The 49ers and Cardinals released their Wednesday practice participation reports. We know about Patrick Willis being out, but it also looks like Keaton Kristick's short stint with the active roster has resulted in a concussion and he'll miss the season finale. Coach Jim Tomsula spoke with the media and said that NaVorro Bowman would get the start at the Mike inside linebacker position next to Takeo Spikes.
Beyond that, it sounds like the team won't make any crazy lineup changes in this last game. Tomsula mentioned trying to get Ricky Jean-Francois but did not say as much about Thaddeus Gibson and Alex Boone. Looks like we get a full season of Alex Boone on the sideline.
In unrelated news, the 49ers announced the winners of their various team awards. There are some very deserving winners on this list:
Len Eshmont Award (49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team): Takeo Spikes
Bill Walsh Award (49ers MVP): Frank Gore
Bobb McKittrick Award (49ers o-lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime offensive line coach, as voted on by o-line): David Baas
Hazeltine Iron Man Award (Most courageous and inspirational defensive player as voted upon by the defensive coaches): Justin Smith
Thomas Herrion Memorial Award (Rookie/1st year player who has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality; voted on by the coaches.): Anthony Dixon and WillTukuafu
Wednesday Practice Participation Report
Out (Definitely Will Not Play)
CB Phillip Adams (ankle)
LB Keaton Kristick (concussion)
T Joe Staley (fibula)
LB Patrick Willis (hand)
Did Not Participate In Practice
RB Brian Westbrook (not injury related)
TE Nate Byham (heel)
Limited Participation In Practice
C David Baas (ribs)
RB Anthony Dixon (ankle)
LB Takeo Spikes (hand)
Full Participation In Practice
TE Vernon Davis (thumb)
Did Not Participate In Practice
LB Joey Porter (tricep)
Limited Participation In Practice
LB Clark Haggans (groin)
TE Ben Patrick (hamstring)
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring)
Interim Head Coach Jim Tomsula
Press Conference - December 29, 2010
San Francisco 49ers
On the injury report:
"[LB Patrick] Willis will be out with a hand, [LB Takeo] Spikes is playing, [LB Keaton] Kristick is out, you've got [G David] Baas, he's day-to-day, ribs looking good. [CB Phillip] Adams is out. [T Joe] Staley is out, [TE Nate] Byham is day-to-day."
On whether Willis is out for practice or the game:
"Willis is out for the game. Yeah, he's out."
On why Willis will not play:
"His hand. He had to have - that hand was fixed again."
On when Willis' hand was fixed:
"Yesterday. Was it yesterday? I'm not sure the day. The other day. I'm not sure of the day. I'm sorry, I don't know. He had that - I don't think it was major, I just think they had to go in and - I don't want to go in, I don't know details."
On whether it is fair to say that Willis had a second surgical procedure:
"Yeah, I think that's fair. I don't know, I think it's fair."
On whether Willis would play if they had won Sunday and were playing for a playoff spot:
"No, that was irrelevant. I was told that was irrelevant. That had nothing to do with it. No matter what anything is, that's the way that was. This whole -the whole [injury update] sheet is that way."
On who will be the starting quarterback:
"Alex Smith's the starting quarterback."
On what contributed to that decision:
On whether he thought about starting QB David Carr in order to evaluate his potential:
"No, it didn't come up."
On whether he thinks of this game as a way to determine who will be brought back for the next season and whether he has talked to the players about that:
"Well in that kind of a thought process, that's every week in the National Football League. And again, in that area, and that thought process, there really isn't one here with these guys. They play, they're going out, preparing and playing. You know, I don't even think that anything goes into that."
On whether he had talked to QB Alex Smith and how it went:
"Yeah, actually, I sat down with him yesterday. Terrific."
On his thoughts on Smith:
"I'll tell you, with Alex, in my dealings with Alex Smith, is Alex Smith's the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to marry. I've got two daughters. He's a nice guy."
