What was the team's evaluation of TE Vance McDonald and how do you see his role unfolding moving forward here?
"Well, I think Vance took a good step forward last year, came out and did some awful good things at the line of scrimmage blocking. As he knows, he's got to be more consistent catching the football. But, that's something that he continues to work on and expect big things from him, especially in this offense."
Do you see QB Colin Kaepernick as a starter or would he have to compete for the job with QB Blaine Gabbert?
"Well, I think the good thing is we've got two guys that have gone into games and proven they can play. And Colin's done some awful good things through his career, won some big games for the San Francisco 49ers and expect him to come back. The main focus right now is health, getting him healthy. He's doing a good job with his rehab. Talking to the medical staff, that seems to be going very well and just look forward to getting him back and getting him working with this coaching staff."
So, you expect him to be on the roster this season?
What has working with head coach Chip Kelly been like so far? Is there anything about his personality that maybe surprised you as opposed to the perception out there about him?
"Well, I always say there's perception and there's reality. And the reality's what we deal with every day in the office and the perception's what everyone else speculates on. But, it's been awesome. He's been very easy to work with. We haven't spent a ton of time together because he's been putting the coaching staff together and I've been involved in draft meetings for the last 17 days. So, there hasn't been a lot of overlap, but we've had a lot of good discussions and look forward to continuing those."
Do you sense that he's approaching his second job as a head coach in the NFL a lot different than his first time being a head coach?
"I don't know. I didn't work with him in Philly. So, I can't answer how he approached it in Philly. I've known coach since he was up at Oregon when I used to go up there and scout. I don't see him any different today than I saw him then."
How do you see RB Carlos Hyde and his style of running in Chip's offense?
"Well, I think coach would tell you he's the ideal fit for what coach wants to do. Very similar to what he did at Ohio State. A big back that runs with power, runs with a little anger. How can you not like that?"
How's Carlos' foot doing and do you think he'll be ready for OTAs?
"Doing good. I actually talked to him about three days ago. [Indianapolis Colts RB] Frank Gore and him were working out down in Miami together and I think it's coming. He's not game-ready yet by any stretch, but all indications are that it's healing very nicely and look forward to having him full speed as soon as possible."
How important is the GM-head coach relationship? Does it take a while to develop over time in your mind?
"It's like a marriage, you know? Yeah, it takes a while. It's like any relationship. It doesn't happen over night. But, all indications are, like I said, I've known coach since he was at Oregon and see him no different than the conversations that I used to have with him when we went in and were recruiting his players at Oregon."
Regarding style of play, it seems like teams want to win with that quarterback throwing the ball. But, two of the last three Super Bowl champs, Seattle and Denver, have won with defense. Do you think it's true that teams want to win by throwing the ball and is there a resistance to winning with defense nowadays, do you think?
"Well, it'd be hard for me to answer on behalf of everybody, but you know, I've always believed that defenses win and run game wins. You have to be able to stop the run. You have to be able to run the football and you have to be able to play good defense. You've got to get off the field on third down. If you can get off the field on third down and you're good at stopping the run and you can run the ball effectively, you've got a great chance to win a lot of games in the National Football League."
Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen said yesterday that Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III would not be with the Redskins this year, they're going to release him at some point or do something. Is he a guy that you'd be interested in if you end up needing a quarterback?
"Well, you're going to kick the tires of everybody that's available. To say interested or not, there's no competitive advantage to me giving that an answer. But, everybody that's available you're going to kick the tires on. That's the job that we do. Some are going to fit, some aren't going to fit and no different with this draft class. There's going to be good players that come out of this class that maybe don't fit what we're looking for exactly, but they're going to end up being good players for somebody. And that's the beauty of what we do. It's in the eye of the beholder."
There's a belief that he might do well in a Kelly-type system, just with his skill set. Would you agree with that?
"Well, I think if you look at the quarterbacks that coach has had, he hasn't had a bunch of guys that can run. He's had some guys and he's been able to put together some pretty good offenses with guys that aren't able to run. You get an extra advantage of having a quarterback that can run. So, I think if you talk to any coordinator, they're going to take that as a positive. But, it's not a necessity."
When Chip was in Philadelphia, he had certain prototypes and measurables on a lot of different positions that his scouts then took when they went on the road to scout people. Has there been an impact on you as far as the kind of people you're looking for since you hired him?
"No, not really because if you look at what his prototypes are, he's looking for the same thing that we're looking for. Big players. Guys with size at their positions. That's been an easy, and that's part of what you're looking for when you go out and hire a head coach. Do you have a philosophy that marriages pretty well? And it was evident early on. And once again, knowing how he liked to build his teams up in Oregon, it was no different. He was looking for big players. That's what we've been doing since [former 49ers head coach] coach [Mike] Nolan was the head coach of the 49ers and that philosophy hasn't changed."
What about for the quarterback position? Same type of thing, same type of deal with Chip?
"Well, quarterbacks, they come in all different shapes and sizes. If you had [New Orleans Saints QB] Drew Brees, you'd feel pretty good, right? I mean, I don't know that you can pigeonhole any one position. There's exceptions at every position. We prefer big, but does that mean that we're not going to make an exception? No. We'll look at every player and give them a value and make a decision, whether it's through the draft or free agency, and try to get the best 53 we can."
Is it becoming more difficult to find tight ends because so many college teams run spread or is that not really an issue do you think?
"Well, I think it's like O-Linemen. You've got to factor in the development. It's going to take a little longer to develop, especially in the run game because they're not asked to do it as much. So, there's some things that you have to look at differently now than you did let's say 10 years ago because the college game is quite a bit different than the game we play, especially at the line of scrimmage."
