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Talking points: Kyle Shanahan on coaching Senior Bowl, Aaron Donald and 49ers vs. Rams

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Breaking down comments from Kyle Shanahan as the 49ers prepare for their Week 17 matchup against the Rams.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers are days away from their regular season finale on the road against the Los Angeles Rams. Shanahan spoke with the media on Friday before the 49ers’ Week 17 matchup. Here’s some of their notable talking points:

Senior Bowl staff

The Reese’s Senior Bowl features top prospects from college football for a week consisting of measurements, drills and practices culminating in an exhibition game between “North” and “South” teams. The two teams are typically coached, with some exceptions, by teams near the top of the draft order. Shanahan was asked about if he’d though about the opportunity to coach the Senior Bowl:

“Yeah. You have mixed emotions about it always as a coach. But, it’s something that you never turn down. It’s an advantage for you. Any little thing helps. If you can find out more about one guy, whether it affects a seventh-round pick or a free agent you go for, it’s always worth it. If that opportunity happens, we’ll be there.”

49ers rookie linebacker Fred Warner, who stepped in as an immediate starter for the defense, attended the 2018 Senior Bowl. In 2017, third-round quarterback C.J. Beathard and fifth-round receiver Trent Taylor both attended the exhibition. The 49ers would be given a front row seat at some of the top prospects entering the 2019 NFL Draft, to include Kentucky pass rusher and likely first-round pick Josh Allen, who has already committed to the event.

Denying Aaron Donald

The last time Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald faced the 49ers he amassed a Madden-type stat line of nine total tackles, six tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and a whopping four sacks. If he repeats that performance on Sunday, he’ll break the single-season record of 22.5, currently held by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. Donald, with 19.5, needs just 3.5 sacks to top Strahan. Shanahan was asked if he’s talked to the players about Donald being on the cusp of entering the record books:

“No, it hasn’t been talked about. It doesn’t surprise me guys would answer it that way. It’s not a one-game record. I know we had a big part in that with how many he got the first time we played against them. I’ve been asked about that a lot this week. Aaron Donald is unbelievable every single time he steps on the field. So, people ask me if we’re going to get more from him this week or if it’s going to be more challenging. I don’t get how that’s possible. It’s as challenging as it gets every time you go against him. So, it’s just another game to me versus Aaron Donald, which is always a huge challenge.”

John Benton’s guitar

Benton’s stock just took a significant step up. The 49ers’ offensive line coach could be seen and heard on the sideline during warm-ups for Friday’s practicing, playing his electric guitar, plugged into the team’s speaker system on the field. Shanahan was asked how the tradition came out:

“He always plays the guitar. He’s just very quiet and doesn’t tell many people about it. Last time I caught him playing the guitar is when we had to sleep here on a Thursday night game. I was sleeping, trying to go to bed at like three in the morning. He didn’t know I was in there. So, he was jamming his guitar so loud by himself to where I had to run out of my room. He thought he was alone. But, no, John loves playing music and I forget what happened, but he did it last year on a Friday. We won that week. When that stuff happens, it becomes a tradition. He was up again today.”

The offensive line’s reaction to Benton was hilarious. We’ll leave with this video taken by Sacramento Bee’s Chris Biderman:

Full transcript:

The following transcript was provided by the team’s communications department:

Opening comments:

“For injuries; [RB Matt] Breida is out, [TE Garret] Celek will be out, [WR Marquise] Goodwin will be out, [WR Dante] Pettis is out and [DB Tarvarius Moore] T-Moore is questionable with a shoulder.”

Will you tell us who lines up at X and Z or is that a secret?

“No. No, I won’t. Sorry. I’d tell you if you didn’t tell anyone else.”

So, Marquise’s situation just never got better as the week went on?

“Yep. Hoping it would, but it didn’t. He wasn’t able to go today. So, not going to be able to go Sunday.”

We saw your old quarterback out there, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, on the side field doing rehab work. Has he been out there much or is this new?

“I’m not sure. I don’t notice, but I’m sure you guys do. I’m watching what’s on the field. I think he has been out there a little bit. We usually have him doing rehab and meetings when we’re doing some practice stuff. I know people probably think it’s better to be out and watch practice the whole time. But, you just stand up. You get a sore back and you get very bored. We’d rather him working on stuff to get better.”

From what we saw briefly, everything looks very encouraging.

“That’s good. I’m encouraged about that. He’s in the process of rehabbing. There’s been no setbacks, which is good news. He’s been around a ton in the meetings and everything. So, we’ve been ramping that up lately.”

