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Kyle Shanahan talks Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon progress, Ahkello Witherspoon growth

The 49ers head coach met with the media to close out day two of practice. We’ve got a full transcript, and you can watch video here.

First two days in. What do you think?

“Just two days in. Trying to get everybody back into it, get into the groove. Long days, long meetings. Everyone is getting their camp shape back, so you can stay up through these meetings. Guys were amped up yesterday. Same thing today, and I know they will be tomorrow when we put those pads on.”

You made some changes as far as when walk-through is conducted from a year ago, correct?

“I don’t think so.”

I thought you had a break between walk-through and the actual practice.

“We practice in the morning and we do a walk-through in the afternoon. Pre-practice, we do a seven-minute walk-thorough for special teams and a little 10-minute walk-through for O and D. We did that last year for the first couple of days and then we ended up cutting it off. But, it’s just part of practice.”

Will you continue doing that?

“Yeah, right now. But, eventually when we’ll take some time off and maybe make it shorter. We always get that walk-through in the afternoon so eventually that’s something we could take off.”

What did you make of QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s first two days of camp? Yesterday, it seemed like he had a little bit harder time. With his efficiency today, not too many balls hit the ground. What do you make of his play?

“Two days back. It’s early. I would have almost thought the opposite. I thought we were better yesterday than today. I don’t know about completions-wise, and I’ll be in to watch the film in a second. But, I thought the defense had two real good days. Did a little better than the offense yesterday. I thought today was a big difference. I was a little more disappointed today. The whole O came out just a little too M.A.’s, too many offsides and things like that. I don’t think the offense had a very good rhythm today.”

What did you see from RB Matt Breida today? It seemed like he was kind of finding his way out there. What are you expecting from him during this camp?

“Matt’s real consistent. He ran like that throughout OTAs, he ran like that yesterday and it seemed like he ran pretty good today. Matt hits it hard. He goes full speed whether we have pads on or not. He’s going to find that hole and when we do give him some space, he hit it hard and I think there were a few runs today that we gave him a little bit of space on. That’s why everyone saw him open up a couple times.”

We saw T Mike McGlinchey get the crowd riled up before practice. Is that going to be a rookie assignment every practice now?

“I think so. I didn’t start it, but I think the guys were, I heard they were starting as rookie hype machine thing. They’re going to designate a rookie to get the crowd going every day.”

He did a good job today.

“He did do a good job. For that to be the first one, for someone to have to get better after that it could get pretty bad. Someone might have to calm them down eventually.”

Which rookie would you be the most concerned about breaking character in doing that?

“I mean, last year [LB] Reuben [Foster] might have tackled someone so that would have made me nervous. I would’ve thought McGlinchey, but he kind of surprised me out there. He went up into the stands and everything. I don’t think they were expecting that much to hype them up but his effort was good. Maybe tomorrow we can hype the offense up a little bit more instead of the fans.”

RB Jerick McKinnon said yesterday that when he first got the playbook he was pretty overwhelmed. Have you seen a lot of progress from OTAs to now?

“Yeah. You know, still, we’re only two days in so I’ll tell you guys as we get going more. These first two days of training camp, we do seven days of install throughout OTAs so you get OTA one is install one and then you go all the way up to seven and then OTA eight and nine is different. Then, training camp, we start the exact same thing over again. So, our install yesterday and then today was the exact same as OTA one and two. So, it’s always easier for the guys to go through it a second time. That’s what’s so hard when those rookies like last year missed OTAs because now is their first time. Jerick works so hard and studies so hard, so he was prepared in OTAs but he had to go through the learning curve of doing it physically. Now, just natural when you go through the exact same thing twice it’s a little bit easier.”

What were the things in practice you didn’t like?

“I just thought we got out to a slow start, you know. We came out and had a couple offsides early. Had a couple missed assignments early. We’re not calling plays out there right now. Everything is scripted and stuff so you should know what’s expected. Just a few early mistakes early in practice and one thing leads to another. It’s hard to regain that. I just want us to come out a little more focused early on. You get beat, you get beat. But, I don’t want to beat ourselves.”

Are you talking about both sides of the ball?

“I was talking on the offense, yeah. No, I thought the defense was better today than yesterday. I thought they did really good yesterday, too.”

There was a couple times where the offense would go to the line of scrimmage, say something and then go back. Was it just one player not knowing his assignment?

“Yeah. That happens when you call a play and come out of the huddle and you’ve got three receivers in there that are changing positions every play and then you’ve got two guys go to X because one guy was X last play but we moved him to Z. Just things like that you’ve got to re-huddle up on. It gets sloppy and it kind of takes out the flow of practice and that’s frustrating things that players and coaches got to be more on.”

As far as G Laken Tomlinson, looking back at last year, how would you describe the trajectory of his season?