On whether he has evaluated Smith's level of confidence after being benched last week and whether that will effect him for the coming game:
"Oh, no, no. And again, up until Monday, the only evaluation I have is on defensive lineman, front seven, defensive play, OK? And I'm a guy that through the course of my coaching career, I've held different positions, and I keep my spoon in my soup. I don't taste your soup. I go in and do my job, and do what I'm asked to do, and I try to do it to the best of my abilities."
On whether he gave the starting quarterback decision to offensive coordinator Mike Johnson:
"Oh yeah, well I mean we obviously talked about it, I led the conversation in the area that I wanted it to go."
On whether he plans to stick with Smith throughout the game:
"Yeah. Obviously, everybody here - look, there's 53 guys on the field, 53 guys and then the practice squad guys, but out of those 53 guys, there's still always at the end of the week, with special teams, and some of the things that we need there, there will be guys evaluated all through the week, to see who's on that 45. But out of those 53 guys, you've got 53 guys that have to prepare like they're going to start and they're going to play. So everybody does it. Now things happen during the course of a game, and decisions have to be made, and that's when those decisions happen. But everybody prepares like they're going to start, like they're a starter, like they're going to play. And if they're not doing that, they're probably not in the NFL long."
On whether LB NaVorro Bowman will start:
"Yeah, NaVorro will start."
On whether he intends to do more evaluation on young guys like S Taylor Mays:
"No, I mean, again, the one thing I want to make clear, our preparations are to win. We're preparing to win a game. The evaluation process is ongoing, always. Yeah, I understand all of the other things with where we're at, our record, all of those kind of things. What we're preparing - we're preparing for a game to go in and compete to win."
On his reaction to DT Justin Smith's Pro Bowl selection:
"Right on. I get to work with that guy, and there's a lot of guys here that in my opinion, when you take everything into account, the way they work at it, the way they maximize their talents, the mental work, the physical work, all those kind of things, the kind of people they are, that are Pro Bowl guys to me. Obviously there's voting, and that's always the nice thing, whenever you vote for anything, right? We can always have the other side of it, that's why we keep the college bowl system going too, right? So you're never favorites, and talk about who's this, who's that. We've got good conversation."
On the decision on who stays on the 49ers coaching staff being in the hands of a new general manager or head coach and how he envisions the transition after this week's game:
"When I say a one-week calendar, I mean, that's not something new for me. My whole life is a one-week calendar, OK? There's prior planning in the off-season, we get our ducks in a row, get lined up, but I can speak for me. When Sunday night's over, I go in and that's why I watch film on Sunday night, to close out the week, and I'm on to the next. And that next day, I'm working on day-to-day, climbing that ladder to get to game day. Game day is on the top of that ladder. So all the preparations are going into that day. I'm very singular in my focus in that way. I'm a football coach. I'm Jim Nobody from Nowhere, I've coached in different places. I don't run form that. My family is not going to starve, and if my wife has stayed with me for the last 19 years, she's not going anywhere, so I'm good."
On what he sees himself doing next week and if that includes helping with a transition:
"Honestly, I have not spent a second thinking about that."
On whether he has slept since Monday and what the last couple of days have been like:
"Well I mean, when you're into coaching, and we're talking about me, there's a whole coaching staff up there. Nobody is getting a whole lot of sleep during the season. I mean, you just don't. You've got a window that's a small window every week, and you've got a certain amount of work to do. And when things come up that are out of the norm, you have to deal with those, but you still have the same amount of work to do. So that's the way you go with it. So, what do you look for? There's coaches in this building that don't sleep on Sunday nights and that do those things. That's the nature of our business. I think that's why when you get on an airplane and you take a look at where the coaches are, most of the time I think everybody is sleeping as soon as their backsides hit the seats."
On looking refreshed today:
"I had a shower (laughing). [49ers director of public relations] Bob [Lange] told me to shave."