How’s his attitude and mindset at this point?

“It’s been great. I think he went through some time, just like everyone does when they have that disappointment and things like that. But, he’s been around the guys a lot lately. He’s been eager in the meetings and stuff, which shows that he’s ready to get healthy and get back into football.”

Has being on the sideline been valuable to him listening to the plays? I know that he was sort of lost when he was in that world last year when he had first come in.

“Yeah, definitely. It was much easier for him this year. I think it’s always good for guys to sit back and just watch, especially when you know an offense inside and out. First time you get to do that, for myself, was when I became a coach. Then, you get to sit in and just get to watch when you know everything. As a coach, after doing that for a couple years you wish you could go play again because you realize how much it would help you. It’s a situation that players don’t want to get. But, if they do get put in that situation, you take advantage of it and stuff like that. It definitely can help.”

What’s the genesis of offensive line coach John Benton’s guitar playing the last practice of the year?

“He always plays the guitar. He’s just very quiet and doesn’t tell many people about it. Last time I caught him playing the guitar is when we had to sleep here on a Thursday night game. I was sleeping, trying to go to bed at like three in the morning. He didn’t know I was in there. So, he was jamming his guitar so loud by himself to where I had to run out of my room. He thought he was alone. But, no, John loves playing music and I forget what happened, but he did it last year on a Friday. We won that week. When that stuff happens, it becomes a tradition. He was up again today.”

Did you have a favorite song that he played?

“I like all the Guns N’ Roses stuff he plays. That was my favorite rock group back in third grade when I had to hide the cassette tape that I had because my mom didn’t want me to listen to it. But, it wasn’t as bad as N.W.A and 2 Live Crew.”

Lil’ Wayne?

“No, that’s not comparable. Much better.”

Have you guys been approached about the Senior Bowl yet?

“No, we haven’t been approached. But, I’m sure it’s coming.”

Is that something that you would want to do?

“Yeah. You have mixed emotions about it always as a coach. But, it’s something that you never turn down. It’s an advantage for you. Any little thing helps. If you can find out more about one guy, whether it affects a seventh-round pick or a free agent you go for, it’s always worth it. If that opportunity happens, we’ll be there.”

With Marquise, when he came back from his two-game absence, his playing time was significantly down. Was that because you wanted to get Pettis a longer look or was Goodwin still not all the way back? Was he being demoted?

“No, I wouldn’t say demoted. But, everything else, it’s all the above. It started out with we were planning on doing it more to try to get Pettis better. We wanted Pettis to come along and we thought if he stayed out and played more it’d give him a chance to get better. First time he got to do that was Tampa, which wasn’t a choice because Quise left the day before for good reasons. Then, Pettis did struggle at times in that game, but he got better as the game went which made us realize we need to keep him out there. So, when Quise was going to come back, we were going to mix him in more. [WR Kendrick] Bourne stepped up, too. So, we’re trying to do a rotation, how we think is best for the team, best for all of our guys. Then, in the meantime, Quise just got banged up again. I think we started to use him a little more versus Denver. But, his health has kind of made it hard.”

Have you gleaned much from watching Los Angeles Rams RB C.J. Anderson in his limited time with the Rams?

“No. I mean he looks how he always has. C.J. is a good runner and he’s efficient. If they give him a lane, he’s going to hit it. He’s been successful in this league. He’s a bigger guy that’s not easy to bring down. He’s a good player, definitely. It was good news for us. We just heard about [Los Angeles Rams RB] Todd [Gurley II] before I came in. But, they’ve got a good run scheme, a good O-Line and they’ve got backs who can definitely beat you.”

Will you do your walk through here tomorrow morning before you fly down or will you do one down there?

“No, we only do it down there if we go on a Friday. So, we’ll do it here.”

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of a guy getting four sacks. But, obviously, it sounded like talking to some of the guys in the locker room that they definitely don’t want to be on the wrong side of Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald breaking that record. Have you noticed that? Has that been talked about?

“No, it hasn’t been talked about. It doesn’t surprise me guys would answer it that way. It’s not a one-game record. I know we had a big part in that with how many he got the first time we played against them. I’ve been asked about that a lot this week. Aaron Donald is unbelievable every single time he steps on the field. So, people ask me if we’re going to get more from him this week or if it’s going to be more challenging. I don’t get how that’s possible. It’s as challenging as it gets every time you go against him. So, it’s just another game to me versus Aaron Donald, which is always a huge challenge.”