“We were so impressed with Laken last year because similar to Jimmy in terms of we traded for Laken. I want to say it was like seven days before our first game. He didn’t start that first game but he started that second game and every game after that. For him to come in, he was a very athletic lineman that we did like his skill set but he never really had played in a scheme where he really opened it up and ran. It was totally opposite what he had ever been asked to do and that’s as hard for an O-Lineman to make an adjustment to me to really any position on our team. What he was able to do in Week 2, just to get him in to play and then how different he was in Week 8 to how different he was in Week 16. You’re going to take coaching and the coaches are going to do it, but when you get thrown in that situation, you’ve got to realty be able to figure it out on your own to a degree. There’s not all the time like there is in the offseason. Laken to improve that much throughout the year as an O-Lineman in a totally different scheme than he’s ever done was very encouraging to us. We saw the same thing throughout the offseason. We thought he had a very good OTAs. That’s why we were extremely excited to get him locked up here for a little bit before we got started.”

When you say open up and run, do you think that suited him better than, I don’t know what it was, but a power scheme?

“Yeah, we did. He’s extremely athletic and talented. I think that’s why he was a first-round draft choice. Everyone has different philosophies and different schemes and stuff, but I would say ours out of any allows O-Linemen to really open up and run more than any others. When you do have that speed and talent and stuff, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to always block people well, but it means you can use a different skill set or show it on tape. That’s stuff you couldn’t really see. He didn’t do it much in college. He didn’t do in much in Detroit. But, it’s fit him well here. But, it takes guys a while to learn how to play a certain way that they’ve never done before and that’s what was so impressive about him.”

You were talking about trade I would assume a little bit. Did senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew play a role in that trade since he drafted him?

“It’s always scary to trade for a guy that you don’t know. So, it always starts with what we see on tape. We take everyone’s opinion from everyone up there in personnel to our O-Line coaches to myself to [run game coordinator Mike] McDaniel, we all look at all the O-Line and get our opinions. I remember I evaluated Laken hard when I was in Atlanta coming out of Duke. So, I had a very good idea of him athletically. Then, when you know someone who has been in the building with him who drafted him. Obviously, he thought highly of him, too, because he drafted him. But, you kind of get to know what type of person he is, what he’s like, what has happened there and gives you more confidence knowing what you’re getting.”

Kind of a random question. There’s a story about you getting a care package from one of your favorite musicians [Lil Wayne]. What happened there? How did that all come about?

“Yeah. Well, someone on a podcast let that out a while ago. It was pretty messed up. But yeah, he let that out so people heard. I think it got to him. It was funny because [WR] Pierre [Garçon] came up to me right when we got back and he was like, ‘Hey, somebody sent me something.’ I guess his manager or someone knew Pierre. So, they asked Pierre if they sent him something if he could hand it to me. So, Pierre brought it to me right when we got back. It was cool. It was exciting.”

What all did you get exactly?

“Just a couple posters signed from him, one to me and one to my son. Then, two CD’s signed to both of us. Mine has the cuss words. The one he gave to my son was edited. So, he’s very thoughtful. It was cool so I can actually play it for my son. It was pretty neat. He was pumped when I showed him when I got home. But he still doesn’t know how cool it actually is.”

Is that really the genesis of your son’s name?

“Yeah, I mean, if I told you it was 100-percent that my wife would kill me. My wife really liked the name and at the time, I was just so infatuated. When I got into the NFL, I always had to sit in rooms and break down film and draw up plays. It started when I was in Tampa with [Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jon] Gruden. The only thing that gets you through is just sitting there and listening to music. I started out, when I was doing that, it was ‘Tha Carter I,’ Wayne’s first CD. He’s got four of them, five if Birdman ever lets it out. So ‘Tha Carter I’ started it and I was just always into that. When my wife told me she liked the name Carter, it was easy for me because I was pretty obsessed at the time.”

Which one did he give you?

“He gave me ‘Tha Carter IV.’ He gave my son Carter, ‘Tha Carter III.’ It was cool. I was pumped.”

I’m a ‘Carter I’ guy.

“Me too.”

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said yesterday that CB Ahkello Witherspoon looks more like a man, a grown man this year. Have you noticed the same thing and what type of steps in his progression have you seen him take?

“Yeah, definitely. I mean it happened almost halfway through last year. We knew we drafted a big corner and I swear he looked twice as big halfway through the year out there. He started getting his confidence, especially when he got to play. I mean, Ahkello is a very smart person. He realized that he had the talent to do it, you have to go out there and feel it. I think Ahkello knows that he has a very high ceiling. When he knows that, he also doesn’t mind working. He spent this offseason possessed on honing his craft. He works as hard as anyone. He’s very intelligent and wants to think everything through so he’s always asking questions. I think Sherm has helped him a lot, just to pick his brain too and he’s going for it. He’s making sure that he’s going to be the best he can.”

What specifically do you think CB Richard Sherman, how has Sherman helped him?

