49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media Tuesday afternoon, and had a chance to discus a variety of topics, including the recent departure of Parys Haralson. Fangio normally just stands up and takes questions, but this time he had an opening statement.
Fangio touched on Haralson's departure, but he also mentioned that Tom Rathman deserved to be in the ring of names in Candlestick Park (and thus Levi's Stadium). Fangio coached the New Orleans Saints linebackers back when they faced the 49ers twice a year. He got to experience Tom Rathman first-hand, and now they've had two years to coach together. It was an interesting commentary by the 49ers defensive coordinator.
"One thing I want to say first, I know I usually just wait for you guys to ask questions, but I just wanted to let you guys know that we're going to miss [LB] Parys [Haralson] here. I want to just laud his career here and his stay here. He was a great teammate, great friend of the organization and a really good player. We're all happy for him that he's going to be able to go somewhere else and get more playing time, but we are going to miss him. The other thing I want to say is, as I was sitting in the box the other night waiting for the game to start, I was looking at that ring of honor that's up at Candlestick. I was looking at all the names there, I thought there was a name missing I think they need to get up there at some point and that's [former 49ers FB and current 49ers running backs coach] Tom Rathman. When Tom's playing career, I coached against him every year he played in the league. I was in the division with him, so coached against him twice a year, I know what a hell-of-a football player he was. Now working with him for three years, I know what a great coach he is and he's had a tremendous impact on this organization for over 20 years, so someday his name needs to be up there."
Do you think that's an undervalued position that he played? Doesn't get enough recognition?
"Actually, when he played, fullback was a very important position, more so than it is today. He played full-time. Back then the 49ers were a regular offense, they had a fullback on the field almost every play."
Have you taken that to anyone yet in the organization?
"No, I'm waiting for you guys to do that for me. I'm handing that off to you."
Now that Parys isn't part of that linebacker crew, what do you like about the guys that are behind LB Aldon Smith and LB Ahmad Brooks?
"Well, we picked up [LB] Dan [Skuta] in the offseason and he's done a good job of picking up the defense. He's a very similar player to Parys, so I think you'll see a lot of similarities to those two guys when they play. [LB] Corey [Lemonier] we drafted in the third round. He's got good athletic ability. He's got good speed. He's been doing a nice job picking up the defense here as a transition, which is always hard for those guys to do. He was a defensive end in college and I think he's done well, about as well as many guys that have been put in that position that I've seen. And then [LB] Cam Johnson who was our seventh-round pick the year before. Cam's a whole lot better player this year then he was last year. He's made tremendous strides, both physically and mentally and emotionally and he's light-years ahead of where he was last year at this time. So, those three guys have done a good job there and we feel good with all three of them."
Is Corey the number three? Is he the first to come in if Ahmad or Aldon goes out?
"No, not necessarily. If we had, it would be more by situation. Maybe one guy would play in the base package, one guy would play in the sub-package or vice versa. I don't think it would be one guy pulling full-time duty."
Is it safe to say if Corey had not had a good camp, Parys Haralson would still be here?
"I don't know that really because Dan's had a good camp, Cam's had a good camp. All three of them have."
Is S Eric Reid your starter at free safety?
For the season?
What has he shown you since he's been here to nail that down?
"Steady progress. He's gotten better and better each and every day. He's had his potholes in there where he's had some mistakes here and there. Overall he's just been steady. He's grown in the position, which has allowed his ability to come through more and more. He's tackled well in the games which is important for us. We lost a really good tackler last year in [S Dashon] Goldson. He's done a good job in tackling and we think he'll continue to improve as the season goes on."
The whole philosophy, you know a lot of people thought, ‘get him in that first game against the Broncos.' Was it all just about making sure that he was competent enough so that when he got that first opportunity he had enough background behind him? Why not just stick him in from the beginning and let him go?