On whether he has addressed the fact that some players will not be back after this game:
"Yeah. Okay, in that, yeah. What we've tried to do right here, and again, it's with anything, the players come in on Wednesday for game plans need to be set and things need to be done early in the week to move forward. So it's always, my focus is, anything out of the norm, whether it's this particular situation or whatever, anything, you want to handle it fast. You want to handle it on Monday, you want to get it done, and you want to attack it. You don't want to let it drag. You attack it, you hit it head on, and you speak honestly about it, you deal with the facts, and you put it in it's place. Now, I can put it in it's place and move forward."
On whether he has thought about filling the open roster spot with an inside linebacker:
"We have - Alex Joseph is here."
On whether Joseph is a linebacker:
On whether Joseph will play Sunday:
"Oh yeah, he's up. Yeah. I mean obviously we're going to go through some evaluations right here, but the thought process is for him to be in here and he was meeting with the coaches last night. Great guy."
On whether Joseph would be a backup for the inside linebacker position:
"Yeah, he'll be a backup there. And again, you've seen us. The way we're built, we've got guys that can multi-task. So you always have a plan, no matter what goes on, you always have a plan for any kind of situations that may happen. So, the guys are trained in that way."
On whether he will look to give game time to guys who haven't played this season like T Alex Boone or LB Thaddeus Gibson:
"Yeah, well, yeah, I mean we're looking to win a game, we're looking to prepare to compete to win. But yeah, yeah. We're looking - but I mean, I'm always- I can speak as a d-line coach. [DT] Ricky Jean-Francois is my young guy. I'm always looking for opportunities to get Ricky on the field. That's my thought process, I want to get him on the field, I want to get him playing reps. And if you do it here on the practice field, you earn the right for playing downs on the practice field. And then from there, we get into the game. Yeah, I mean, you like to get guys in the game. I mean, you want to stay fresh, that's my thought process. That's where I fight with Justin Smith all the time. That guy doesn't want to come out. That guy wants to play, he doesn't care. And you know, all those guys have that, so sometimes you've got to protect them from themselves. You know, and so yeah."
On whether he intends to start young guys in the last game just to get them playing time since they are not playing for a play-off run:
"No, absolutely not. That's why I tried to at the beginning of the week, it's crystal clear where our approach is here. And quite frankly, I mean, with where we're at right now, we wouldn't want to go that way. I mean I think you all can see the logic in that. That's not smart in my opinion. So I'm really happy with the way everybody is heading and everybody is going in the same direction."
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - December 29, 2010
San Francisco 49ers
On what his week has been like, given the organizational changes:
"Yeah, obviously, you know, some changes made, different. You know, week 17 and final week of the season, but some changes with it so, yeah, different."
On his volatile relationships he's had with his previous two head coaches:
"I guess, I wouldn't describe it as volatile, you know? I got along really well with coach Singletary. I think the perception is a little different just because he's a fiery guy, he's emotional. I mean, I think that's who he is. I think those are - those are positives about him. I mean, that's what makes him who he is and I think people just saw some things that have gone on on the sideline, but as a whole I think he brought a lot of energy because of that."
On whether it was hard for the team because of the constant changes at the quarterback position:
"Well, I mean, I think it was hard because we weren't winning. You know, we had a lot of expectations. I think that was the biggest thing, that was the most difficult. You know, a lot of expectations coming into this year and not to achieve them is frustrating for everybody."
On whether he has spoken with former head coach Mike Singletary since he was dismissed following the Rams game:
"I haven't. I haven't got to; it's, you know, it's hard. All of a sudden I found out I'm going again this week and there will be time after this week to really talk and kind of rehash things, so."
On whether it would be nice to go out, play well and win in the last game, given everything he has been through with the 49ers:
"Of course. I guess nice to go out there and play well period; I'm not really getting into the, ‘What's going to happen after this?' But it's, whenever you go out there, I mean even though it's the last game of the season and we're out of the playoffs, pride is on the line. You want to go out there and play well, no question. I mean, that's not going to change."
