What do you like to do on the first padded practice day? Will there be one-on-one sessions--?
“Yeah. We have one-on-ones going on with wide outs, DBs, linebackers, running backs and tight ends against safeties and linebackers.”
Any live sessions?
“No. Our padded sessions will be live blocking. We’re going to thud up the back. We’re not going to take him to the ground, but I just don’t want people leaving their feet. The problem when you have those situations isn’t really the tackle. It’s the collateral damage with that because someone’s on the ground, now two guys trip over it and you’ve got a twisted ankle or whatnot. So, we need to be physical at the point of attack. We need to block. We need to get off of blocks. That’s really what will be the emphasis because our O-Line and D-Line has been doing an outstanding job of cooperating so far whether it was in the spring or in the last couple of days. So, we’ll be able to come off and be a lot more physical at the point of attack. If the ball carrier’s in the hole and the linebacker has an aggressive angle to him, he’s going to be able to thud him up. If he has a non-aggressive angle, then he’ll tag off on his hip.”
How much time do you devote to teaching your guys how to practice with pads on?
“We talk about it in our meetings and today’s the first day. So, in the individual periods, our guys will take care of that with them. We have a tackling circuit going on, but we’ve been doing a tackling circuit for a while. I think you can teach tackling without pads and it’s really just how you fit up, how you keep the head out of the tackle, how you wrap and all the important things that come along with tackling. So, I think there are things that you can do from a tackling perspective that you don’t need pads on to do, but there is times when we’ve got to do that. The other thing we do know is we do have four preseason games that, last time I checked, are live. So, we’ll get an opportunity to tackle a lot in these four preseason games.”
How do you characterize the first two days of the battle for the starting quarterback and what stood out to you from both those guys?
“I thought they were really, both of those guys have been really competitive. Again, they’re still growing. We’re new to them. They’re new to us. So, there’s a learning process going on and that’s the big thing for us as a coaching staff is just kind of seeing how they acclimate themselves to what we’re doing. But, I thought both those guys have done a really nice job in the last two days.”
With QB Colin Kaepernick starting in team drills yesterday, is QB Blaine Gabbert going to start the next set?
“Yeah. I mentioned that on whatever our first day back here. Don’t read into whoever starts a drill. However limited amount of reps we have and right now, the last two days, it was 24 reps with the ones, that was split right down the middle. So, whoever started that team period, didn’t start the next team period. So, [quarterbacks coach] Ryan’s [Day] done a good job. It’s been 12 and 12. Each of those guys have gotten 24 reps total, 12 with the ones and then 12 with the twos. So, it’ll go back and forth. Today, we have a couple call periods. So, you don’t know how many reps you’re going to get in that period, in those periods. So, we’ll try and even that out as best we can. But, we’re trying to be right down the middle with the reps. Whoever starts a drill, you know, the next drill up, the next time we have a team period, then someone else will start that drill. So, who starts the first one isn’t the most important thing. It’s just let’s get some quality reps for both Blaine and Kap and I think they’ve done a good job taking advantage of that. It’ll be an ongoing process though. The other thing with the quarterbacks, they’re still, they’re off limits. They’re not going to get hit in any of our training sessions and there’s no quarterback in the NFL or even college that probably gets hit in practice. So, really the big determination with those guys will be the preseason games are going to be huge for those guys.”
You’ve interspersed teaching periods within your practices, at least within the first two. Is that anything different than you’ve done in the past?
“No. That goes back to when I took over as the head coach at Oregon. We’ve always interspersed, whenever we have a seven-on-seven or an 11-on-11, we’ll follow that up with a teaching period. We understand the tempo and speed that we want to practice at, but you just can’t go full practice, there has to be an undulating effect within the practice itself. So, if we’re going to go full for 10 minutes, then we’re going to come back with a teach period. We believe the game of football has two speeds. There’s game-speed and then there’s teach-speed. So, there’s no reason to do something three-quarter speed because you’re never going to play that way. So, we’ve always interspersed and that goes way back to when I took over as the head coach in 2009. We’ve always done it that way.”
Is there anyone that you guys have watched throughout the spring and been curious about, ‘Hey, I wonder what this guy’s going to look like when we do put the pads on?’ Anybody that you’re particularly watching today?
