San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media on Thursday, and you can read a full transcript below. Fangio opened with some discussion of Chris Borland's development in light of his rookie of the month award.
The most entertaining part of the press conference was his discussion of Justin Smith. The 49ers defensive tackle is signed through 2015, but his future remains up in the air, as he potentially nears the end of his NFL career. Fangio wants him back in 2015, going so far as to say he'd do some recruiting in Smith's home state if need be. He also gave Smith a plug for the Hall of Fame at the end of the press conference.
LB Chris Borland won yet another award. He's the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month. You've talked about him at some length this season, but has he surprised you with what he's been able to accomplish?
"Well, I think anytime a rookie comes in and has some success there is some element of surprise to it. But at the same time, the guy was an excellent player in college. His tape, if that was all you evaluated, he would've been drafted much higher than he was drafted. Everybody starts picking at these guys as the draft process lingers on - lack of height, short arms, this, that and the other thing. But if you just watch the tape, he was an excellent player in college and has played well for us here."
Can you explain why he gets so many tackles more than other people who have played that position?
"Not really. Your inside linebackers should make most of the tackles or be your tackle leaders, anyway, and they always have been. He's just seemed to have been in on a bunch."
Does he sometimes kind of stray away from the design of the play using his instincts to go make a tackle?
"No, I wouldn't say that in the running game. I wouldn't say that as much."
There were a number of plays against the Seahawks where they were just able to throw a short pass to the running back or the tight end and pick up gains. What was happening on those? Was it just good offensive scheme on their part or what happened?
"I'm really not recalling the plays you're alluding to."
"Well, that was a coverage foul-up on our part. The pass plays that had the biggest impact in the game were obviously that one and a couple of scramble plays where we made some errors, both in the rush element and in the coverage part, that cost us."
When he first started, one of your observations was that he relied too much on instincts and in the NFL that wasn't going to work. He had to stay more in the scheme. How has he grown or how has he changed in that regard?
"He's gotten better. He's gotten much better. He hasn't totally conquered it yet. One of those plays that came in the scramble element, he didn't stay with his guy. He's gotten much better at that. There's going to be a happy medium that we have to find and he has to be correct most of the time when he doesn't stick to the exact design of the play."
With DT Justin Smith, how much fresher does he seem in December this year? Healthy body certainly helps, but also with theWednesday?
"I don't think it's a freshness thing. I think you hit it on the head when you said healthy body. Last year, he was playing with half an arm. I forget which arm it was. I think it was his left. This year, he's playing with a healthy body."
Has the Wednesday -- ?
"We did that with him last year."
Have you seen any difference with him?
"No, I think the biggest thing is he's healthy."
Will you try to talk him into playing again next year?
Have you yet?
"Not yet. If I have to go to Missouri and drink a beer with him, I'll do that."
Does he drink beer? I'm just kidding.
What do you know about their young running back Latavius Murray?
"What do I know about him? He's big and fast, number one. He broke that 90-yarder against the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago, which really was a huge play in that game. And you can see his speed. Once he got through the line, there was nobody that was going to catch him. He runs powerful for a guy with his size and speed, so, he's a legitimate running back. Good pick by them to get him late in the draft."
Raiders QB Derek Carr, I think, it's a little bit surprising. When he's pressured he doesn't get sacked that much for a rookie quarterback. Why is that? What have you seen that he might do well?
"He has a good feel for the rush. They throw a lot of quick game, too. A lot of play-action game. I think he has a good feel for the rush, knowing where to go with the ball if he's under duress. I think he's got good pocket instincts. For him not to be sacked very much, that speaks of his feel and knowledge of the game and their offense. And their O-line has done a good job pass blocking."
What do you think DL Glenn Dorsey's status this week is going to be?
"As of right now, I wouldn't anticipate him playing, unless something happens today and tomorrow. But he is getting better. The area around his injury is improving and I do think we see a light at the end of the tunnel."
How about CB Tramaine Brock?
"Not sure about him. He still isn't healthy enough to participate. He obviously wouldn't probably play this week."
With Raiders CB Carlos Rogers and CB Terrell Brown going to the Raiders, you had to put in new corners. Brock had played last year but now, you have CB Perrish Cox and CB Chris Culliver, who, they're also in contract years, so they may not be back. How interchangeable are cornerbacks in your scheme and just here in general?
"They're interchangeable as much as they need to be. We had the same three starting corners for three years and, as you alluded to, we lost both of them. I know you have to have them. You can never have enough of them. And if we lose anybody on the current roster moving forward, we're going to have to work hard to replace them with some quality players."
Justin said yesterday that part of the reason that he thinks the secondary has played so well with all the changes from a year ago is that things are kept pretty basic. As a defensive coordinator, is it easy to do that? With as much time as you put in on the job, do you want to just try to keep heaping on stuff on these guys' plates?
"Well, it's always the fine line you wrestle with as a coach. We all want to do more. We all want to have more calls available on the ready list to be used. And we do have calls available that we don't use very often. I don't think our system, really, has changed much, or the way the game's been called, much when you compare this year to the previous three. Maybe a little bit here and there, but not dramatically."
Head coach Jim Harbaugh told us Monday or Wednesday that it's not in his genes to worry about his future, whatever that may be. What's your take on what makes him so good about just staying the course and not worrying about anything that's going on outside?
"Anybody in this profession, you have to be able to have blinders on and stayed focused on the task at hand and not succumb to all the noise and stuff that's being written or said out there. And most of it is totally irrelevant and not true. I don't think it's that hard. Things only become a distraction if you allow them to."
Have you found, I guess, a determination on LB NaVorro Bowman?
"No, but obviously, we have four games left. One a couple of days away, and he hasn't practiced yet. So that's three games left for him. I doubt he would be able to play next week, but only if he started practicing off of two, three days of practice. The games are running out. I don't think he's given up, nor has anybody else. But the time and schedule, obviously, is drying up."
As you understand it, what is the issue that's preventing him from getting back on the field for practice?
"I'm not exactly sure. I think everything's fine as far as rehab goes. I just think it's 10 months out from the operation and it was a serious operation. I don't think he's had any setbacks as far as I know. I don't think it's anything major."
Regarding Justin again, he has said on more than one occasion he doesn't want to be a 20-snap guy. Once he's kind of lost it, he's out of here. Have you seen basically the same guy you've seen for the past three years this year when you watch him? Justin.
"Well, I actually see a better player than last year because of the health. And I'm sure he's down a decibel or two from where he was in 2011, but not very much. It would be a shame if he did retire for all of us because he's still playing at a very high level. Expect him to make the Pro Bowl again, and expect you guys to lead the charge five years when he's done playing to get him up in Canton."
What do you think about his Canton -- ?
Matt Maiocco has already written some of that.
"OK. Who's our voter here in this area?"