On whether he has thought about what is going to happen after the season ends:
"No I'm not. I'm not thinking about any of that other stuff. That all, you know, that's what the offseason is for. Right now I'm focused on-"
On whether he has thought that the upcoming game against the Cardinals might be his last game with the 49ers:
"Like I said, that's all out there, those are possibilities, but I haven't had time to ponder and think about all that. That's for after this week."
On whether he has the desire to prove that he deserved to be chosen in the first round of the draft:
"I mean, of course that desire is always there. I don't know if it necessarily goes back to the draft, per se, as it were a few years ago. I was still not that far removed from that. At this point, it's just that you want to go out and win for the organization, for the fans, for the team. That's the biggest thing. I don't know if it's as much going back to the draft and proving that. But any team you're a part of, you want to do it for everyone involved. As much as this team puts in, the coaching staff, the organization, the fans, everyone involved."
On his thoughts on starting this week and his emotions knowing that an interim coach feels that he gives them the best chance to win:
"Yeah, I mean I'd be lying if I said it wasn't frustrating last week, you know, finding out that with the season on the line, not to get the start. But it happened, and this week I am getting the nod, and it's another opportunity. You know, I'm excited about it. I'm going to prepare and reset the team. I think there's even more distraction at this point because we know that the season is over after this Sunday, but we're going to stay focused and go out there and take advantage of the other team."
On whether it was frustrating to not get the start last week in such an important game:
Yeah, yeah no question. We hadn't been in a position - I haven't, since I've been here been in a position like that. You know, week 16, playoffs on the line, so yeah, no question it was frustrating."
On what his conversation with then head coach Mike Singletary was that week when he found out he wasn't starting and whether he lobbied for the start:
"I don't know how much lobbying I was doing, you know it's not my job, but definitely emotional, frustrating, you know I definitely voiced my opinion, that's for sure. I wasn't sitting back and taking it, but I don't know if I'd call it lobbying."
On what interim head coach Jim Tomsula has brought this week:
"Yeah, you know, it's hard. Obviously I think whatever changes he wants to make, you know coming in as a head coach, there's only one week left so you can't really do that much. So I think he has to put that all in perspective and what changes, if any, give us the best chance to win."
On what the ideal scenario would be for a quarterback:
"Young quarterback? What are we talking here? [response: ‘sure.'] I don't know if there's anything perfect, I mean obviously ideally you'd like to come into a situation where everyone around you - all the pieces around you were as stable as possible. You know, offense was in place, the guys knew it, offensive line was in place, guys knew the system, you were coming in and everyone around you I guess was as stable as possible."
On the ideal situation not being available to him:
"Yeah, it's not like that for many people though, especially young quarterbacks. You know often times if you're an early draft pick, it's usually tied in with the new head coach because they're coming in, so. A lot of guys don't get that."
On what offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is like and whether they will see what he is all about in the final game since there has been a head coaching change:
"I think that's hard as well, I think you're still trying to go out and win a game. I think Coach Tomsula's made that clear, there's no real- I mean this isn't an audition for any of us. We're not going out there doing crazy things or trying to reinvent a bunch of stuff week 17 because we're not playing for the playoffs. So, I don't know if we're necessarily going to go in that direction. I think we're going to do everything we can do to win a game, going to be sharp, going to do the things we've continued to do."
On whether he is worried about the focus of his teammates with the season ending:
"I'm not worried about that, with the group of guys that we have. You know that is a point though, it is there. I mean, even just talking about those things, we've already addressed some of the exit meetings and stuff. So that's there, but I think we have a good group of guys that all are prideful and here to play."
On LB Patrick Willis being ruled out for the game:
"Yeah, it's a loss for sure, no question. Not just for the defense, but for the team, to not have him out there in the pads. You know he's definitely a leader of this team, so, we'll be affected by it."
On Willis being named a Pro Bowl starter:
"The thing that I appreciate about Patrick, I mean obviously he's a vocal leader, but he leads by example. He's certainly not asking anything of his teammates that he doesn't ask of himself. That's the thing that I appreciate most about him."