What have you guys accomplished in the first few days of OTA’s?
“Just getting back to it. We’ve had two days of install. Yesterday, we put the basic stuff in. We added a few more things today. We’ve got tomorrow off to watch all the tape and then we’ll add some more stuff on Thursday and start over the following week.”
Do you feel like you’ve added another coach to your staff in CB Richard Sherman?
“Yeah, I do to a degree. It’s always nice when you have someone who has a lot of experience in a very similar system. The foundation of it all came from the same spot, and when you’ve got a guy that has played in it that long and really started in that system and has kind of excelled in it as good as anyone, it’s nice to have.”
When the team was in special teams you guys were talking. Was that an X’s and O’s conversation or were the more broad?
“I think it was a couple things we went over in our team meeting. Just X’s and O’s stuff and then stuff we did right there in individual, probably. I can’t remember when we were talking, but yeah, it’s always X’s and O’s stuff. We both have a lot of history playing against each other’s teams so there’s lots of stuff that when we talk X’s and O’s, it brings up a couple plays from year’s prior that we could sit there and hang out and talk all day about.”
This was our first chance to see a lot of guys on the field, including RB Jerick McKinnon. It seemed like he and QB Jimmy Garoppolo have already built up some chemistry. Do you like what you’ve seen out of them so far?
“Yeah, definitely. Guys have been working. They put in a lot of work and it’s been nice because this is the first two days that we’ve been able to do real football work with the guys, actually going against a defense, having a ball out there with rules. But, these guys have been working before we started with them. They’ve been working when we’ve been allowed to work with them. They’ve been throwing on their own, wherever it might be. I think these guys had been itching to get out there and it was a lot of fun to start.”
DL DeForest Buckner obviously was a very disruptive player and one of your best guys along the interior. What is going to be the key for him to convert some of those pressures into sacks?
“Just to continue getting better. I think with D-Lineman especially, you learn a lot each year. You’ve got to have a certain type of ability. But, all lineman, how they block you is a little bit different. How quarterbacks play, their launch points, how quickly they get out and get rid of the ball, your conditioning level, how you can do it throughout a whole year. That’s up to us to keep them fresh, too. The more he can condition, the more he can be out there, also. Just taking it to another level. I think he played in a 3-4, two-gap scheme a lot of his career. Playing more one-gap last year. Hopefully his second year in that, you can think even less, and usually when people are thinking less, because it’s automatic, they know it, they start to play better.”
How much did he benefit--?
“Everybody improves with better play around them. As an inside guy, you can improve with outside edge rush. You can also improve with good corner play. You can improve with good hook players because as the quarterback, if no one is open, which gives you more of a second, more speed off the edge can give you more space against the guards. But, the better people get, the better our team gets overall, the better individuals get.”
Obviously, you can still tweak the roster between now and the season, but having a chance to kind of step back and look at what you’ve done this offseason, how do you assess what you guys were able to get done from a roster standpoint?
“I’ve been happy with it. I thought we had a lot of work to do when we got here. Just looking at our roster where we’re at over a year timespan, we have one guy on our offense who started before we got here in [T] Joe Staley. I want to say we have three guys left from the entire offense with [TE Garrett] Celek, Joe Staley, [G Joshua] Garnett and [WR Aaron] Burbridge. So, that’d be four guys, and that takes a lot of work. Not just with draft picks, but free agents. Not the big ones that everyone sees in the first couple days, but just the depth and everything that we’ve had to do. It’s been a lot of turnover. You don’t realize it until you get out there and start looking at the board. Defense there’s been a lot, also. Not quite as much, just because most of the draft picks were there the few years before we got here. But it’s totally different. There’s a ton of turnover with everybody and it’s just nice going through this last year that you go out the first day and everyone’s practicing the right way right away. You don’t have to sit in here and show a bunch of clips and try to teach guys the standard. It’s their standard now and they’ve owned up to that, and those guys know how to set the way and guys just follow.”
You said that once you’ve got Jimmy back here for the offseason program that you guys would start from square one. Did you do that and is he much more further along than you’d have a guy who was coming in for the first time?
“Yes. You start over with formations to understand why so that he’s not just memorizing it all every single week. You just know things. You don’t have to sit there and think about it. When you do that, you can just focus on really the tough jobs, which is throwing, going through progressions, playing in that pocket. Everyone knows the crash course that Jimmy got last year and it’s been nice to just slow it down, teach him some of the verbiage and the whys, instead of just, ‘Hey, memorize this by Sunday.’ It’s been nice for him to know why and be able to relax and talk through that stuff. Then, you hope that the more you do that, it’ll carry over to play better.”
Is Joshua Garnett going to be playing on the right side the majority of the time?
