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Kyle Shanahan talks C.J. Beathard, George Kittle, 49ers brutal schedule

The 49ers head coach met with the media on Monday to wrap things up after Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. We have a full transcript.

Opening comments:

“Injuries; [DB Adrian] Colbert, high ankle sprain. He’s going to end up having to go on IR. He’s going to be out six to eight weeks, so we ended up doing that. I think it’s gone through now. [RB Matt] Breida tweaked his ankle again, but his strength is good. He’ll be day-to-day. [WR Marquise] Goodwin tweaked his ankle, recheck him on Wednesday. [S Jaquiski] Tartt had a stinger, we’ll recheck him on Wednesday. [LB] Reuben [Foster] had a shoulder sprain. He should be good to go for practice Wednesday.”

Will you put DB D.J. Reed Jr. there at free safety? Will you think about DB Jimmie Ward resuming that position when he comes back?

“We’ll look into all options. We’ll see that as practice goes throughout the week. We’ve got to see if Jimmie Ward is ready to practice anyway this week because he’s coming off his hamstring. D.J. Reed will have the first chance up.”

Is Colbert a return candidate late in the year?

“Probably not.”

What have you seen from Reed when he’s been in there?

“When he’s had his opportunity, D.J. plays very hard, he goes in there, he runs and hits. He’s done some good things. He’s still a rookie, needs to play more. I know he’ll have some learning curves as he does that, but the game is not too big for him and he’s a guy we do believe in.”

Any update on CB Richard Sherman and his calf?

“No update. We’re going to recheck him Wednesday.”

You said his calf could be an ongoing thing. It looks like it is. Is it just something you’ll have to kind of manage and hope he gets to games?

“Yes. Yeah, it’s been wearing on him as the year has gone. Some weeks have been better than others. Last week was a bad week. We’ll see how he feels this Wednesday when he gets back in ready to go.”

Are you guys re-signing QB Tom Savage to take that roster spot?

“Yes. Yeah, we already did.”

WR Pierre Garçon was out for most of the game.

“Pierre went out in the game a number of times because of his knee. We’ll have to recheck him on Wednesday, also.”

What really stuck with you from watching the film?

“It was similar to what I saw live last night. We definitely know we went against a real good team. But, we were way too careless with the ball. Having those four turnovers, the blocked punt, especially all are early in the game, it got us in a hole that was tough to overcome. Then, we came out in the third quarter and went three-and-out on O. I think they went down and got a field goal. I think we ended up turning it over again. Just too many mistakes versus a real good team.”

In terms of the defense’s failure to get takeaways, is that something you personally addressed to them? Who has talked to them about it besides defensive coordinator Robert Saleh? How does that message try to get across?

“We always do. It’s something I preach. We usually have one coach get up each week and talk about turnovers. Our DB coach [defensive backs coach] Jeff Hafley usually does it. We had [inside linebackers coach] DeMeco [Ryans] do it last week. [Running backs coach] Bobby Turner did it two weeks ago in terms of protecting the ball. So, we usually dedicate someone to that about 15 minutes in the meeting every Thursday to emphasize them.”

When Reuben came here in his first training camp practices he was getting interceptions and fumbles all over the place. Is he just not in position now? What’s been missing?

“It’s not just Reuben. It’s all of our guys. I think in these last three games, I think it’s 13 to zero. We have 18 turnovers on the year. But, in these last three games, we’ve had 13 and gotten zero back. By no means is it one person. It is a little bit of everybody. When you’re playing zone defense, you’ve got seven guys looking at the quarterback. You want to put the quarterback under duress. That’s where you get some tips and overthrows and things like that. That’s where you get your picks. In man coverage, usually it’s jumping in front of guys and beating the guy to the spot. We haven’t had a lot of opportunities and when we have, we’ve dropped them. We’ve got to pick that up if we want things to change.”

On the blocked punt, what happened or what needed to happen better?

“We needed to block better. He beat us up the middle. They didn’t bring too many. It was a pretty good move by their player, 58, and he got there.”

How did you think Colbert was coming along?

“I thought in that game he was having one of his better games. We had a challenge here in the last few weeks. I thought in this game he had covered sideline to sideline very well just running and hitting and made a real good play on the play he got hurt on, also. They tried to challenge us and go over the top, which you want the corner there on, but usually the middle-third player will show up with the speed that Colbert has. He did, made a good play and unfortunately got hurt.”

What’s the frustration level like when you have a guy like that who you’re trying to see grow and then he loses those reps, those valuable opportunities to evaluate the position?

“It’s tough. It’s a part of football, though. It’s not the first time that it’s happened. Colbert is one of those guys last year that got his opportunity because a lot of guys went down. He was one of the guys that the second half of the year we got to watch grow, go through some trial and error but end up playing at a very high level last year. Made us very excited about going into this year with him. Now, Colbert going out is going to give more opportunities to D.J. Reed or other players. So, we hope some other guys step it up like he did last year.”

