The injuries to C Daniel Kilgore and TE Vance McDonald, are those season-ending just because there’s only three games left in the season? Where will they be when the offseason program begins, that sort of thing?
“I don’t know that now. I know there’s a break with Vance and I think surgery is scheduled with Kilgore.”
Was it a collarbone?
“I think it’s his scapula. I’m not 100-percent sure on that.”
You said Kilgore, what? Was it a knee?
“No, it’s a hamstring.”
Surgery on a hamstring?
Is it torn?
“I would imagine. I don’t think it’s exploratory.”
I’m not a doctor.
“Thank goodness [laughter].”
You’ve got a lot of, well not a lot, but several veteran leaders but many of them are self admittedly not rah-rah, in your face type guys, like T Joe Staley and S Antoine Bethea. Is that, I don’t know, a missing element of the locker room? Is there any sort of I guess, leadership void in the sense of a guy that’ll stand up and rally the troops or is that overrated?
“I think that’s overrated. I think part of being a good leader is being able to articulate your vision. You don’t have to be a yeller or a screamer to do that. There’s been different types of leaders as you go through and look at the history. Some guys are very vocal. Other guys don’t have to raise their voice at all and everybody listens to them. But, I think part of it is you have to lead by example and I think Joe and Antoine definitely do that in terms of their work ethic, how they practice, how they approach it, how professional they are in terms of what they do. I don’t believe you have to be a real vocal, vocal guy. I think first off you have to lead by example and those two guys do.”
People look at it and obviously if guys are yelling and screaming at 1-12 then there’d be criticism that the 49ers are so dysfunctional. But, I think people are looking for maybe fire or people to say this is not acceptable. Do you see some of that behind the scenes?
“No, because I see our guys compete. I don’t think our guys aren’t competing. Arguably the best coach the game right now is [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick. He’s not a fiery, fire and brimstone guy, but he has a very clear vision, understands exactly what he wants, leads by example and does a great job with it.”
What have you seen from Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan working with Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in a second season?
“Matt’s one of those quarterbacks that transcends any system. It doesn’t matter, I really don’t think, what system he’s running. Although, the one he’s running right now he’s very, very successful in. I think he fits very well into what Kyle is doing. But, he’s had a couple different coordinators and been successful with whoever was coaching him. That’s just the type of player he is. I think he’s an elite quarterback. He’s thrown for over 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns this season. He’s done a great job, not only with the drop-back game, but their play-action game. A lot of it comes off of that because they run the ball so well. The nakeds, the play passes off of that. I think he’s done a really, really good job with that. He’s actually run the ball a little bit this year, which is something new but it’s something you have to be aware of especially down near the goal line. But, I think he’s fit really well into what Kyle’s doing. It’s the stretch-run game. It’s the quarterback boots off of it. He’s doing a heck-of-a job with it.”
This team beat the Falcons last year, 17-16. Do you go back to that game and look at what you guys did well against that offense?
“We’ve looked at everything. And there’s so many games this year. They’re a little bit different just because of the receivers. They didn’t have [Atlanta Falcons WR] Mohamed Sanu. They didn’t have [Atlanta Falcons WR] Taylor Gabriel last year. So, they’re not as similar as they were a year ago. I think they fit some new pieces in especially in Sanu and Gabriel that are really big weapons for them and then [Atlanta Falcons TE] Austin Hooper, the tight end, is new.”
Do you expect to play those two receivers, Sanu and Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones?
“I don’t know. We’ll see as the week goes by. You guys probably get that information before we do. We are going to prepare to play against them because it doesn’t help you to prepare not to play against them. That’s what you see on tape except for the last game or so. But, that’s what you’re going to see. And obviously that matchup with Julio, we faced him last year and had a very difficult time with him. I think he’s a premier guy in the league right now when he’s healthy just because he’s so big, so physical and can run and get in and out of cuts like a smaller receiver but his size is really a tough mismatch. He had the one game earlier in the year, I don’t know if it was 300-yards or something. I mean, he’s done it against everybody, so it’s certainly a tough matchup if he is going to go.”
How does Sanu, what is his addition to that equation? How does he help Jones out?