“The 90, to be honest with you. I am joking, but there’s a lot of those guys you really can’t tell until you get a chance and specifically offensively and defensive line-wise because there’s been a lot of real cooperation there where, you know, [T] Joe [Staley] may be able to jack a guy up and knock him back, but Joe understands that he’s going to take two steps and kind of pull out of it. The same thing with our D-Line, has done a great job. There’s a couple times where we have penetration and we have some disruption in the backfield, but it may have been because the guy who was supposed to down block on him isn’t going full-speed and the D-Lineman is going full-speed. So, I think, hopefully things will iron out a little bit, but it’ll be a really big test because I think we’ve got some strength in our defensive line and I’ll be really impressed to see those guys when we get a chance to see them in full pads and see how they can disrupt things.”
WR Jerome Simpson had a touchdown catch yesterday, doing pretty much what he does. He goes down the field fast and cuts forward. What do you tell him about the opportunity that’s in front of him right now and at his stage of the career, what are you trying to get out of him?
“What we’re trying to get out of him is just, and I think for all of those guys, is that it’s really wide open. Besides probably [WR] Torrey [Smith] right now, let’s kind of find out who the other playmakers are at the wide receiver position. You all will have an opportunity. Now, it’s who takes advantage of that opportunity. It’s funny that you mention his age because he probably runs arounds like the youngest in that group. It’s amazing to see how he runs. He’s obviously extremely fast, but just the energy and the amount juice he has through an entire practice, he literally is one of those guys that can run all day. So, he’s really flourishing in what we’re doing right now and he’s a guy to keep an eye on as we continue to move because if he continues to make plays like that, he’ll be a real nice advantage to add to Torrey, to have some speed on the outside like that.”
There was one play I think he was downfield and he sprinted back to the line of scrimmage. Have you told these guys no celebrating or no jawing with guys, just get back?
“We’re just trying to play the game. So, the faster you can get lined up, the better you can recognize the coverages you’re going to face and the better you can utilize what tools you have in your toolbox to be able to execute the play. The stuff in between the snap doesn’t benefit anybody. It doesn’t benefit the offensive player or the defensive player. Line up, play, get back quickly again, line up again and then formulate a plan to execute so you can get something going on your side of the ball. So, Romie gets a real good feel for that. You love being around him because it’s kind of infectious. He just loves playing football.”
I got it. Just want to make sure.
“You got it?”
Other than Torrey, he has the most NFL experience. Does that show or how does it show in his experience with you coming in getting to know him compared to the other guys?
“It does show. It’s showed in a lot of different ways. I’ve come here on a Saturday and he’s had three or four receivers out here in the spring catching tennis balls. He’s just kind of the consummate professional in terms of his work ethic and his approach. The younger guys in that room kind of gravitate to him in terms of how he studies, how he watches film, how he takes notes, how he prepares for practice, how he recovers after practice, you know, what his mindset is like in terms of being a professional and he’s one of the best I’ve ever been around in terms of his approach to the game in taking care of what he has to do to put himself in the best situation to make plays.”
How much teaching are you doing in the classroom with Blaine and Colin? Are you going in there?
“Me, personally? No. Our quarterbacks coach is outstanding. Ryan Day has got that on lockdown. So, I coached Ryan in college. I’ve been around him for a long time. I think he’s outstanding. All of our assistant coaches, I’m in all the install meetings whether it’s offensively, defensively or special teams, I’m in all of those meetings, but when they break and go to their position meetings, I’m not looking over their shoulder and trying to micromanage how they coach. We hired them because they’re outstanding teachers and they all do it. Whatever position it is, whether it’s [outside linebackers coach] Jason Tarver at outside linebackers or Ryan Day with the quarterbacks. I let those guys go and do what they have to do and they do a really good job with it.”
What did LB Eli Harold show you? The work that he put in this offseason, is he a guy you’re interested to see with the pads on, how it kind of translates?
“Yeah, he is and I also think when you add the fact that we’re not going to have [LB] Aaron [Lynch] for the first four games. So, that depth at outside linebacker opposite [LB] Ahmad [Brooks] is really kind of up for grabs. But, I think if you just look at him physically, you see how much he’s grown, how much work he’s put in in the offseason with our strength and conditioning staff and I think he’s done a really nice job. But, it’s the next step for him and a lot of those guys on the defensive side of the ball now that we get the pads on, will they continue to grow? And I really believe he will. So, I’m excited to kind of see where he’s going to.”
How is FB Bruce Miller transitioning to his new position? Are you going to use him some at his old position considering he’s one of the best fullbacks in the league?
