit it will be, but for right now I’m saying as a staff we want to not make them available and just let them get to work so we can get caught up and at some point in time, on a limited basis we’ll…”

RE: Does this have something to do with some of the stuff that came out in the media last week about communication?
“No sir. Absolutely not. It wasn’t just last week, but there are several things that have been written throughout the offseason, not just last week, about communication and whatever, but I’m very confident that those things we’ll handle in-house. We’ll get it solved. But it has everything to do with staying focused and being on one page and trying to stay true to the course. We have a vision here that we want to achieve by the kickoff of the season and we don’t want anything to hinder us from that. So how about let’s go to work. And everybody will see soon enough what the offense is, who it is, who’s the starter, all the other kind of stuff. What we’re going to run – it’s all the same anyways, it’s just who’s running it. So for us, it’s just that we made the decision to say, ‘Let the guys coach.’ And at the appropriate time, and I respect what you guys are doing – I know you need to talk to them at some point in time and we’ll do that, but right now I just feel that it’s really important for us to get moving. Get going.”

RE: What’s your day to day responsibilities going to be from now until the draft?
“They change everyday. I wish I could tell you. I wish I knew from day to day. But every morning I come in and I have to make a decision of what is the most important thing that I need to do this morning to get us better. Who do I have to lean on a little bit more? What do I have to deal with over here? So every day is different, and I’m thankful for that because it could get very boring. But trust me, it is not. So I’m thankful to have that responsibility and very thankful to have choices every day that I have to make. To me, being in a leadership role is all about deciding what has to be done right now. Today. And let the rest wait.”

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