“Yes. We’ll move those guys all over. You kind of have to. I think in these first two days, he’s been all the right. [G Jonathan] Cooper’s not practicing with us until training camp, so we have some guys that are having to mix around in there. When you have three groups going, when you have less than 15 healthy O-Lineman, that means you’ve got to do some mix and matching. That’s 15 guys, three groups of five, so we move guys all over. Staley is pretty much the only one that stays in the same spot.”
What have your first impressions been of C Weston Richburg and what are you looking for in these first few practices?
“Just for him to learn the offense, own the offense, be out there communicating with the guys. We’ve seen the talent that we wanted on tape, so it’s nice to see that for these two practices that we’ve had. But, we kind of expected that. The main thing is how well does he work with the guys? How well good does he communicate with the guards, the tackles and the quarterback? There’s a lot of stuff the center is involved in getting all 11 guys on the same page and that takes a lot of time.
How has he been doing with that?
“He’s been real good. You can tell he’s a natural center and he’s done it his whole life. He had a very successful college career. That’s why I think he was a second-round draft pick and did a heck of a job in New York. Got to play a lot of center, got to play guard, so he’s been through it. Just the way he’s handling himself in the meeting rooms, even before we got out there, we could tell quickly it wasn’t going to be an issue.”
What have you guys seen in Garnett?
“I see a guy who’s really going for it. I’ve been very proud of how he’s handled his year off. Some guys when they go through that, they can get down, especially the surprise it was for him when it happened. He really took advantage of his year off. I think he’s changed his body. I think he’s lost weight and added some muscle. I think by doing that, you’re faster, you’re more athletic and I don’t believe he’s lost his power either because it’s been the right type of weight. He’s had a good two days. It’s real early, but he’s put himself in a position to be the best he can.”
Did RB Joe Williams take advantage of his year off?
“I think so. I noticed a couple runs today that flashed. With you asking, there’s two runs in particular that I told him he did a real good job on out there. It’s a little harder with running backs in training camp. There’s no pads on out there. We’re not trying to really run through arm tackles and stuff. We’re trying to go really hard but not hit each other, either. It’s a little tougher with running backs. Those are ones you see a little bit more, we’ll know more when we get to the preseason and put those pads on.”
He was out there with sweats on. Is he trying to lose weight at the same time?
“I don’t think so. A lot of those guys do that stuff. I don’t totally know why they wear hoods and stuff when it’s 90 out. I don’t know. They stay athletic and lean so it doesn’t bother me.”
Did you like how hard he ran today? Are you saying it’s tough to gauge that as a running back?
“No, I did like how he did. I was following up a question after Josh Garnett and how he took advantage of his year off. Joe wasn’t hurt as long as Josh, but he definitely, Joe’s always been in good shape. Physically, he’s very good. The thing with Joe is going to be how does he do when you get to preseason when those games start.”
Pass rush specialist Chris Kiffin has been added to the staff. He obviously comes from a great pedigree, but what do you like about him and what is his role specifically as a pass rush specialist?
“Really, exactly how it sounds. He’s really in charge of helping our guys out rush the quarterback. He’s assisting [defensive line coach Jeff] Zgonina in the defensive line room. When we lost [former assistant defensive line coach] Vince [Oghobaase] last year, who went to UCLA, we needed another guy in the D-Line room and we really wanted to get a guy who could isolate on the pass game, something Zgonina does well, too. Zgonina really, his strength is run game, too, because he’ll tell you, he played the A-gap for 17 years. He liked to be dirty down there and just hold to his deal and he’ll make sure everybody does that well. I wanted to get someone else in that could help him and also bring another taste to the pass game. We interviewed a number of guys, a bunch of guys. I think seven guys. Chris was our last guy and he was the most impressive, just from a teaching standpoint, the places he’s been, the people he’s worked with, the different types of schemes he’s done and he was very good on the board. He’s been very good here with the players so far.”
Is WR Trent Taylor dealing with an injury?
“Yeah, his back’s bothering him. He went a little bit yesterday and he just wasn’t looking right so we pulled him out. We didn’t let him go today and he’ll be week-to-week.”
Is the idea with DB Jimmie Ward that he will be the first guy off the bench, as he can start at four different spots?
“I think that’s a compliment I like to give Jimmie. That’s the type of player he is and how talented he is, that he’s capable. If Jimmie doesn’t earn a starting role, there’s also a good chance he’s the first backup at every single position, strong safety, free safety, nickel, corner, because he’s capable of being a starter at all of those positions, also. I’m hoping, which I think we have, we’ve added very good competition, so it’s not going to be easy for him to start at any of those five. Right now, he’s trying to do it at corner. We’ll reassess this at the end of OTAs and see how it is in training camp. If he’s not starting, that’s because those five guys in front of him are playing their positions very well and Jimmie will be the first guy most likely off the bench.”
Now that you have your hands on Jerick McKinnon, are there any surprises?
