John Lynch Opening Comments:
“How’s everyone doing? I’ll just start by saying that I want to thank [CEO] Jed [York] and the entire York family for their support during this whole process and a lot of people, [vice president of player personnel] Adam Peters, [senior personnel executive] Martin Mayhew, [chief strategy officer and executive vice president of football operations] Paraag [Marathe], who just did an excellent job today with the various trade scenarios that we were working through and eventually pulled off. I want to thank [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] because when we’re in the midst of kind of putting this whole thing together, he took the time to be there in all of these draft meetings, as did his staff. I think it was an extremely productive day. I can tell you right off the bat that we had a board, as you guys heard the other day, with just under 200 players and in terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players and we were able to do that. We’re thrilled. We’re ecstatic. We think these guys have traits that encompass what we want to be about as a football organization and we’re, starting with [DL] Solomon [Thomas], I think we see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility. I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have and when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption. Then I know the kid, we were classmates together a couple years ago when I was taking summer school, trying to finish up and got to know him a little bit. He’s a special kid. [LB] Rueben Foster, I’ll just be honest, at times, he’s just my kind of player. He plays sideline-to-sideline and he’ll hit anything that moves. I think that’s contagious for teammates, and both these guys, it’s something Kyle and I believe. You know where they’re drafted they’re likely going to play, but they’re going to have to earn it. They’re going to have to come out here and show they belong out there on that field and earn the respect of their teammates and this staff. But, we could not be more happy with the day, and it’s just getting started. We come back tomorrow and we’ve got a lot of picks and we’re looking forward to improving our team tomorrow. I’ll turn it over to Kyle.”
Kyle Shanahan Opening Comments:
“I think John just said it about all about the players. I could repeat everything, but he said it, so we’ll open up to questions.”
Can you talk about the anatomy of the trade? How did that come about? Was that something that had been talked about, the specifics with the Bears all the way through?
JL: “[Chicago Bears general manager] Ryan Pace, their general manager, and I had a conversation probably a week and a half ago. And, it was the initial one, where Ryan and I who, I’ve known Ryan a little bit through doing Chicago games as a broadcaster and some mutual friends. I’m close with their head coach, [Chicago Bears head coach] John Fox. Ryan reached out and just indicated the reality that we’re going to be near each other throughout this entire draft and let’s, obviously we’ve got to look out for our team’s best interest, but to the extent that we could help each other out, let’s try to do it and that was a week and a half ago. Then another call came asking if we had received any other interest. The answer was, ‘Yes.’ And, I think it was yesterday another call talking about a specific scenario. Today, Kyle and I were focused on the players we had and so we turned it over to Paraag and Paraag and Ryan, and I don’t know where Paraag is, somebody else from the Bears were working on this thing. We were fortunate in that there were other teams that were interested, so it got pretty productive. Kyle and I were talking about it in there, kudos to the Bears. They saw a player they wanted at a really important position. I’m sure a lot of people are going to give them heat because he’s only started 13 games, but he’s a guy we frankly liked and so I give Ryan Pace and John Fox a lot of credit for making a courageous move and we’re thrilled with what we got out of it.”
Did you have choices to make? Other trade offers that you were weighing with the Bears trade offer?
JL: “We did.”
Did you know who the Bears were trading up for?
JL: “No. This guy [Shanahan] is pretty bright and I think you can see his offensive bias, I think I’ll say. He said, ‘That’s not for a defensive lineman. That kind of a trade, that’s for a quarterback,’ and he was right.”
How did that dynamic work with Paraag? How much specifically had you talked to him with those different trade components and how much leeway did he have in that decision?
JL: “We were all right there together and I always find it really cool that [49ers Hall of Fame head coach] Bill Walsh charged Paraag at one point with coming up with our own trade chart and so he did that. We used it very well today.”
Was Solomon Thomas clearly the highest graded player on your draft board at the third pick or were there other players with similar grades at that spot?
JL: “At the third pick, yes he was.”
