You’ve been called James by CB Richard Sherman.
“I haven’t been called James probably since my grandma was calling me James. So, it’s been a little while, but it’s all in good fun.”
Can you give us the story behind that?
“You’ll have to ask [DB] Adrian Colbert about that. He’ll give you a good story.”
You guys are about to take a more than a month-long break. Are there any thoughts or plans to get together with your skill guys at some point during the intermission?
“Yeah. I think there’s going to be a good amount of guys here. So, we’ll have plenty of time to get together. We don’t get the same type of ability to use the facility as we would now, but we’ll figure out a way to get it done.”
Are you now headquartered here? Is this central for you?
“Yeah. This is home now. I’ll go back to Chicago for a little bit to see the family and all that, but for the most part I’ll be here.”
How did you see some of the benefits of your Saturday sessions before the OTAs actually show up in OTA and minicamp practices?
“You know, I think especially for me still being pretty new this offseason, it just helped us get on the same page with me and the receivers and really all the skill guys. We had everyone out there. It’s just being able to talk through that stuff without the coaches, I’ve said this before, it’s invaluable.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned some cadence issues to start the practice yesterday. How did that develop and what was your reaction to it?
“It sucked. I mean, it wasn’t any fun. When that goes wrong it just screws up the rest of the play. So, first and foremost we’ve got to get that corrected. But, we were trying some different things yesterday. We’ll keep working at those. You’d rather those happen in practice than in the game.”
How much responsibility do you take for that, or just generally to get the unit going?
“It’s all on the quarterback. I mean, I’m the one doing the cadence. I have to make sure that me and all of the other quarterbacks are saying it the same way and sounding similar to one another. Just getting everyone on the same page.”
It looked like you kind of kept them after class yesterday?
“Yeah, I think we needed to. I think we had, I don’t know how many we had, four or five false starts or just we didn’t all go off at the same time. It’s stuff we’re working on. That’s what practice is for, but we hate to have it happen at all.”
Were they not hearing you correctly? Were you not delivering it the way you would normally do?
“No, it was just, I mean a couple of them were new cadences and things that we haven’t worked before. You try new things like that and it’s one thing to do it in a walk-through environment, but once you get into those live reps and bullets are flying and guys are thinking of a million different things, you’re reading a defense, it’s a lot to think about. So, just slowing everything down and getting us all on the same page, it’ll come in time.”
How do you think these last two months went just in terms of the offseason program and where this team is at?
“I think it’s been good. I think [head strength & conditioning coach] Ray [Wright] and his group did a great job of getting us in shape. We’ve looked sharp for the most part in practice. Yesterday was a little sloppy offensively, but overall I think it’s been a very successful camp.”
Was it best case scenario pretty much for everything and how much you now know of the offense?
“Yeah, I think I’ve come a long way, especially from last season where I was just kind of cramming everything in. But, still a long way to go developing that chemistry between me and the skill positions, the O-Line, everything. It’s a work in progress every time.”
What is the area that you kind of really want to focus in on and hone either before training camp or during training camp?
“I think a big part for us as a whole offensively is just finishing in the end zone. Last year we got stopped short a couple of times more than we’d like to. I think we’ve done a good job this OTAs and minicamp of finishing in the end zone for the most part, finishing drives and stuff like that.”
Do you guys have enough red zone targets, do you think?
“Oh yeah. We’ve got the weapons for it. Coach has put us in a good situation and we need to come through and complete the play.”
It seems that there’s some added spirit in those red zone sessions, especially when TE Garrett Celek scores. I just noticed you guys cheering it a little bit more. Is that born from the fact that you did struggle a bit there towards the end of last year?
“Those are point plays. They’re either a seven-point play or three. You know what I mean? Those are the ones that really matter. When you get those opportunities, it’s hard to complete a touchdown, especially in the red zone like that. The windows are tighter, not as much room. And so, especially when Celek gets one it gets everyone going.”
Now that you’ve been established here, how much change have you seen just in terms of attention you get from endorsements, businesses, things like that, and how do you handle it?
“I have agents for that, so they help me a lot with that. But, for the most part I just come out here, try to compete every day, be the best quarterback I can for this team and make our team better one day at a time.”
Do they give you options? How do you go about choosing what you do and don’t do? How do you balance it with the football?
“Right now I’m locked into football. This is priority number one. All that stuff, you’ve got the offseason for that and we get free time here and there that you get to talk about that stuff. But, for the most part, I try to stay locked into this.”
Along those same lines, it seems like you’re a guy that prefers a little bit of a lower profile. So, what has been your approach to the spotlight you’ve had over the last several months?
“I think low profile is a good way to put it. That’s just how I’ve always been. I don’t know. Going out with [T Joe] Staley, he brings a lot of cameras and attention to us, so it’s tough going out with him a lot. No, it’s been fun. The Bay Area, there’s great people here and a great group of fans.”
When Shanahan was asked about the expectations of the offense going into next year, he said it was pretty good the last five games. Don’t maybe expect to see a huge jump just because it was so good. Do you feel the same way or do you expect some kind of noticeable jump?
