The San Francisco 49ers enter training camp with a brand new quarterback depth chart, but without a clear long-term answer, they do have a clear 2017 starter. Brian Hoyer has had success with Kyle Shanahan, and did some good things in Chicago last season before a season-ending broken arm. But this year, he enters clearly ahead of Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard.
Hoyer met with the media on Thursday to discuss the offseason and preparations for training camp. He led workouts in Dallas with a lot of the skill position players last week, and he offered up some details about the Dallas sessions. He put together a full script for them to use, and he also texted with the coaches about what they saw in OTAs that he could apply to the sessions. It was not quite the same as Camp Alex during the lockout, but in some ways it might be more valuable with OTAs and minicamp all wrapped up ahead of time.
Here is a full transcript of what Hoyer had to say on Thursday.
Take us through the three days you were in Dallas, what was accomplished there?
“It was great, first and foremost just to get back around the guys. You get so much time off and you spend so much time with the guys while you’re here and then all of a sudden you don’t see them for an extended period of time, so to be around the guys and get together and kind of build that camaraderie, that was great. As far as the football aspect of it, I think a lot of it being a lot of new players, a new system, everyone trying to learn it, I think it was a good kind of midway point between the last minicamp and training camp to just kind of have a refresher. We did a three day thing and each day we basically, I think during the offseason we had seven installs so we kind of tried to put two in each day and throw a little bit, work out a little bit and obviously at dinner time go out and have a meal together. One day a few guys went golfing, a few guys hung out with some of the guys that lived around there. It was good. It was my first time doing anything like that and I thought it went well.”
Did you guys have your iPads, playbooks?
“I brought everything down, I had it already kind of scripted it out. This day we’re going to do this. It wasn’t anything that was crazy organized. It was more, hey this day we’re going to work these concepts, we’re going to work two-minute, then get a little conditioning in. At SMU we were allowed to use their weight room so we were able to work out, so it was good. It was the right amount of time. We got there Monday morning, left Wednesday afternoon and I think guys got a lot out of it.”
How is your mindset going into camp different knowing you’re the starter, as opposed to a couple times when you’ve had camp battles, how does it change?
“You don’t have to deal with the unknown a little bit when it comes to that. That’s always nice, especially being a human being. You can tell yourself not to worry about things as much as you want to, but you know those thoughts creep up in your mind. So now just to be able to go out and focus and take control and know this is my team, this is my offense. It kind of eliminates that and you can just focus on the football side of it.”
Did you consult with any coaches or anyone else and say hey what do you think the best way to organize this is?
“Yeah, I texted our quarterback coach and said ‘Hey is there anything you guys saw after you sat down and kind of reevaluated the OTAs.’ Are there certain routes you want guys to run, certain concepts to work on. So, he definitely helped when it came to that standpoint. Like I said too, with so many guys we kind of just wanted to stay fresh on it, so you go back over almost every install and maybe you have a guy run a certain route that he might run more than the others, but that was really it.”
How long does it take you to adjust to learning how fast players get out there breaks and how they run their routes?
“It’s always a constant work in progress, I think. Obviously you get a ton of reps in the offseason, and like I said we had that break so it was good to kind of keep that fresh in my mind with those guys and then when we get back out there tomorrow you just try to pick up where you left off. You never want to digress, so hopefully that timing comes back pretty quickly. The difference between now and the offseason is you’re going day after day after day. You’re going to get a ton of reps at it. You know, routes on air, one on ones, team, seven on seven. So, those things should pick up pretty quickly.”
In our world we look at the Niners situation and say there’s speculation this team doesn’t have a long-term solution at quarterback. You signed a two-year deal, and there’s a lot of talk about Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, next year’s draft, and whatever. What’s your reaction to that, when you hear things like that?
“All I can do is play this season. That’s what we have in front of us, the 2017 season. And I know from being in this league it’s about what have you done lately, so one whole year can change a lot of aspects on how people think about things. So for me, like I said, to be able to go into training camp and not have to worry about a quote unquote competition, to be the guy to have gotten all the reps in the offseason, I feel very confident and very excited about going into this season. Like I said when I first got here, one of the big reasons I came was to be with [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan]. You know, having been around him, now as a head coach for a full offseason going into training camp I think everybody’s really excited. I know for me personally, this is probably the most excited I’ve ever been going into a training camp.”
Do you think that approach is different now that you’re at this stage of your career than it would have been--?
“For sure. Every year you learn something new, I think. Going into your ninth training camp, being a veteran, you know what to expect. Going in, having an understanding of the offensive system, having a full offseason, with the guys out there. Just getting back into the rhythm of it, I think there’s a comfortability. Even though it is a new team, a new training camp, everything, I think there is a comfortability knowing what to expect as a veteran.”
How is Kyle different as a head coach, verses as a coordinator?
