San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media Wednesday afternoon, and he had a chance to touch on several issues. He talked about Jimmie Ward's development at nickel back, Eric Reid's improvement this offseason, the illegal contact emphasis, and several other topics. Here's the transcript.
What happened to LB Blake Costanzo?
"Just got some form of an injury there. I'm not exactly sure. And he's out there getting opinions right now for it."
Was it a practice injury?
"You know, I'm not sure. It might've been more game oriented."
And then you bring in a linebacker. How much did linebackers coach Jim Levitt influence that decision of who to bring in?
"I don't think at all. Jim and I basically found out that he was coming in after the fact, so, not a lot."
Where does NT Ian Williams begin his return to practice? Will he actually join practice or is it more walking at this point?
"No, he's cleared to practice. The usual protocol is that they go through individuals, see how they feel. If things are going good they can progress and do more. If not, we'll back off and gradually get them into team drills."
What does he do well? He seems to be a little bit different player than DL Glenn Dorsey. What's Ian's game built around?
"Well, he's got some activeness to him, got some quickness. But yeah, we think he can still hold the point in there. Our last look at Ian, as you know, was last camp and into the second game was very little because the first game was against Green Bay and we played very little base. His injury occurred early in the game, in the second game. So, there's not a lot of regular season snaps. But last training camp and preseason, he was playing well for us and we'll see how close he is back to that form."
I'm sure it can be said of any guy coming off an injury, but that seemed to be a pretty severe injury. I mean, is there still a question of, you know, is he going to be able to fully recover from that?
Yeah, fully recover and kind of be at the same level he was.
"I don't think there's, that I know of, a question of whether he'll fully recover. Now, is he fully recovered today? Or will he be by next week? We'll find out. I've never heard that he won't fully recover."
How much action do you think some of your regulars are going to get Sunday compared to last week, where most of the starters were on the sidelines?
"Haven't sat down and figured that out yet. But a couple of them may get a little bit more time than they got last week. Maybe not a lot different, grossly."
You guys were missing a lot of the cornerbacks last practice, with CB Chris Culliver and CB Tramaine Brock and then CB Chris Cook joined them, too. Are you expecting those guys to come back soon and what's that just meant for getting that cornerback crew in shape here at camp, because it seems like a lot of them have been out?
"They have. Brock's been out, I don't know how many days now, but it seems like at least two weeks. He sprained his ankle pretty good. He's much better now than he was. He's starting to run straight ahead now. I don't think we'll see him this week in the game but hopefully next week he can start practicing. Culliver's just been in-and-out of the lineup with residual effects of the knee, more precautionary than anything. And Cook did hurt his knee a little bit. I guess it was the second practice against Baltimore there. But I think in the long run he'll be fine. Yeah, any time you're playing musical chairs at a certain position it has a negative effect. One, the guys aren't getting work when they're out. And two, you always seem to be mixing and matching whose in there working together. But that's part of the deal."
What was the greatest benefit to those three days practicing against Baltimore?
"Just going against different players and different schemes. It's a tremendous learning opportunity for everybody, especially the young guys, but even the older guys. I wish we would do two of them a year, not just one. I love doing those things. There's just a tremendous benefit from a schematic standpoint going against different players that have different qualities and different ways of doing things. You get bigger receivers if you go against that team. Against this team, you might get faster receivers. You get a zone-blocking scheme versus a power-running team. You get a team that runs a lot of empty versus a team that doesn't. Lot of boots. There's just, we can bring in any team and something's going to be different that we're not getting from our own offense and vice versa. It's very, very beneficial."
Having those three days, is that more beneficial than a preseason game?
"Probably not, but it's very beneficial."
S Eric Reid played in the preseason game. Where's he improved just throughout this offseason and training camp? What do we expect from him?
"I think he's just improved everywhere, no one specific area. But I think if you were to ask him that direct question, where has he improved from last year at this time to now at this time, he's just got a much better command of our system. He's got a much better command of playing NFL offenses, route combinations, running game combinations. He's an experienced player now. He played 19 games last year. And he's a smart guy, and smart guys improve faster than guys that aren't smart. He's much improved over where he was last year."
Has there been any separation in that other inside linebacker position?
Do you still consider it pretty wide open? I know LB Michael Wilhoite, well, I guess they both started the other night. Is anyone ahead? How would you rate the competition?