“Personally, I hope to improve. We always hope to improve as an offense, as a team. In football you never stop improving and once you do you’re in trouble. We’re always trying to improve, doing everything we can to get better and we’ll see what happens this upcoming season.”
When you think back to a year ago to where you were, at that time, how much were you thinking about when your starting opportunity would come and where it might be?
“I don’t know. I can’t remember, to be honest with you. I was just locked into OTAs. Once we get going with camp like this and stuff, as a quarterback you have a lot to deal with, just football, playbook, all that stuff. So, when you start thinking about all of the other stuff, you get distracted. For the most part I’m pretty locked into this.”
But, just bigger picture as you were in your career, were you thinking a lot about when it may happen for you that you’d have the chance you have now?
“Not really. I figured at some point it would happen. Like I said, when you start thinking about that stuff you get distracted. For the most part I stay locked in.”
How have you and this team been able to stay locked in? It seems like everybody is kind of picking you guys to be a dark horse this year for playoff contention. How has everyone stayed grounded?
“We don’t really listen to it. I think that’s the biggest part. I’ve said this before, there’s all kinds of noise out there. People make predictions all the time, but at the end of the day it’s what we do on the practice field and in the meeting rooms and how we go out and perform on Sundays.”
Kyle was saying that it’s really nice to have a group of guys who will be visibly annoyed and upset when things aren’t’ going right so that he doesn’t have to ‘MF’ guys up and down. Is that a sign to you that you have the right guys in the locker room?
“Yeah. It shows that guys care. If someone was to mess something up and just kind of brush it off, it’s kind of annoying. You want guys who care about the game, who care about this team. I think we have a good group in there.”
What’s your take on the bond that the other guy, T Mike McGlinchey, who is protecting you has developed with your left side, with Staley?
“I think they need a TV show, personally. There’s a good idea behind that. No, those two are a match made in heaven. They’re very fun guys to be around. Just found out Mike can throw the hell out of the ball today. They’re both very talented.”
How far did he throw it?
“You’ll have to ask him. He launched that thing though.”
You talked about developing chemistry with the skill players and the offensive line. Can you talk specifically a little bit about what you’ve seen from McGlinchey and WR Dante Pettis the last couple practices?
“Yeah. The O-Line as a whole has been very, very solid, working together well. I think being in the second year together with, I mean, a couple new additions but for the most part the core is the same, so it’s nice to have that in front. It makes my job a whole lot easier. Dante, I think he’s coming along. As any rookie is in OTAs, it’s always hard to start and pick up the playbook and all that but he’s done a great job. He’s doing three different positions right now. It’s impressive.”
Your two most veteran cornerbacks have been hurt the last couple weeks. What have you seen from the younger guys that have been playing in those outside spots?
“All of the DBs together, they work very well together. That’s kind of how our defense works. If one guy falls out of place, then there’s a huge hole and we take advantage of it. But, they do a good job communicating. They make it difficult on us and we’ve had some battles day in and day out which I think will make us a better team in the long run.”
They seem like carbon copies of one another, the cornerbacks at least. Have you ever been on a team with that size, that height?
“It’s the length.”
How does that affect what you do as a quarterback?
“It makes you adjust your throws. There’s some throws you need to put a little higher. Even the linebackers, they have such long arms some of them, that you have to adjust your throws or get it over the top of them without getting it too far to the safeties. It makes my job a lot more difficult, but I think going against those guys day in and day out will only help us going down the road.”
CB Richard Sherman gave us a pretty good scouting report on you yesterday. He said something about when you pick your other hand off the ball the DB’s got to be ready for it. Have you had a chance to sit down and pick his brain at all about what he sees, even though you haven’t practiced against him?
“Yeah. He’s like a coach out there. He’s watching everything. Yeah, the defense has told me that. But, at the same time, I use that against them because they’re thinking that. It’s a game of cat and mouse. It always is. They’re reading you, you’re reading them at the same time. It’s a who flinches first type of thing. We’ve had some good battles and it’s been a good camp.”
Do you anticipate this year being an extension of that game of cat and mouse since teams have had a few games to see this offense with you at the helm of it heading into the season?
“That’s the NFL for you in a nutshell. Everybody has tape on everybody. You’re studying for an entire week. You go years and years back on some guys and some D-coordinators or whatever or some quarterbacks. That’s the game we play week in and week out and it’s about who does it better at the end of the day.”
It’s very well documented that you went 5-0 as a starter last year. I’m going to get negative for a second. What was your worst throw or decision last year during those games and is it something that you think about and what was behind it, why did it happen?
“Oh, man. Any of the interceptions. Those are never good decisions. The more you can minimize those, the ball is the most important thing when you’re playing a football game. Usually if you lose the turnover battle, you’re going to lose the game. I think just minimizing those, not taking unwanted risks and knowing when to and when not to. I think those are important. That’s what practice is for. You learn what throws you can make with which guys and which guys are going to protect the ball better than others. You learn how to trust one another in practice.”