Last year, a week from this date is when the QB Jimmy Garoppolo trade came that gave you guys a boost. Is this the time of year that you guys are still looking for anything that might be available with the trade deadline coming up?

“Yeah, definitely. We’re always looking for things to improve our team. I think the hardest thing, the thing we want to be the strongest with, everyone would love a quick fix right now. I know I would, I know our players would, I know [general manager] John [Lynch] and the personnel staff would. But, it’s not just about a quick fix. We’re dedicated to try to win this Sunday. But, we’re also not going to just do something that makes us feel better today that hurts us for the future. So, we take everything into account, from our perspective, about what we do on a day-to-day basis is about trying to find a way to beat Arizona. But, when it comes to trades and things like that, there’s more business involved in that that doesn’t just affect this week. Things that affect the salary cap and things like that into next year and how we’re trying to build this and we’re trying to stay committed to that.”

Are you guys fielding calls from a lot of teams for any of your players?

“I’m not in charge of those phones. But, I mean, people talk all the time around the league. People are doing that every single day right now. They’ll be doing it up to the trade deadline. It picks up more as it gets closer, but that’s stuff that goes on every day, all day. A lot of it is just talk. Sometimes, it becomes real. We’ll always listen. We’re always looking to try to improve our team. We’re always calling and seeing if there’s anything out there that we haven’t heard, also. Like I said, our philosophy with that is we’re always trying to improve right now, but we’re also not going to do that to risk anything for the future.”

How did CB Ahkello Witherspoon do yesterday?

“I thought Ahkello took a step in the right direction. Ahkello, similar to Colbert, with the guys last year who got their opportunities because of injury and really stepped it up as the year went. I didn’t think he got off to the same start this year. He’s been a lot more up and down. I thought yesterday he took a step in the right direction. I thought he had one of his better games this year. Hopefully, that’ll continue to trend that way so he can get back to the level of last year and more.”

Why do you think so many of those guys have been up and down?

“You’ve got to ask them. You fight through some things. You come in as rookies, you’re not really sure what to expect and you get a little bit of feel as the year goes and you have a little success as the year ends. You come in and those guys worked extremely hard in the offseason. They came in ready to take it to another level and they haven’t. They haven’t done that so far. That stuff is hard. The NFL is not easy. You’re not just guaranteed because you had some success at the end of the year that you’ll come in and just pick up right where you left off. They’ve had to really work through that, work through some of these games, some ups and downs, losing some playing time. They’ve gotten better in practice and I thought it carried over to the game this week. I know it won’t for Colbert as we go, but hopefully Ahkello will continue to grow from it.”

A few of those guys, after the game, mentioned the process and the long-term outlook. It seems like you and John have taken a very long-term approach to building this thing towards something sustainable. Where are you at in terms of how being 1-6 in this start impacts the big picture?

“Our record right now doesn’t impact the big picture to me. It’s tough to deal with, it’s frustrating. We’re all working extremely hard and want much better results. But, just because the record doesn’t show that isn’t going to make you doubt yourself and go rip up your plans and do something totally new. We knew when we came here it was going to take some time and we want that to be as fast as possible, there’s no doubt about that. But, you also don’t want to make stupid decisions because of that. We’re trying to be smart in everything we do. We’re not trying to just do this a quick, easy fix way. We’re trying to build this thing to last and to do that, it does take some time. Planned on it going faster and it hasn’t so far. But, that doesn’t make me lose any confidence in what we’re doing, the people that we have here. I know we need to continue to work, continue to get better, but we’re going through a tough time right now. But, that doesn’t change anything to me where I feel we’re going.”

Is sophomore slump a cliché thing or is it something that does happen with NFL players?

“I’ve seen it a lot over my years. I say percentage-wise it happens to a lot of people. That doesn’t mean everybody in their second year is like that. But, I think you come in as a rookie, you don’t really know what to expect. You’re just wide eyed and just trying your hardest to make a dream come true and you don’t even look back. You grind every day trying to get there and you don’t even know why you got in or what happened. You’re just sitting there trying to survive and not get cut. Then you start to gain some confidence that you can play in this league. Then you come back the next year and you want to take it to the next level. You do a little bit more, you work more, put a little bit more pressure on yourself and try to do extra and you end up forgetting kind of what got you there. I think that does happen to people when you say the sophomore slump, but it doesn’t happen with everyone.”

You said last night that QB C.J. Beathard is your quarterback without a question. How many reps does QB Nick Mullens get in practice outside of scout team in case he needs to come in for C.J. whether it’s injury or whether it’s C.J. not playing well?

“In a period, he gets about two out of 10 plays. So, it ends up being about eight plays of practice. Then he gets 90-percent of them on scout team. He got 100-percent of them until we got [QB] Tom [Savage] here. Now we’ve had Tom taking a few reps, mainly in the passes.”

You have no plans to give him more reps at all this week or anything like that?