If LB Chris Borland becomes the starter there, would LB Patrick Willis move back to Jack so that Borland can play Mike?
"That's a possibility, yes."
How much value do you place on preseason game performance for veterans versus, I mean, obviously the young guys who haven't been in games before. Are you concerned if you don't have your core group of defensive players on the field a whole lot during the preseason? Is that a factor at all in how you evaluate and prepare for the regular season? Or how much is it a factor?
"Not a big factor. The biggest goal, our biggest priority in training camp, which preseason games are a part of, is to prepare our team for the season. And some guys need more preparation than others. [DT] Justin Smith, for example, in the last few years in preseason has averaged 30-something plays total in four games. There are guys that are in different boats. Sure, we'd like some of these guys to get more reps but the priority is the regular season. And if they have a little something that they're nicked up with we'll always be precautionary with it. We want them healthy and ready to go for Dallas."
Is LB Corey Lemonier possibly an every-down guy at outside linebacker, now?
"Is he capable? He's capable. Yes, he is."
Do you still view that if LB Aldon Smith misses some time at the beginning of the year, do you still think of that as a two-person job to replace him or could Corey be the every-down guy?
"Either way. It could go two-person job. It could go [LB Dan] Skuta primarily, it could go Lemonier primarily. Or, it could be split up by two guys."
Is this one of the least physical training camps you've been a part of?
Yeah, as far as, I guess, trying to get guys to avoid injuries and things like that?
"I don't know about that. Obviously, training camp has changed since the new collective bargaining agreement. I don't see a great change compared to the previous three seasons."
How do you coach your team up to remain physical in the preseason during games when practice is pretty hands off?
"I don't view our practices as pretty hands off. You guys have seen us practice. Obviously, when they don't have their shoulder pads on its different. We've practiced, I think when we're in full gear, pretty much the way we have since we've been here, and our practices against Baltimore were pretty crisp, I thought, too. The biggest difference is you're not out there as many times as you were in the past."
I think the officials, we were talking to them about that five-yard, illegal contact drill that's being emphasized. They were saying they were impressed out on the field that your guys knew to come up within four yards to do it rather than really cut it close on the boundary. Is that something you've gone over with them?
"We emphasize that all the time. Even prior to them saying they're going to be diligent. Obviously, we've made our players aware as the officials have, too, when they met with us that they've been instructed to call that more. I just hope that we don't start seeing penalties called that don't exist like what happened in the preseason game last Thursday."
The one on S Bubba Ventrone?
How tough is it to prepare for the regular season not knowing what Aldon's status is going to be?
"Well, at this point, really, it's not that tough because everybody's getting a lot of reps. If it was in the middle of the season and it happened without much of a warning, it might be a little tougher. But that's the way it happened last year. There was no, really much time. Guys just have to be ready to play."
DB Jimmy Ward's been primarily the first-team nickel corner. What have you seen from him and keeping that spot? He hasn't moved back at all as he continues to get all the reps.
"Yeah, we've given him a lot of reps there trying to get him to learn the position. There's a lot to learn there. Basically, the nickel becomes like a linebacker. He has to learn how to play zones from a linebacker's perspective. He has to play man on a slot. He has to know his correct leverage and help where it is, etc. There's a lot to learn there. So we've given him more than enough reps and he's gotten a lot of reps in the practices that you guys don't even see, these walkthroughs that we have. We're trying to get him schooled and ready to go."
Aren't you eager to see him against Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and what they do in the slot?
"Yeah, we're eager to see him against anybody. He got a great learning experience against Baltimore."
Speaking of Manning, you guys have faced him before in the exhibition season. Is that something, do you get extra benefits facing a quarterback at that level?
"Last year, I think he played in one series. Whatever one series gives you. Yeah, obviously, it's great to go against the higher level of competition. But I wouldn't anticipate him being in there a long time. He might play a quarter or so, I don't know. Yes, it always helps to go against better competition."
In the day, there was generally a gentlemen's agreement, there wouldn't be a whole lot of dogging, blitzing and what not. It seemed like maybe there was an understanding before the Ravens game that all bets are off or, here we come. We're coming after you. What about this Sunday? Is that something you've talked to the Denver Broncos about or are you just play it the way you want to play it?
"Yeah, I've never in my, whatever it is, 28 or 29 years, I haven't been involved in many gentlemen agreements."