“Well, I just think Ahkello is a unique dude. I always say he’s kind of got like a ‘Gandhi-like’ approach. He’s very chill but he thinks about everything. If you’re going to coach him, he wants to know why. He wants to understand everything. Those are the type of guys that I like because I think they’re capable of getting a lot better. Then when you bring in someone like Sherm who I think is very similar to that, different personalities but wants to know the ‘why,’ wants to think about everything. Now Ahkello has a player who’s played in his scheme that he’s not just asking [defensive backs coach Jeff] Hafley a thousand questions or Salah or coming to myself. Now he has a player to go through it too because the player has done it and done it at a very high level.”

What kind of improvements have you seen from QB C.J. Beathard from the end of year one to where he is now?

“Just comfortable. I think C.J. has such a good feel of the offense, just like [QB] Nick Mullens does. They went through this whole thing last year and now just to see him this year, especially after going through phase one and phase two in OTAs, it’s very easy for them. They don’t have to think as much. It’s a lot easier for Jimmy now than it was last year but I promise you that it’s going to be even easier next year after going through a second offseason. So, he’s much more comfortable. I’ve always thought very highly of C.J. I thought he played very well last year and we put him in as tough of a situation as I think a rookie could be put in. Sometimes that breaks guys and C.J. is mentally and physically as tough as any quarterback I’ve ever been around. He doesn’t care how many times he gets hit. If he makes a bad play, that guy believes in himself and he works at it so he always corrects his mistakes. That’s why I think he’ll always get better.”

Does it seem like the ball is coming out of his hand easier than it did a year ago?

“Yeah, I think that’s, he’s more decisive. There’s zero hesitation and that’s what we liked about him in college too. When you’re very decisive and that’s how you are, sometimes you make mistakes and when you’re a decisive guy who makes mistakes, that can be a pick. It can be a misread. You don’t know what’s going to happen. But, now I think he’s doing it more consistently and seeing it more because when he does make mistakes, he learns from them because he thinks about it and learns how to correct it. That’s why I think he will always continue to improve. When he has a bad day, it usually makes him better because he learns from it.”

The reality with C.J. is that Jimmy signs a five-year contract, C.J. has a four-year deal. In an ideal world, how aware of that reality is he and how is he responding to that situation just knowing that maybe his starting opportunity could be elsewhere?

“C.J.’s a smart guy and he understands I think what everyone else does. I think it was somewhat hard for C.J. when Jimmy came here because Jimmy had a pretty good opportunity and Jimmy came and played extremely well. I think everyone could see that and I think C.J. did too. I think that made it a little bit easier because Jimmy played at such a high level. But, I think C.J. does believe in himself and believes he can start in this league and I know I do too. I think this is a good thing for C.J., that he can get better through this stuff. I know he wants reps. He’s going to get it in practice, he’s going to get a lot in the preseason and it’s the cliché everyone says, you’re always one play away from starting. I hope that never happens because you don’t want something to happen to Jimmy, but I know C.J. will be ready if he does. And if not, just the way he works, he will get better regardless and there’s plenty of stories that people know of good things happening to backup quarterbacks regardless of where it’s at.”

In terms of Pierre Garçon, is this offense still set up in a way where he’s probably going to be the most targeted guy or the biggest producer? What do you want to see out of him this camp, this is like his 11th camp?

“Just to be the same guy I’ve always known and to do his job. Last year there was a lot more pressure on ‘P’ when we started out. He was the only guy out there who had ever started before. Marquise had never started before on the other side. All of the guys were rookies. ‘P’ was the only guy that I felt could handle all of that pressure because he’s been through it. When Pierre got hurt, there was a lot of pressure put on guys like [WR Kendrick] Bourne, on [TE George] Kittle, on Marquise and I don’t think all of them were quite ready for that yet. But, I do think that’s why we got a little bit better, because we had no choice. Those guys had to go through that. They fought through it because they’re the right guys and it made them better. Now going into this year, we have lots of guys who I think can handle it. When it comes to targets and stuff, we’ll see what the coverages are. We hope to get everyone the ball, but there isn’t just one guy on our team that we’re feeding this guy every play. We’re going to put guys out there, we’re going to give everyone an opportunity to get open and we’re going to see what the coverage is and coach the quarterback where to go with the ball.”

Marquise seemed to have a pretty strong first two days of practice. Today, not so much obviously, I think he had a bubble pass. How do you feel about his progression and the progress he’s made considering how he closed out last season on a strong note?

“Marquise, we’ve talked about a lot. Everyone knows his talent and he’s just always believed it, that he could do it. But, it’s hard until you do it and that’s what he battled through last year. It was a little bit up and down and then it finally clicked, as everyone knows. He finished the year out strong and that’s led to this offseason. I think he’s a much more confident guy. He knows he can do it. It’s not just about saying he can now because he’s done it and I think he’s been a leader on our team. I think he’s battled through a lot of adversity and ‘Quise is a guy who’s been extremely consistent since halfway through the year. He’s a guy who we count on a lot.”