“Yeah, I mean, we have a move tight end and that’s really what a fullback is in today’s National Football League. So, I think there’s a lot of things that we do that he did in the past here. So, I think he’s transitioned really well. I think the one thing we didn’t know about him is what a real savvy route runner he is and he’s done a really nice job. A lot of the things that Bruce had done in the past was just flat routes out of the backfield and maybe an occasional wheel down the sideline, but to be able to operate in the middle of the field and kind of win matchups with linebackers and things like that, he’s really shown a nice knack for that. So, I think the more he continues to show us, the more we can start to kind of really take advantage of that versatility. But, he’s done a nice job. He catches the ball a lot better than I thought he was going to catch the ball.”
Your quarterbacks generally haven’t had the chance to be able to audible. Some people say that’s really restrictive, but why is that?
“Well, that’s not true. They do a lot of it. They don’t have the full selection, but they can check protections. There’s a lot of plays that we run that have options within the play. So, there may be two plays called at the same time, one’s a pass, one’s a run and they opt to throw the ball instead of hand the ball off. So, there’s a lot of things that go on within it. So, I think sometimes that’s a little bit of a misconception in terms of what we do.”
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about you.
“It’s OK. I’m not in the conception business. We’re just trying to play football.”
On that same thing, general manager Trent Baalke, we talked to him the other day. He was asked one thing that maybe surprised him about you that he didn’t know and he said you try to not listen to everything, all the noise and all the reports but he just said the lines of communication have been so easy with you. I think to a man and universally the players have termed you a great communicator. Anyways, various examples. It doesn’t seem to square with everything that came out of Philadelphia. Was that a misrepresentation or have you said, ‘Hey, I need to change some things in my second go round as a head coach?’
“No. It just depends on who you talk to. I mean, you put 20 people in a room and you’re going to have 19 different opinions going one way or another about one other person and some people are going to agree and they’re not going to agree. There are players, [Philadelphia Eagles DL] Connor Barwin, guys like that that said I was a great communicator there. So, it’s a narrative that other people can write and do whatever they want, but I try to be consistent and be the same every single day. I’ve had a great relationship with Trent. I knew Trent before when Trent was the GM here and I was the head coach at Oregon. So, there was great lines of communication. He’s pretty straight forward in how he handles things. He’s very direct in his approach. I’m pretty direct in my approach. So, I think we think alike. That was part of this process for both myself and him and [chief executive officer] Jed [York] when we met was, would this work? Some people work better with other people, that’s life.”
What’s caught your eye with this cornerback group so far and what do you want to see from them today with pads on?
“I think, really, if you watch in the first few days, they’ve been really competitive. There have not been many uncontested throws in any of our drills that we’ve done against the defense. I think they’re around the ball. I think they’re knocking the ball out. We’ve had a couple picks. [DB] Jimmie [Ward] had a big one yesterday on a play that, the day before we beat him on and then all of a sudden, you watch him take to coach and know where his help is and stay outside and does a great job baiting the quarterback. So, I think it’s another competitive position where we have some depth but it’s not expressed itself just because there’s a lot of young guys there. It doesn’t mean we don’t think they can play. It’s just a matter of those guys getting more reps and getting out there. But, I think it’s a really competitive group and I like how they’re taking to the coaching that they’re getting right now.”
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said he thinks it’s difficult for a corner to switch from outside to inside in regards to Jimmie. Do you think that’s something that he could handle or is too early in the process to start thinking about that right now?
“It’s probably too early in the process and it is difficult. It’s a different game inside than it is outside. It’s no different for a receiver where some receivers flourish on the inside and have an understanding because you’re facing different coverages. You’ve got a nickel corner, you’ve got linebackers in there, you’ve got safeties over the top, where if you’re outside, it’s really just one-on-one with the corner most times, maybe with a safety rolling over the top. So, it’s a different game in terms of how they see it, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe Jimmie can do it. It’s just let’s see what we have, find out what our depth is overall as a group and then start to plug and play where we are. At the end of the day, and I think Jimmy alluded to it the other day, is it’ll always be a matchup deal. So, if there’s a shorter, smaller guy in the slot, then we’ll probably have a shorter, smaller guy at slot. But, when you get to some of the teams that decide to put a bigger, stronger guy in the slot, then we may have switch. So, it could be a week-to-week thing of who our nickel DB is in those situations.”