What’s QB Colin Kaepernick’s status?
“He’s going to go today. He’s going to be a little bit limited. His throwing shoulder’s, just from the accumulation of what we’ve been doing, is a little sore. So, we’re going to monitor that. He’ll be limited today and hopefully we can get him to play on Sunday.”
And that’s going to affect what’s going to happen with him on Sunday?
“Yeah. And we said that all along, to determine what’s going to go on on Sunday won’t be determined until after we come out of here today. So, who’s healthy, who’s ready to go and who’s available. So, we’re going to keep a good eye on him today.”
So, what’s the plan? Is he going to go through individual and--?
“We’re going to limit him and see how he feels going through everything and then just put it together from there.”
Is it fair to describe that as arm fatigue or a tired shoulder?
“Yeah. I don’t have the exact medical term, but arm fatigue or, again, the amount of reps. Our guys are throwing somewhere between 86 and 102 balls a day and just getting him back up to throwing every day. That’s why we had planned on actually taking yesterday off. We knew that going in. He didn’t throw during the spring full because of coming off of it. So, it’s just trying to get his arm back to where we can just use him every day. If we’ve got to take a day off in between, it’s not a real big deal.”
Has there been any reason to take him in for an MRI or any kind of an evaluation?
“No, I think he feels fine. He’s dealt with it before. It’s just a little shoulder soreness. So, those are probably questions you can ask him.”
When was the first time you met Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien? Were you at Hopkins then? Just how did you guys get to know each other?
“I was at New Hampshire when OB was at Brown. So, I got to know him then. The coaches on both staffs, there were guys that had coached at New Hampshire when [University of Massachusetts head coach] Mark Whippel, who used to be the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, was the head coach at Brown at the time. So, was very familiar with our staff. I’ve known OB for twenty some odd, thirty some odd years.”
Would you say you are pretty good friends?
What do you think of him as a coach, just kind of in his evolution of--?
“I think he’s outstanding. We’ve kept in touch wherever he’s been, whether it was at Georgia Tech, I had opportunities when I was at New Hampshire to go visit him there. When he took over as the quarterbacks coach at the Patriots and I was at Oregon, I would always come back in the summertime and spend time with OB then just talking football. So, we’ve kept in touch over the years. I think he’s done an outstanding job, did an outstanding job when he was at Penn State as the head coach and then obviously taking Houston to the playoffs last year.”
What about him, his philosophy, kind of just your thoughts on how you think about him?
“I just think he’s sound in everything he does. I think he takes a real good analytical approach in terms of how it is. But, OB’s a tough guy and I think his teams reflect his personality. There’s a toughness to any team that he’s coach and I think it shows when you see his teams play on the field.”
Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, just your thoughts on him? A guy you talked to during the hiring process.
“Yeah. Big fan of Mike. I mean, obviously had an unbelievable career in New England and then I got to know Mike a little bit when he was on [Ohio State head coach] Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State and then talking to OB about what he’s like to coach with. Just have all the respect in the world for him. I think he’s one of the really top assistant coaches in this league right now.”
Some of these joint practices, the head coaches will talk about how they like to help each other, you know, ‘Hey, can you challenge us in this way?’ Did you have any of that dialogue with Bill since you guys have a relationship?
“Yeah. Everything we have will be scripted out today in terms of the scenarios and then our coordinators on each side of the ball, whether it’s [Houston Texans offensive coordinator] George Godsey and [49ers defensive coordinator] Jimmy O’Neil or [Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel] Rac and [49ers offensive coordinator] Curtis Modkins or [Houston Texans special teams coordinator] Larry Izzo and [49ers special teams coordinator] Derius Swinton, you know, what do we need to see within the framework of what we’re doing. So, in this block of ten plays, can we kind of see this? We haven’t seen it. And then we’re just trying to help each other out. Get different looks, different bodies to go against. So, there’s a lot of cooperation that goes on in these types of practices.”