At one point there was chatter online about you guys making a trade with Detroit at pick 21. Was that the case? Were you talking with Detroit and was Reuben Foster the focus at that point as well?
JL: “I think we called everybody in the league. It’s a player I liked, we liked, our staff liked. I’ll tell you this too, and I think it’s a credit to the other guys we have at that position, we’re a 2-14 team. So, there’s some holes, but inside linebacker, we felt pretty good about already. I just, and Kyle and I got to the point where we felt this is a game-changing player and I think for that you go with the best player and that’s what we did.”
How deeply did you get into the study of Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky and in your mind, was he an option at two, was he a possibility at two? Was he an option at two?
KS: “Yeah, of course. If you believe they’re a good player, they’re all options. I do believe Trubisky’s going to be a very good player. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to talk about anyone else now that he’s under contract with someone else.”
He’s not under contract yet.
KS: “That’s true. I don’t the rules. But, no, I definitely like Trubisky and I think that’s a hell of a pick by Chicago. You see a guy that, especially when it’s a quarterback, if you believe that he’s going to be your guy and that’s who you want, you’ve got to go get him, whatever it takes and I thought it was a smart move for them. I think it was a smart move for us. So, I think both teams benefitted.”
Are we to infer that if you got two of the top three players on your board that if the Bears had taken Solomon Thomas, that you would have at three taken Reuben Foster?
JL: “Perhaps. I mean, it was very likely.”
Who was the third player, Cleveland Browns DL Myles Garrett?
At what point in this process did you feel comfortable or how much time did you spend with Reuben Foster to get comfortable with whatever questions you might have had, not only with the medical but also--?
JL: “Yeah. I’m proud of that. We were exhaustive in our getting to know the kid. We met with him at the combine. We had him out here for a 30 visit. Kyle and I both spent a lot of time on the phone with him, facetiming. And then, I think when we really started to zero in and get really serious, we sent [vice president of football affairs] Keena Turner and [team chaplain] pastor Earl [Smith] down to Tuscaloosa to meet with Reuben for two days and they had a tremendous visit. We kept in contact with him. Young man’s going to be disappointed. He felt like he was one of the better players. But, I can also tell you that this was a place where Reuben wanted to be. He indicated that numerous times. Whether he told everybody else that, I don’t know. But, it felt genuine and I think that’s something we love about Reuben is that he’s a really genuine young man. He’s got a smile that lights up a room and the way he plays football’s special.”
One of the things he said when he wanted to come here was he wanted to be the next former 49ers LB Patrick Willis. What similar traits do you see in him that Patrick Willis had for this franchise?
JL: “Well, I’ve told you what I think about Reuben. But, I hope he’s the next Patrick Willis. We’d be doing really well. Kyle and I were both trying to talk Patrick Willis out of retirement at Winterfest because he still looks so good. And so, we would not be doing bad at all if that’s, but I think just tremendous athleticism at that position are some of the traits and then they’re not just trying to get people down. They’re trying to hit people and hit them hard and I think those are the characteristics, the similarities that I see.”
When did you find out that you had to get above New Orleans to get to Foster?
JL: “[NFL Network reporter] Steve [Wyche], we were just trying everyone. We were going down the line. I think this is something that we can talk about when Reuben’s here, but Reuben thought that because we were at 34, we made a trade at the end with Seattle and when I was talking to him, he said, ‘Coach, New Orleans is taking me,’ and I said, ‘No, we’re taking you.’ It was hard because it happened late in the process and so, he was really excited when he found out that we had pulled off that trade and we were certainly very excited.”
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton did say that they were probably taking Reuben Foster if you guys hadn’t. Did you have intel that was suggesting that?
JL: “No. No, just when Reuben told us. He calls everyone coach. Calls me coach too.”
Because Chicago had the next pick, they could have waited you out possibly and you didn’t know who they were going to pick and they didn’t know who you were going to pick, without getting into too many details, did you have to play a little poker with them and say, ‘We might take Trubisky?’ or how’d you get these extra picks from them just to move down one slot?