“Well, I think he’s another size guy. I mean, when you see Mohamed and you’re matched up there you’re like, ‘Wow.’ He’s another big, tall, physical guy, 6-3-plus, can catch the ball in traffic very well. He’s a really precise route runner. They deploy him in a lot of different ways so you can tell he’s really sharp in terms of how they’re using him and what they’re using him as and then you add the speed element that they added with the Gabriel kid. He’s a smaller, quicker receiver, 5-8, 165, but very explosive, very fast. You get those two real big guys and him, they can create some mismatches for you.”
How would you assess the season DB Jimmie Ward’s had, first time playing cornerback?
“I think Jimmie’s played really well for us. He’s been very versatile for us in terms of where he’s played. Not only has he played inside corner, but he’s played outside corner. He’s matched up with some really good receivers. He’s a highly competitive guy. I think he brings some physicality from the corner spot. We’ve brought him on blitzes. We brought him on a blitz the other day and you saw him show up in the blitz game when he’s playing the nickel spot. So, I think his transition from safety to outside corner and nickel, I think he’s done a really good job with it this year.”
Film study seems to be a big part of his repertoire. Have you noticed that from him, just him staying later, just doing more?
“Yeah, I mean that’s just the type of guy Jimmie is. I think everything Jimmie does is very important to him and I think he exemplifies what you’re looking for in a player in terms of the dedication and the time that you have to put in to be special in this league and I think he really wants to be special and knows that to get to those goals that he wants to achieve he has to put in the time and that’s certainly something that he does all the time here.”
Yesterday in the locker room, QB Colin Kaepernick and LB Aaron Lynch both said that this team is close, very close to being one of the better ones in the NFC and you guys just have to finish better. Would you agree with them?
“Yeah, I agree we have to finish better. I think that’s the issue that we’ve had. When you look at the Miami game, we have the ball down at the goal line and we’ve got to be able to punch it in late in the game. Obviously, the last game we played against the Jets, that went into overtime. I think we had close games going into the fourth quarter in a lot of games and I think that’s one of the things we have to as a group learn to do is that we have to learn how to finish.”
Would you agree that you’re close or very close?
“I don’t use those terms. I just look at our record. You don’t get any points for being close.”
What did you see from OL Alex Balducci in the six months that you’ve been using him as an offensive lineman?
“I think he’s really working very hard at the transition. He obviously has the athletic ability, was a defensive lineman in college. He’s a guy that you’ve seen him grow incrementally from the time we got him in April right after the draft through training camp, was a guy that we said we really want to try and continue to develop. It was important for us to keep him around. So, we had the opportunity to do that. I think you see him get better and better. He’s playing multiple positions. He’s playing center, he’s playing guard, which all your backups have to do just because of the versatility that we ask them to do because you don’t have just one guy. So, if we’re going with the twos and [C] Marcus [Martin] is playing center in that group with the twos when Kilgore was up, then Balducci would get reps at guard and then we just kind of flipped and flopped them around. So, we’ve seen improvement from him. I think getting him up to the active was kind of a byproduct of just losing Danny. We’re down a couple guys. We’re going to have to dress seven on game day. We’ve got eight or nine right now, but not sure what [T] Joe’s [Staley] situation is and not sure exactly what will happen with the new guy we just brought in and Alex. But, I think he’s got a pretty good knowledge of what we’re trying to accomplish and I think the one thing about him is you continue to see him improve on a daily basis.”
Is it written in stone right now that he would be the backup on Sunday or is that--?
“Stone? No. Sand.”
Never in stone.
“Never in stone.”
Last week, we saw LB NaVorro Bowman walking without a boot or noticeable limp. I don’t have a vast medical background, but it seems encouraging as far as his rehab. Have you gotten any sort of report--?
“I think you’re 100-percent right.”
“That you don’t have a vast medical background and that it is encouraging that he is moving around the way he is. From reports, he’s doing a really good job in rehab. It’s good to see him around here. He can now travel with us. He’s been on the sideline with us. I think he’s helped just kind of getting another set of eyes here. But, it’s good to see him up moving around. Those guys say he’s attacking rehab and are excited about the direction that he’s headed in. That’s about all I have for you on that.”
So, he’ll be with you in Atlanta?
“I think so. I don’t know. We haven’t talked about if he’s going to travel with us, but he was with us on the sideline in the Jets game.”