Last week, there was quite a bit of media availability at San Francisco 49ers minicamp, but players were talking with more than just local media. Second year defensive tackle Arik Armstead did a podcast with John Canzano of The Oregonian, and they had plenty to discuss. The most interesting comments were at the end of the interview. Canzano asked if he has seen growth in Chip Kelly since their time together at Oregon. I thought Armstead gave a really good answer in discussing Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro.
I’ve transcribed the interview below, skipping over some Oregon specific stuff. You can listen to him talk about the Oregon defense since he left, and Marcus Mariota as a person and player, but otherwise, here is what he had to say. If you click on the link above, the audio is at the bottom of the article.
Comparing 49ers facility to Oregon facility, and if it’s an upgrade:
No, it’s not an upgrade. We had some nice facilities here (Oregon). I think they’re better than a lot of places in the NFL, but Oregon is kind of [not sure what he said to end sentence].
On what he learned as a rookie:
Just patience, having patience knowing my time will come. Just learning every day, learning things from older guys, watching how guys carry themselves. And you know, studying more film and seeing how the NFL game, offenses try to attack defenses. That was the biggest thing I learned.
On if he was excited Chip Kelly got the job:
Yea, for sure. Chip recruited me out of high school, got me to go to Oregon. Coach Azzinaro, he brought him, the guy who got me to go to Oregon. And I wanted to play for Coach Azz in college, and back working with him every day, and he’s getting me right. So I was extremely excited, and in a unique situation, where I’m more comfortable with the new coaches than I was my rookie year with the other coaching staff.
Talked about being asked to play OL when he got to Oregon
On adding DeForest Buckner to line and if 49ers asked him about Buckner:
No, not really. I think they knew from film what type of player he was. I had mentioned to our GM that if they drafted him they wouldn’t have to worry about d-linemen for 10-12 years. But they never came up to me to ask how he is or anything like that. They knew who he was and the type of player he was.
On having practice nearby Levi’s Stadium:
I think it’s pretty convenient, everything being in a central location. I live ten minutes away from here, and I play here, practice here all the time. So I think it worked out to be pretty convenient.
On expectations given 49ers history of success:
Yea, I think when you come into an organization like this with the prestige they have, of winning, of winning at a high level, a championship level, the expectations come every year. And these fans are used to winning, so we have to get back on track and make them proud.
On Muhammad Ali passing and what comes to mind with his name:
What comes to mind is a great athlete, a great human being, who believed in something and stood for it, and didn’t let people tell him what he could and couldn’t do. He was a model for his cultural, blacks in general, and for athletes, and males. How to carry themselves, how to treat people, and that’s what comes to mind.
On how well he was outspoken, and not sure if there will be another like him:
Yea, I think so. I think nowadays, for whatever reason, when people are outspoken, you kind of rub people the wrong way, you know people call them cocky, and this and that. But the way he did it was graceful, and very funny. He was unique for that in his own way.
On doing first TV commercial:
It was good. I had an opportunity to do a commercial for Reno Dodge. It went well, I think I did alright for my first time being on TV. So I can’t wait to see the finished product, see how I look on TV.
On difficulty of looking comfortable in TV setting:
Yea, some people are more natural than others at it. I think being interviewed so much since high school really has kind of given me a comfortable level of being filmed, and having a little audience. So I think that’s helped from high school recruiting to college, to being in the NFL now. Being interviewed so much.
On NBA Finals and why Warriors were blown out in Game 3:
I think that’s something that’s been happening all year. I used to play basketball, and keeping a close eye on it, there’s been ups and downs throughout every series, where there have been big blowouts, home and away games, I think the Cavs came out, they started out strong. I think if they get behind in games, I don’t feel like they’re confident enough really to come back against the Warriors with their high powered offense. I think them jumping out on them early, it kind of set the tone and gave them that confidence, and they were able to carry it throughout the game.
On experiencing Super Bowl week and how badly he wants to play in one:
Oh that’s the ultimate goal for any football player. Play in the Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl. I have dreams of that all the time. Getting there, and we have a lot of work to do, but it’s exciting, the NFL brings so many challenges that you have to overcome in a season, and even game-to-game. So, it’s exciting, and I know my team is looking forward to being there one day, but we got a lot of work to do.
On how ridiculous media day was:
Oh, it was a frenzy. I had fun though. It was my first time being on the other side, getting a chance to interview guys. I have a lot of friends on the Panthers and the Broncos, so having a chance to interview them, and seeing what the other side of it, how you would do your job, it was fun. I enjoyed it, I had a good time.
On if he got respect as player that random media wouldn’t get:
I mean, just being 6’8 295, when I ask a question, people say there’s a big reporter standing there, and I think they kinda have to answer me. But, I interviewed a lot of my friends, so they know my face. I got turned down once though. One of my friends played for the Broncos, he didn’t want to get interviewed, so he told me no. So that’s my first time getting rejected.
On power of his position as athlete (mentioned anecdote about meeting a kid in mall and talking about an injury):
Yea, for sure. I think sometimes athletes forget that. Their influence they can have on people’s lives. I just try to treat people with respect on a day-to-day basis, and show people who I am. And every opportunity I have to do that, I try to take advantage of it. We are held at a higher caliber, whether we like it or not, and we have a big responsibility, a big influence on the community around us. And every time you get to have a positive influence on somebody’s life, that feels pretty good.
Talked Oregon Ducks defense after he left, Marcus Mariota as teammate, general politics
On Twin Towers as potential nickname for Armstead/Buckner:
Yea, I think that’s a cool nickname. It’s kind of representative of us. We kinda look alike, same height, same weight, both very tall. I guess we could go with that if that’s what people wanna to call us.
On if he still plays basketball:
Yea, I play every now and then to stay in shape. Summer time, so my dad got a bunch of guys in the gym, he’s training. So I’ll probably go back and do some workouts with them and keep my athleticism up.
On if he was a Kings fan in Sacramento:
Growing up, I wasn’t really a Kings fan. My dad worked with so many players since I was at a young age, training them. And he had clients all over the NBA, so I used to just follow them. I always cheered for them, rooted for them, would stay up late watching games with my dad, watching all his clients. And so, at times he had some guys on the Kings, and at times some guys all over the NBA, so I used to cheer for them.
On if Chip Kelly has changed since Oregon:
Oh yea, for sure. Everyone in life goes through things, goes through circumstances, goes through events and have to grow and learn. And I see some growth in Chip, and also in coach Azz. I see a lot of growth in him. College was one thing and it’s three years removed. If you’re not growing and learning as a human being, what are you really doing? If you’re just staying stagnant and staying in the same place, I don’t think that’s how it should work. I think people should grow and learn as they go through life. So I definitely see some changes in them.
On Kelly changes and if it’s personality, how he approaches practices, etc:
Well practice in college was definitely harder. I mean, in college I feel like they have a little more control over you. And they used to work us pretty hard in college. Not saying that practices now are easy, just they’re for sure harder in college, I feel like. Just his growth as a human, really. I think, like I said, if you go through experiences and events you learn, and I’m sure he learned a lot in Philly being in the NFL, and he continues to learn here, and you have to be adaptable and keep on moving on.