JL: “Because there were other people involved. And so, the trade improved here in the last day because of that. Now, I think I had gone and he’s on a different team, but we did like Mitchell Trubisky. We both had gone and seen him and so, I think they probably felt there was interest, and there was.”
You saw Solomon Thomas at the pro day. Was there anything that stuck out to you from just that brief visit? Because he said there wasn’t much interaction with the 49ers.
KS: “You know, I don’t do, the pro day was easy for me to go to. So, I mean I was going to go to that regardless, and I watched everybody and I don’t put too much into the pro day. There’s a lot of tape to watch. I’ve seen him play a lot of football, so how he hit those bags didn’t mean much to me. We were able to go out to dinner with him a week ago, and that was good to get to know the person a little bit but there wasn’t too much concern about him as a person also. I think he’s as good of a person and off the chart in that category as you could find. You know, when we went into this draft I felt like we wanted to get whoever we thought were the best players available at the time, but it was also a huge goal of ours to add some more picks. We definitely don’t think we’re just one or two players away. We want to add a nucleus of people. And to be able to go through this draft and the first day, actually add some picks, which was a huge goal of ours, and to get two players of the caliber that we did was very exciting.”
Where do you see Solomon fitting in? He’s expected to play kind of the Seattle Seahawks DL Michael Bennett role. Where do you see him fitting in, is that correct, and where do you see Reuben Foster fitting in in that regard?
KS: “Well you know, there’s four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them. So, I think that’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot. You know the Michael Bennett rule, you know it’s more of a four-eye position, which is getting into too much detail, but it’s, you know that’s what we like about him. We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”
Is it safe to say Reuben Foster is not your choir boy and you need kind of someone with a personality in that locker room, you’re trying to piece together different puzzles and he might be a guy to rattle the cage in there a little bit?
KS: “I don’t think, we weren’t looking necessarily for a guy to rattle the cage. We were looking for the best football players and I think when it starts with, if we’re talking about Reuben, what made me fall in love with Reuben the most is Alabama’s got a lot of good players. I had to watch a lot of Alabama. And there’s a lot of really good guys there. But, no matter who I was studying and watching, number 10 was flying around passing everybody up. So, no matter who I studied I had a hard time not watching number 10, which was Reuben. The way he plays, the way he hits, the way he runs, that’s why you want him on your team.”
Why was he, you seem to indicate he was your third guy on your board, why, understanding you can’t speak for the other teams, why do you think he was still there at 31?
JL: “I don’t know what other people’s issues were with him. I think some things, you know there’s the issue at the combine. We talked with Reuben about that and he apologized for it, admitted that it was a mistake. I think a lot of young people make mistakes. You know, I would anticipate people maybe questioning some of his character, but I would tell you his character’s what drew us to him. When you start talking football with this young man he lights up a room, and he’s a good kid. I believe in the kid and I think it’s going to be, he’s going to be a great player for this organization for a long time.”
With the red flags with Foster, were you surprised that he fell as far as he did and what was going through your mind when it hit 24, 25, 26?
JL: “You know, I think you prepare for all scenarios and we felt like there might be a little bit of a slide. I did not anticipate it being that drastic, and nor did he. I think it was a long day for him. It sure sounded like he had a long day, which you can imagine. You know, when you’re expecting probably to be taken much higher that’s tough on a kid. But, I feel really good not only because we got a great player, because I think we’re going to have a great plan for the young man both on the field and we care about the kid.”
You don’t think that his diluted drug test sample makes foster somewhat of a risky pick?
JL: “You know, maybe in some people’s minds. We spoke with Reuben about that and felt comfortable about that situation as well.”
How far down did you go before you started making calls to teams about that spot?
JL: “The early teens I think it was. Yeah, early teens in there. You know, we have to go recount it, but I’m not sure if we didn’t call everybody who was picking.”
Where’d you go out to eat with Solomon?
JL: “Sundance. Sundance in Palo Alto.”