“Not so far. It’s still early, too. We’ve got two days in. We’ll watch it as coaches. Tomorrow we’ll put two days together and spend all of Wednesday watching both days with the players. When all of this ends at the end of it, we’ll put everything together and watch the whole camp as coaches. You don’t try to get too much into the first day, second day. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs through it all. Sometimes guys are going to look really good just because of the plays that happened go in that day versus the coverages that happened to go in that day. The next day it might be an all zone day and you won’t even see a receiver. There’s different types of things that happen and I’ll get a much better feel once we get through about 10 of these.”
What do you think about him?
“I’m very excited. It’s been exactly what we were hoping for so far. You can see the athlete on tape, but I didn’t know the person. I had heard a lot about him, but he’s been just as good as advertised as a guy, if not better.”
“A lot more today. The first day, we give them the script. Last Thursday, they get to go home for the weekend and they get to memorize the whole script, four periods of it. I’m not calling any random plays. We’re staying right on script. The quarterback calls the play. I don’t think half of them even have to hear it because they’ve already memorized it from the weekend. They run out to their spot all confidently. The first day is a lot better. But, no one can memorize two days in a row. Then you put in a bunch more stuff for Tuesday, they don’t have the whole weekend to review it. You just throw it in a few different spots. Yes, the deer in headlights look happens about halfway through practice. It overwhelms them a little bit like, ‘Oh man, I thought I had it yesterday. I don’t have it,’ and then they kind of freeze. That’s why it’s so great for rookies to go through OTAs. Usually you go through this, ‘Alright, it’s easier than I thought. Oh my gosh, I can’t play football. I got to get out of here.’ You get away for a month, you come back and you’ve relaxed and you start the exact same process over in training camp and it’s just a little bit easier. It helps your confidence.”
Is Cooper’s injury a knee?
With LB Malcolm Smith playing MIKE, I assume he’s going to play both over these next few weeks?
Is it important for him to play MIKE early just because of his familiarity and his communication skills?
“Yeah, definitely. The positions are very similar as opposed to what their drops and what they do athletically. If you’re going to play WILL, our MIKE communicates to everyone. He sets the calls, he calls it in the huddle, he changes it at the line of scrimmage. When tight ends motion, he changes the strengths and everything. If you’re not used to speaking that stuff every day, it’s hard to just throw a guy into that situation. We’ve got a bunch of good players at inside linebacker. There’s only two spots. You guys understand the situation with [LB] Reuben [Foster] now. We’ve got a lot of depth, too, with what we’ve had and what we’ve drafted. So we’ve got to make sure all those guys are interchangeable, so we’ve got to give him reps at both and we’ll see how this pans out by Week 1.”
Speaking of the guy you drafted, was LB Fred Warner playing MIKE today?
What did you learn working with him?
“He’s been very impressive out there. He’s a very smart guy, which you don’t always know if that’s going to be the case until you get someone because that doesn’t’ always translate to the field. He’s very smart and he plays like it on the field. He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a rookie out there, but he’s calling the plays maybe even too loud because I can hear him from the offensive side. But, he doesn’t mind speaking up. He’s confident in what he’s doing. It’s going to get a little bit harder for him as it goes and we’ll have to bring him back a little bit for training camp, but he’s had an impressive two days.”
With tomorrow, the judge will make a decision on Reuben. How closely are you guys monitoring this? Do you have a plan in place? Could he be joining the offseason program this week if the judge says certain things?
“With that whole thing, it’s still ongoing. Hopefully we’ll have some more answers by tomorrow. We’ve been patient this whole time and we’re going to continue be patient until we get a few more answers and then when the decision does come, I promise you guys I’ll answer that for you right away.”
Have you been able to keep in contact with him or provide him with any install?
“I don’t know about the install, but I reach out to him about once, twice a week just to see how he’s doing.”
How is he doing?
“He’s hanging in there. Obviously, it’s a tough challenge. I think anyone would realize, this is a very hard thing to go through. We’ll see how this ends up, but you just always hope that every situation you’re in, in the long run it can make you a better person and a better man. I think Reuben is handling it right.”
Kind of a bigger picture question. With the situation with DL Kentavius Street, there’s talk that these guys work out too much in the pre-draft workouts, things like that. What is your opinion on that? Do you feel like something needs to change there?
“No, I don’t. I just think there’s a bear in the building with anything that happens. If someone tears an ACL in a workout and it happened to be a workout for coaches, and there’s nothing to talk about that day, it’s going to be all over and people are going to continue to talk about it like it’s the end of the world. I get it. People are going to get hurt. We want to work them out. Also, if you don’t get to work that person out sometimes the reason you’re going to work them out is because you think he looks like a sixth-round draft choice on tape but you want to draft him in the third round, but you can’t do that unless you go work them out. There’s lots of pluses and minuses to both and a lot of it is just life and I don’t think we can always control that.”