How much of that conversation is predicated on the quarterbacks? I know that some coaches really seem to focus on, ‘Hey, we really need you to challenge our quarterback this way, this way?’
“I think every quarterback needs to be challenged. So, that’s part of it. But it’s also, I understand the focus for a lot of people is always on the quarterbacks, but there’s ten other guys on the field that need to see different things too. So, we need to be able to run the ball. We need to work on our run game. Same as Billy has to work on his run game. So, this isn’t just a quarterback-driven mentality in terms of everything we’re going to do is just slated because of who’s playing quarterback. It’s really the whole group out there and what our teams need. So, when you usually get into the first preseason game, your ones are going to get limited reps anyway. So, it’s a chance for them to get some quality reps in a little bit more of a contained setting than you’re going to have on Sunday night.”
How much do you like this scenario, practicing against them before you play them in a preseason game?
“I love it. My three years before this, we did two years against the Patriots and one year against the Ravens. You know, going against [New England Patriots head] coach [Bill] Belichick teams or [Baltimore Ravens head coach] John Harbaugh’s teams, I thought it was outstanding. So, I’ve enjoyed it. We were fortunate. We had one already planned with Denver and then when the schedule came out and we were playing Houston in the first game, Billy and I talked and we thought it would be great to get together for a day before we play them. So, what we’re limited by in terms of the CBA and the lack of practice time you have and kind of how many times you can be in pads and all that other stuff, I think these days are really beneficial if they’re run the right way.”
Your connection with Bill each year on teams under coach Belichick or was that just a separate situation?
“I knew Bill before that. That whole New England staff had always been great when I was at New Hampshire. So, starting when [former NFL head coach Bill Parcells] coach Parcells was there. So, we used to go down and visit all the time. They were always great with the local colleges in the area. So, I had gotten to know him before that. But, it enhanced it when OB became the coordinator.”
Was the initial connection with O’Brien a New England connection or you guys saw in each other sort of kindred spirits as far as coaching?
“We’re getting deep now, huh?”
“No. I’ve known OB and I know a lot of people that know OB. So, over the years, [Houston Texans tight end coach] John Perry, who’s on their staff as a tight ends coach, coached with me at New Hampshire. So, we just kind of ran in the same circles. But, we are kindred spirits.”
On Kap, you mentioned a couple times just how impressed you were with the effort he put into learning the offense even when he wasn’t able to throw. How has that kind of manifested itself now that he’s been out here for--?
“That’s a good point. There haven’t been a lot of mental mistakes. A lot of times, guy’s ability to transfer things that they’ve learned in the classroom and then be able to take that out onto the field is a different thing. You can tell how intelligent he was that he was on top of things so when he got in there, he was getting to his third read in his progression even though he had actually never thrown the route, but mentally he had taken himself through that in the springtime. So, I think that’s kind of how I’ve seen it and how [49ers quarterbacks] coach [Ryan] Day’s seen it and how Curtis has seen it in terms of looking at him is that you can tell when a guy’s out and is really working on his game when he’s out. When they come back, what are they like? A lot of guys come back and they’re a little bit lost. Well, maybe they weren’t working as hard as they should have been. But, he didn’t really miss a step. There’s timing issues and things like that that you’ll miss because you’re not getting the physical aspect. But, from a mental aspect, he’s been on top of it.”
In terms of the mental aspect too about QB Blaine Gabbert because we’ve asked you so much about Colin. How has he grasped this offense and what have you seen out of him as the traits of a starting quarterback?
“We talked about that I think a week ago because the interesting thing with Blaine is I think he had six different systems in his short time in the NFL and his ability to bridge the gap between the different systems. A lot of the things that are done here are done at other places, but they’re called different names. So, you’re trying to get that language barrier and he’s handled that really well. I think it’s one thing about Blaine that’s stood out is his intelligence too. That’s why the both of them have really done a good job from that standpoint.”
He seems to be able to galvanize a lot of the teammates pretty well. Have you noticed that off the field or any instances?