“Well I think, he has to get in front of both sides of the team now, not just the offense. You can still tell he’s an offensive coach, but he also sides with the defense sometimes too which is tough for me to see. You know, I think the one thing, and you’ve seen a lot of our guys talk about it, is that the best thing in my mind about Kyle is the way he explains how he sees things. How he’s trying to attack a defense, where the defense is trying to attack the offense. I’m sure he can stand up there for five hours and go over every single play and say, ‘Hey on this play we’re trying to affect the defense this way, and the defense is trying to play it this way.’ I think our players have gotten a lot out of that, seeing that in cover three, what is the curl-flat player’s responsibility. I think for a lot of us, sure we all know what cover three is but do you really look at it that far in depth. He really breaks it down person by person, and I think that kind of knowledge has helped our team as a whole. And that’s been really cool to see the defensive players respond to it. I was used to it with him as an offensive coordinator trying to explain it. I remember I was sitting right there in that seat and [LB] Dekoda Watson was right next to me and we went over our running play for about 10 minutes and Kyle just talked about gap scheme and which players defended for that. And Dekoda was like ‘Man I never even knew that. I was just out there playing. I just do what my coaches told me to do.’ To see it explained that way, it was really cool for me to see him respond to him that way.”
When you played with Kyle you didn’t really throw to running backs that much. He’s really evolved in that aspect. Is that something you’ve noticed?
“I noticed it watching him when he was in Atlanta last year. I think when they threw a touchdown to [Atlanta Falcons RB] Tevin Coleman against Seattle in the playoffs, I remember texting him like hey congratulations I wish we would’ve had that play when we were in Cleveland. I think that’s one thing that’s been really cool is to see how this offense has evolved. I’d played in a similar offense in New England, and then in Houston and each time, each year something new evolved. So, to play with Kyle back in Cleveland, and now with our system here, sure the core routes, formations, protections, those are still intact but I think an offense that’s going to do well is always evolving to what’s going on in the league. Kyle’s definitely been able to do that. With getting the backs involved, and I think the backs that we have, you know signing [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice, what really label do you give him. Guys like that will be really important parts of our offense.”
How much in the offseason did you work on the radio communication and getting that rhythm down? I’m assuming Kyle’s in your ear.
“I remember going on early and he was just kind of telling us the plays and I said let’s just start doing the radio communication now so we’re used to it. So I’m used to hearing you in the helmet and standing by the huddle. I kind of have a method of I want to be just outside the huddle when the play is coming out. I don’t want to be in the huddle trying to give the play while he’s talking to me. I want to hear him say the play in my helmet, take a second, get in the huddle and then call the play. Back in Cleveland when I was just learning the system I was just trying to repeat what he was saying, get it to the team and then as I’m walking to the line of scrimmage think of the play. Whereas now, I hear the play coming in and I can paint a picture of what Kyle is trying to emphasize on that play, and then relay it to the rest of the offense and break the huddle and go. We’ve been doing that I think pretty much since day one is using that coach to quarterback communication.”
I know you understand you’re in a fairly violent sport. Not to suggest any injuries you’ve had you could have prevented. With that said, have you changed your training methods at all as your career has gone on, just in hopes of trying to stay healthy?
“Yeah, I think as a professional athlete you’re always trying to do what’s best for your body and to prolong your career. There’s different methods, diet, workouts, obviously working out with [head strength & conditioning] Ray [Wright]. I’ve worked out with basically four different strength coaches over the last four offseasons, so you kind of get a little bit different aspect from each guy and then kind of tailor it to what you need. I don’t really look at it like, ‘Well I got a helmet to my forearm, I’m going to do more curls or something.’ It was just something that the luck of the draw really, so if anything you kind of just go in and you want to have a good diet, a good training regimen and then just be ready for the season. The year in Cleveland, before they benched me for [former NFL QB] Johnny [Manziel], I didn’t have any injuries. So, I think sometimes it’s just what your luck is that year and how you deal with it depending on the injury.”
When you see your friend former NFL WR Andrew Hawkins retire like that with a good opportunity with the Patriots, and the CTE study that came out, what’s going through your mind?
“I had to deal with that a few years back in Houston, and obviously a lot of questions go through your mind, but also you take the time out to do some research on your own. I was fortunate enough to go see a specialist in Pittsburgh, Doctor Micky Collins. Ran through a bunch of tests and met with him and the thing that I walked away with that, from my experience with him is that concussions are treatable. There’s different types of concussions and there’s different things you can do. So ever since then I try to stay on top of things that keep my brain active. I try to read a lot more, I wasn’t very much of a reader. My high school teachers will probably tell you I didn’t do well on my summer reading assignments. You try to read a lot more, there’s some brain games you can do. Obviously we know the risks as NFL players. Obviously there’s a lot of studies out there, but I’m pretty confident with the changes of technology, equipment getting better, obviously our medical staff being better. You prepare for those situations and after talking to some specialists, obviously there’s some risk involved but I think there’s also a way to make sure you take care of yourself and do the things that are proper. Diet, exercises, you know you can exercise your brain too, so that’s something I’ve kind of talked about implementing into your training regimen. There’s things that you can do for that too.”
Are you saying that these activities can thwart off the head injury?
“I don’t know if you’d say that, but it’s more like treating, if you break an arm, you tear an ACL, you have a rehab for that. So you should do the same for when you have a brain injury in my opinion. From my experience, it helped. Thankfully I was able to get through last season with no such injuries, and hopefully do the same year. I think, just like any physical injury, when there’s an injury in your brain there’s stuff that you need to do to help get back to normal.”