"Well, first off, seven plays against the Broncos and [QB] Peyton Manning and he handed it off three of those seven, I don't know that's going to make much difference in how he plays this year. Two, I think everybody has to come in and earn their position. I've been around too many situations, at times, where guys have been given something and they don't learn to appreciate it or have to fight to go earn something and it becomes too easy. I think we've done a good job of setting a precedent here with that. Like I told you before, Aldon Smith did not earn his nickel rushing job as a rookie until after the fourth preseason game where he really played well against San Diego. That was when he earned his position as the nickel rusher for us. Last year, [WR] A.J. Jenkins barely got on the field so, just being a number one draft pick doesn't mean you come in and get a job."
Are you surprised that Reid earned is so quickly - quicker than Aldon did?
"No, because Aldon was learning a new position. Aldon was a defensive tackle in college more so than a defensive end and he had to come in here and learn how to be a linebacker, and Aldon's year was the lockout year. He had no work in the spring."
Is CB Nnamdi Asomugha your third corner going into the season?
"After the game the other night, I believe so. But right now, both him and [CB Tramaine] Brock - Brock was nursing an injury prior to the third preseason game and the second preseason game, which allowed Nnamdi to move ahead. Now Nnamdi's nursing a little injury right now. It's a little bit unsettled because of the injury situation, more so than anything."
Back to Eric real quick, he also does some special teams as well. Did you see him transition seamlessly doing both? Not only learning your defense in the NFL but also --?
"To be honest with you, I don't know. You'd have to ask [Special Teams Coordinator] Brad [Seely] that. But I didn't pay any attention to the special teams."
Will that change though? By him having a starting role, does that change how he can get used on special teams?
"Well we've always used, Dashon played on special teams last year. He was on our punt team full-time. The year before, I know that [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] was on one of the phases full-time. I think it's generally ok for a starter, particularly guys that play every play basically, they can be on one phase. If you start putting them on more than one phase, then that could be a little taxing."
Is NT Ian Williams, will he be the opening day starting nose tackle?
"It's looking that way right now, yes."
Is it safe to say [DT Tony] Jerod-Eddie and [FB/DT Will] Tukuafu are fighting for a roster spot? Is there one roster spot between those two guys?
"I wouldn't limit it to those two guys. You've got [TE/DT Demarcus] Dobbs in there too. So, it's amongst those guys."
Are you guys considering opening the season with seven linemen?
Yeah, with Dobbs suspension.
"Well, it becomes a matter of semantics. He doesn't count for that first game, so he would not be one of the 53."
Are you assured that LB Ahmad Brooks is going to be available in week one?
"Everything that I know of, yes."
Are you worried at all that that could change last minute?
"No, nobody's told me that it could, so it's been a non-issue that way. I'm pretty sure the league came out and announced that he would not be suspended."
Which guys are you going to rest Thursday night? Are you going to rest most of the starters?
"A good bit of them, yes."
Which ones might play? Reid?
"Maybe not. He might not play. He's had a lot of reps. He's gotten a lot of work in from the day he's gotten here in the spring and all through training camp. We may not play him."
With injuries to Brock and Nnamdi aside, has Nnamdi, with his performance, earned that number three spot?
"Yes, he's done well in his reps that he's had in the game and in practice. Particularly the last two or three weeks, he's played much better."
You had said a few weeks ago that you need to see if he lost some athleticism at his age. Have you seen enough? Has he lost anything? Does he still have it?
"He's still playing at a good enough level to be a major part of our defense."
Was part of it just seeing how he could play on the left side?
"He had told us from the start that left or right wasn't a big issue for him and it's turned out to be true. We put him at left, I don't know, two weeks ago, ten days ago, after getting a lot at the right. It was a seamless transition for him."
At his age, do you have to monitor his snaps throughout the season?
"If he's the third corner, he's going to get somewhere between, if you use the last two years as a barometer, between 50 and 65% of the snaps. That should be a good enough gauge."
Is LB Patrick Willis still on track to be ready for the season opener?
"That's my impression right now, yes. Now he may have to play with some contraption on his hand for a little bit, but my understanding, he'll be ready."