"Good afternoon. We've got the Atlanta Falcons coming in. It's obviously a big day, historic day, Monday night, Candlestick Park, I think it speaks for itself. But, we know what the Atlanta Falcons are capable of. It was less than one year ago that we looked up at the scoreboard and we were down 17-0 against this team. They've got a lot of talented players. Unfortunately, they've lost some key players at certain positions. If you really look at their season, early on they lost some games that could have gone either way. It came down to one play at the end. So, we've got a lot of respect for their team and their coaching staff. They're very well coached. And they're playing four rookies on defense. Those guys are improving every week, and they're certainly making strides. One of the guys that stands out on their defense is [Falcons DT] Jonathan Babineaux, who's been doing it for a while at a very high level on the defensive line. Their safeties, [Falcons S Thomas] DeCoud and [Falcons S William] Moore. Little bit of familiarity with [CB Desmond] Trufant when we were in the Pac-10, now the Pac-12. He was at University of Washington, so he's a very talented player. Coming off a great road win, everybody contributed in that win. That's what we're looking for and that's our goal, win. So, any questions?"
As I'm sure you're aware, RB Frank Gore went over 1,000 yds. for the 7th time in his career this last week, 144 away from 10,000 for his career. In this day in NFL specialization, for a guy like Frank who's taken 2,500 hits of punishment with his touches, how hard is that to do?
"Frank's just an amazing person, an amazing player. You kind of wish everybody, all the fans, could be around him just to see how special a guy he is, how committed he is to his team and it's from the heart. It's not a bunch of fake rah-rah. This guy lives it, breaths it and it means so much to him. He's been a fearless leader for us since we've gotten here. And I know before then as well. Really, approaching 10,000 yards with one team in this day and age, very few do. A lot of those yards have been tough yards, really tough yards. So, I think coming to work with Frank every day is certainly an honor for all of us and love to see him get to 10,000 here."
This time of year, grind time, tough time, playoff time, does a guy like Frank become even more vital this time of year for you and your offense than he does earlier in the year?
"Well, I would definitely make this statement that all of our backs are going to have to contribute from here on out to get where we want to go and every back, every guy that's dressing on game day and our backfield for sure. We started doing that a little bit last week."
A question related to that. Frank seems as fresh as can be expected this time of year. Is that something you do over the course of a season, you kind of plan to keep him as fresh as he can be knowing you're going to have to use him, but keep him as fresh as he can be for this time of year?
"Yeah, I think if you look back at our three years here, you could probably determine a trend that's happened each year and it's definitely part of our planning as we move through the year. And Frank is really the focal point of that because he's really been complimented by much younger backs since we've been here."
FB Bruce Miller did so much, was such a variable player. Is one of the challenges you have now not telegraphing your intent by who's in there to replace him?
"Well, yeah I mean I definitely don't think you want to be too tendencied in one thing, and if you are, it's generally for a reason where at some point you're going to flip the script on somebody and you're setting something up. But, I mean Bruce was very valuable to us. Did so many things at a high level and made a lot of things right because he's got really good savvy at that position. He will be missed, but it's next man up and away we go."
C Jonathan Goodwin won the Ed Block Award for this team. What makes him such a worthy recipient in terms of the sportsmanship and courage aspect?
"I think a lot of different things. I think Jonathan's had a long and successful career and he wanted to come back this year and take another run at it. I think day-in, day-out, I think he's the cement in the offensive line that we all count on, not only during the game and practice, but in meetings and whatnot as well. So, I think he just generates so much respect amongst his teammates and coaches that I definitely think that's a great honor and I think he's a very, very deserving recipient."
You touched on it earlier, can you describe what the atmosphere will be like Monday night?
"I know it'll be electric. Candlestick Park, I think back to just my earliest memories of watching games. I grew up on the east coast and it'd always be the late game. Just some of the classic battles back in the early 80s and whatnot. I remember we used to turn the TV around so we could sit and eat dinner and watch some of those games. Just so many incredible things have happened at that stadium. So many great players have played there. I just think it's going to be a pretty special night there and we need to be on our P's and Q's."
At that stadium, how stressful is it for an assistant coach in the booth at halftime?
"Do you realize what we have to do?"
Could you explain it?
"OK. And I've done this as an opponent too, so it's equal. You have to get on the elevator, take it down to the main concourse, fight your way through the people getting beer and pretzels and hot dogs, go down the stairs of the first level, get on the field, sprint to the dugout, sprint to the locker room. You've got about five minutes there, and then it's a full sprint back. So, what does that tell me? Every week is that man I've got to get more exercise in because I'm breathing really hard by the time I hit that elevator. We all are. We just look at each other when we hit the elevator and go, ‘Man, we've got to get more exercise.' But, yeah it's interesting. It's definitely part of the lore of Candlestick Park."
So, at halftime when you're huffing and puffing, you're sweating - (laughter). I'll editorialize. You may be perspiring, depending on the weather. What can you communicate to your offensive players in that period of time?
"I think a lot of what's communicated during the first half is done so over the headsets, and then we just try to crystalize specific things. You're making adjustments throughout the entire game, not just at halftime. But there definitely are some things that you can look into a guy's eyes and get communicated quickly before the long journey back begins."
And you get on the whiteboard and do stuff?
"At times, at times. But generally speaking, like [offensive line] coach [Mike] Solari for example will kind of handle certain things and [quarterbacks coach] Geep [Chryst] will handle certain things until we get there. Once we get there we go. But it's a long road to touch third base and then run back."
Have you ever missed the opening of the second half?
"No, but it was close. Yeah, it was close a few times."
It seems you'd have a few more minutes if you were on the sideline as opposed to in the booth. So, what do you gain from the booth? What do you like so much about it?
"I like both, but I just think it works out best in a sense that you can see the whole field, you can see everything. I mean you can see everything, and you can see all 22 and that's a good thing. We kind of debated back and forth what we were going to do, but I think it's probably the best thing to do under our circumstances."
Do you forgo the trip in the preseason?
"No, that's a good time during the summer to get a little exercise in."
Do fans ever have any interaction with you, Greg, when you're going up and down?
"I'm sure they do, yes. Yes, they do."
And you just don't listen to it?
"No, you can't. I listen to the good stuff."
Regarding WR Mario Manningham, is he physically, mentally back from that injury? Obviously, that's a serious knee injury, is that something where he's not going to be maybe truly back back until next year?
"Well, I think the best way to describe Mario is he's getting back to 100 percent closer every week. And I can't put a percentage on it, but he is definitely improving every week. And when he first came back, we all knew he wasn't 100 percent, but he was good enough to play. And he has done so admirably, and he's kind of gotten better each week. So, that's a great thing."