To the perception versus reality attempt, is there anything that kind of stood out?
"Not really stood out. I mean, he's got an easy personality. For us to deal with internally, now whether that's with the media or not, that's for you guys and gals to decide. But, it's been an easy transition. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. There's always going to be things that you come across in these types of relationships where you've got to work through. But, as of right now, as we're trying to put this thing together with free agency and the draft, feel pretty good about how we're communicating and what exactly we're looking for."
What's going on with WR DeAndre Smelter and kind of what do you see the future holding for him?
"Well, DeAndre is getting healthy and we opened his window this year to practice, that 21-day window and he did a lot of good things. He's a big, athletic guy that can run, got huge hands, big catch radius. He's a pro's pro. He approached it from day one like you want a pro to do it. So, we expect good things from him."
How about RB Jarryd Hayne? What are you expecting out of him?
"Jarryd, his second year. It was quite an experience for him going from Australian Rules Football to the National Football League. I think if you asked him, he'd tell you his eyes got opened pretty quick. Especially when you go from preseason games to the regular season games, just the difference in tempo and everything that goes with that. He learned a lot, did some good things for us and expecting him to come back and have a better feel for the game."
You've faced QB Sam Bradford twice a year. Obviously, Chip coached him in Philly. What are your thoughts on him as a player?
"You know, we didn't play them last year, so I haven't studied him in relative to what he did with coach's offense. But, he's a good football player. He made a lot of plays for them, does a lot of good things. Without having great working knowledge, because once again I have not studied him in-depth."
Well, I mean, formally you played him twice a year when he was with St. Louis.
"Well, we played against him, and when we played against him thought no differently. He's a good football player. I don't know what else, I mean, he does a lot of things well. He's not a runner. He's a passer. He's a pocket player and does a lot of good things from the pocket. Smart football player."
Would it be safe to say you'll be looking at quarterbacks in free agency also for that or do you feel you're OK with your veterans?
"Well, we feel pretty good with the guys we have, but we're always looking. We're always looking. And we're certainly going to scour this draft and the free agency market that's out there. There's obviously not a lot of quarterbacks that make it to free agency, as we know. But, we're going to look at every avenue."
I know you mentioned you like size in a quarterback. When you see what Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was able to do with the Bills, does it make you look at some of these other sized mobile quarterbacks in the draft a little bit differently?
"Yeah, like I said earlier with that question, quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes have had success in this league. We're going to look at every one. We're not going to pigeonhole ourselves and say, ‘They've got to be 6-3 or taller, or 6-4 or taller. They've got to be 220 or bigger.' We're not going to do that. We're going to look at everybody that's available and put a value on them for what we think they're value is for us."
The data that's collected now with the 40, the bench press, all that, in your years of coming to this event, have your views one the usefulness of that data changed one way or the other?
"Just numbers, just numbers. We try to take a look at what the numbers are, put on the film and see if we can find the numbers in their play. If we can't, we're going to lean towards what their play says. If they come here and run a 4.3 and we watch film and it looks like they run a 4.6, we're not going to make them a 4.3 guy on paper. We're going to make him a 4.6 guy on paper, because that's what he plays to."
Have your views always been that way?
"Always been that way. Always will I think, until someone proves it otherwise."
WR Quinton Patton, do you expect anything from him?
"I think I mentioned earlier, Quinton did some awfully good things. Really stepped up on special teams and became one of our core special teams players. When he got an opportunity, made some plays. I think the big thing for him is consistency, especially in the route trees and getting on the same page within the offense and with the quarterback. But, he's probably the most energetic player I've ever been around. The guy can run nonstop all day long and always comes to compete. So, we're expecting him to take another step forward."
There's a lot of quarterbacks this time of year that are seriously trying to improve their footwork or their mechanics, whether it's for here or for their Pro Day. But, is there really anything a quarterback can do to convince you guys to change your rating based on what you see on film and what your scout saw in person?
"Absolutely. There's so much that goes into that position that you can't see on film. That's why you've got to get the coaches with them, sit down, talk ball, do as much research as you can on them, their work ethic, their preparation habits, their intelligence. Everything that goes into it that you can't see. But, there's no question that these guys working on their footwork, you watch [Denver Broncos QB] Peyton Manning, [New England Patriots QB] Tom Brady, they're constantly working on it. Drew Brees, they're constantly, still at the level they're at, they are still working on it daily. I think you need to. It's such a big part of that position."
Before hiring Chip, did you have any conversations with the Eagles or Philadelphia Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman on how it was like to work with Chip?
Why didn't you have that conversation?
"Once again, I'm a huge believer in sitting down with somebody and just talking and figuring out if that relationship is going to work or not work. We all run into people that other people don't like and you sit down and all of a sudden you have a pretty good relationship and pretty good communication back and forth. So, I knew what was out there, what was being said, I think as we all did, but that really didn't play into our decision at all, obviously we moved forward."
Talk about the gap for North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz moving from the FCS to the NFL. Three guys from North Dakota State in the NFL right now from the last two years, two here this week competing for North Dakota State. Is that gap shrinking at all, do you think?
"Well, I used to coach there, in fact I coached a young man by the name of [former NFL DE] Phil Hansen, years ago when I was a GA there. So, they've put out a lot of good football players for a smaller, for a lower level of play that conference has. Certainly there's a learning curve that they all go through. But, I don't think it's as drastic as some may. I think they've played at a high level. They've won five national championships in a row. Carson was a part of four of those. He's a good football player. He's got the stature you're looking for. He's got the intelligence you're looking for. There's so many positives to draw from. Now, how soon, how ready is he going to be when he gets to the league? I think there will be a learning curve, but there is for everybody at that position."