“Yeah. I think Blaine has really good leadership qualities and I can see the players kind of look to him in certain situations, as they should with any quarterback in this league. But, he certainly handles that really well.”
What dictates the tempo of today’s practice? Will you guys do three snaps a minute like you sometimes do?
“It’s all kind of parceled out. So, there’s some huddle portions of today’s practice and there’ll be some no-huddle portions of today’s practice. So, we’ll go really fast when we’re not in the huddle because Billy does the same thing. I think Billy was second or third in the league in terms of time snapped with the ball on the clock. They’ve got a pretty good system themselves that he took with him from when he was with it with the Patriots. So, it’s an aspect that’s in his offense. So, we have a period, a 10-minute period that’s dedicated to just no-huddle on both fields. We have a two-minute period that’ll be going on on both fields that’ll be no-huddle, but we also have huddle periods. So, we’re going to try to run the gambit today.”
But, whatever’s going on on one field will mirror what’s going on on the other field as far as the tempo and the amount of practice and snaps?
You talk about Blaine’s leadership qualities. What are your benchmarks there for quarterbacks when you’re looking for, is this guy my kind of leader?
“Well, I just think it’s how the players around him respond. I think great leaders inspire and then they get the best out of the guys around them and that’s kind of what you look for no matter who it is and what position they play. Whether it’s [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] on defense or [S] Antoine Bethea on defense or Blaine on the offensive side of the ball. But, I also think it’s shared. It’s not just ten guys always looking at one guy saying, ‘Hey, tell us what to do.’ You’ve got some veteran leadership in [T] Joe Staley out there. You’ve got some guys who have played like [RB] Carlos Hyde, getting [T] Anthony Davis back. I think it’s a collective as a group, but obviously the quarterback is in the forefront of that.”
The practice at Kezar, it didn’t look like Colin probably had his best practice of training camp, if you’d agree with that. Is part of that attributable to what he’s dealing with in his shoulder, you think?
“That’s a good question for him, to be honest with you. We haven’t really gone through that. I don’t think the offense as a whole had a great day up there. I thought our defense had the upper hand in terms of where we were up at Kezar. So, to single one guy out isn’t really fair. I don’t think there’s, that wasn’t a good day for us offensively, but it was a good day for us defensively. So, as coach, you’re kind of on the fence. You’re happy about one side and how they’re playing and then on the other side, you’re not happy with them. So, you’ve got to kind of be down the middle. I know our offensive coaches were a little bit disappointed in how we played up at Kezar, but our defensive coaches were really excited. So, I actually spent more time with the defensive coaches on that day. So, feel pretty good about it. You can gravitate as a head coach. You can slide one way or the other. So, we’ll see how it goes today. If you see me on Houston’s field a lot, then I’m really excited about our defense.”
Regardless of who starts Week 1 at quarterback, is it plausible that both guys could see significant snaps this year? Would you use someone situationally?
“We haven’t talked about that at all. Hopefully, this thing will play itself out and organically you’ll come to a conclusion of who it should be. But, we haven’t ruled anything in or anything out.”
Some teams like to name that starter earlier because I guess it sends a message to the rest of the roster as this is who we’re solidifying around. Why not here? Why not name one?
“Because you could be wrong.”
So that part of it you’d rather be--?
“And I’d also like to be fair to the players. So, you want to be right, you don’t want to be first. So, that’s like writing an article in the newspaper, right? You want to make sure you get all of your information right before you write the article. Just because you’re the first one in and you beat the deadline, you could be wrong in that decision. So, I don’t want anybody on our staff to make the wrong decision on who our quarterback to be just because we said, ‘Why did we do it? Because we wanted to name him by a certain date.’ You know, I want to make sure we have the right quarterback to lead the San Francisco 49ers this year and I think we’ve got two very competitive guys that have played quality games in the NFL. So, it’s fair to them and even more importantly, it’s fair to the team to make sure that we get this thing right.”