“No, definitely not. If we had a minor league system or a bunch of guys out there, I would love to give Nick reps. I’d love to give all of our backups reps and prepare them and challenge them. That’s not how this league works. There’re not enough reps for the starters. It’s a different sport where you have a certain amount of people on your roster and not everybody can go play offense and defense and give looks. A lot of guy aren’t recovered until Friday to even practice. So, in order to do something like that, that’d be neat and all and it’d help improve Nick, but it would hurt the rest of the team.”

With TE George Kittle, the numbers indicate that he’s made a big jump from year one to year two. Have you seen that, comprehensively, from his game?

“Yes. His numbers are a lot better. He’s a lot healthier. Yeah, I think Kittle, similar to some of those other people we were talking about, Kittle, he hasn’t hit the sophomore slump. He’s improved in that way in the fact that he got a lot of playing time last year. He got thrown into a ton of situations starting from the first game to the last game, battled through a bunch of injuries. I think we had a lot higher expectations for George going into last year than a lot of people realize. I think he did too, knowing how training camp went and OTAs and stuff. Then he started the year out getting so banged up, he wasn’t able to reach all of that stuff. He ended strong, but I think George learned through the first year, he knew he could play in the league but I think he learned how hard it is to stay healthy throughout a year. I think he’s taken better care of his body throughout this offseason, what he does day in and day out, how physical he plays throughout a game, what he does Monday through Saturday just to get his body back ready to play on Sunday. So, it’s been a complete credit to him, just how well he’s taken care of himself.”

Would you say it’s fair to say from that that you’re not surprised by what he’s done? It’s the expectations you guys put on him starting in year one?

“Not at all. We were expecting him to do it last year pretty early on just because of how he looked when he got here. I think he showed a lot of that towards the end of last year that not a lot of people saw. But, I think people could see flashes of it. This year he came back and he’s been healthy. I know he got banged up in training camp, but he recovered, did it right and from the first game on, he’s been getting after it.”

The first seven games have largely been against all playoff contenders. You have a three-game stretch where the teams are in the same boat. Do you look at this as kind of a, this gives you a chance to maybe find your footing and maybe regain some confidence right now?

“I look at every game as that, to tell you the truth. After a loss, it’s always tough on Monday. It’s still a little bit tough on Tuesday. By the time Wednesday comes and you’ve got a new game plan in and the players are here, I look at every week as starting over and as a chance to regain that. I’m aware that they don’t have the same records as the teams that we’ve been playing, but I also know if we don’t take care of the ball better it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You can’t go three games with 13 turnovers and zero takeaways. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the best team in the NFL or the worst team in the NFL. We have to get that fixed regardless of who we play.”

What was the play that you looked at with the team today?

“Today we just talked. I left it all for the coaches today, sat and met with the guys for about 15 minutes, just talking about turnovers and things like that. But, I let them break up and hit it with their position coaches.”

Those two interceptions he threw, they were contested passes but it looked like maybe the guys were open a split second beforehand. Should C.J. have gotten rid of those passes a little bit earlier or should the receivers have fought for position better?

“Each one’s different. One of them in particular, you can’t let it go when someone’s in your face. He did a good job shuffling to the side. That was the one to Quise because Quise was very open, ran a good route, then he was waiting in the hole for the ball because it didn’t come on time but it didn’t come on time because someone was in his face. He had to avoid a sack and move and then he let it go. When that happens, you do have to step to it. So, it’s a little bit on both. Then you can include the O-Line too because someone’s in his face. So, we’ve had 18 turnovers this year and I’ve watched every single one definitely more than once. I recommend you guys do it too. You guys will see there’s a lot of people involved in each one.”

With what Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald did yesterday, were there obvious gaffs in your mind or were those situations where Donald just sort of did what he does?

“Aaron is as good of a player as there is in this league. He’s done it for a while. He’s done it to a lot of people. He played very well so I’m not going to take anything away from him. But, when you play against a player like that, you’ve got to be at your best and I don’t think we were.”

Just a question about C.J.’s mentality. Going back to last week, you said Green Bay, his last interception, mistake, you can’t do that. When we asked him, he was like, “Well, there was more to it,” he suggested that there was more to it than that. Do you guys have a healthy give and take of discussions about plays where he says, “Well what about this? This is what I was thinking?”

“Yes, definitely, especially with a guy like C.J. C.J. doesn’t just show up and ask us what we saw and write it down and just leave and repeat it. C.J. works at this all day, every day. It’s his job and he treats it like his job just like we do. So, we work at everything together. There are a lot of things. It’s not just a simple yes, no. We can sit and talk about a play and the things that go into it for a long time, which I would love to do. If I could do it on every play, I would do it with you guys. But, that isn’t a very good advantage for us to do that. C.J., I know, talked about that right after the game and there were a lot of things going into his head on the play, myself also. That’s why you get together the next day, you go through the situation, you tell him all of the things that can go from it, the different options on the play and why you can’t let that happen again.”