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Kyle Shanahan talks Reuben Foster, Joe Williams’ development, and offensive progress

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

How did today go? How do you rate today versus yesterday?

“I thought it was our best day yet just all around. All three phases, I thought were solid. Still got a lot of improvement to do, but first day of pads I think everyone came out focused. It was a physical practice, but at the same time, I thought we took care of each other, also. There weren’t too many guys on the ground and I was pleased.”

I know you’re looking in a lot of different directions, but this is T Mike McGlinchey’s first padded practice. Did you watch him at all? If you did, how did he do?

“You know, from what I saw out there, when live plays are on I’ll notice him when our run is going at him and stuff. Pass plays I’m looking down the field and stuff. The one-on-ones, I was over with the receivers and DBs. I’ll see most of that on tape, but it looked good out there from what I saw live.”

You talked about RB Matt Breida the other day. Is there anything noticeable with him in terms of confidence from where he was a year ago, just feeling more comfortable or anything like that?

“Yeah. It’s very noticeable. You could see it on tape. When we got to February, we were watching the cut-ups in the offseason. You can see those last four games kind of start to click for him, really get the feel. He’s got a lot of ability. He’s tough. He runs hard. I think we could see it on tape. He’s a smart guy who can feel it himself, too. You could tell when he came back here in the offseason and he came back with a different confidence. He took care of himself, worked hard in the offseason, was great in OTAs and the 40 days we were away he even worked harder and was even more ready to go when we got back. He’s been pretty impressive these three days.”

It seemed like you guys have integrated a lot of stuff with your tight ends on offense. How important is that going to be for you, having these tight ends integrated in this offense?

“It’s always important. All five eligibles, whoever it is. I didn’t even realize that today, to tell you the truth, because it’s almost balanced in all of the situations. It just depends what the coverages are. Sometimes when the coverages take the receivers away, tight ends got to step up and same with backs. If you’re a guy who gets on a route, you’ve got to be able to do something for us because you never know when the ball is coming to you.”

What have you seen from TE George Kittle so far?

“We were very impressed with Kittle last year. I think I talked some about it yesterday, all of my days are running together. He was banged up a lot last year and he came in very healthy. He’s also worked. He’s got his explosiveness back. He’s a physical guy who can block well and he’s got a year in the system where he’s got a lot more confidence. So, he’s not thinking as much out there. He’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

General manager John Lynch at one point in the offseason mentioned he was going to look into things you guys could do maybe on the injury front to prevent injuries from happening. Obviously, that was an issue last year. I remember you guys had a pretty physical training camp last year. Was that an emphasis, to maybe dial back the physicality early in training camp with the pads coming on?

“No, not at all. I think training camp is the only time that we will put football pants on the entire year except on Sunday’s. You’re allowed 14 padded practices during the year. Not one of those 14 do we ever put pants on. On those 14 practices, we keep pads on for team run and team pass, which is 20 reps. I promise you one guy is not getting all of those 20 reps. A player gets an average of about 10 shoulder pad practice reps a week during the season. So, if you want to take care of them in training camp that’s fine. But, you better train them to play football in the season then, too. But, now they’re worn down. They’re not recovered from Sunday. So, everyone’s got different philosophies, but we try to never go to the ground. We try to never tackle. If we’re in a profile position where we can thud a guy up and wrap, you need to get that physicality and get yourself ready to play football.”

LB Reuben Foster has been flying around. I think it’s what we expected, but has he been using the technique that you guys want him to use that maybe will protect his shoulders and keep him on the field this year?

“He’s working at it. It’s shown. I think that’s the hardest thing for all athletes. You do things that make you successful your entire life, then you see there’s different ways to do things and ways that you can change things up to maybe help your career. But, that just doesn’t happen automatically. You can say it all you want, that’s why you have to have a physical practice. We’re trying to get Reuben to use his hands a little bit more, not always fit with his shoulders and stuff. Well, we’re practicing hard out there. He’s mindful of it so you can see him starting to use it. Sometimes he does what he’s always done, but if you practice that way every day then he has a chance in the season to have improved. If you don’t have a physical camp, you never put pads on, you can talk all you want but you’re not just thinking about it. This is muscle memory and how your body reacts in the heat of battle. These are situations we’re trying to put him in as much as we can. Reuben is very mindful of it so you can see him using it. The more he does it each day he’ll develop some better habits.”

Is there something about RB Jeremy McNichols’ skill set that makes him stand out in the group of running backs?

“I think we’ve got a good group. All of those guys are pushing each other hard. We liked Jeremy coming out of college and were fortunate enough to steal him off Tampa’s practice squad and put him on ours last year. He got some learning experience being on our practice squad all year. He missed most of the offseason because he had to get his shoulder surgery, so now he’s finally healthy. He’s got some running skills. He’s similar to other guys. He can press it, he can hit it. He’s got some speed. Today was the first day we saw him in pads, his first day back from his shoulder. It’s real early to know about him but we’ve liked him so far and he’ll have a chance here as we get going.”

QB Jimmy Garoppolo talked the other day about his confidence level. How does that confidence manifest itself on the field?

“Jimmy is confident in himself. I think everyone felt that right away. That’s why guys gravitate to guys. It doesn’t matter what people say or how they act. People can tell when people believe in themselves and when they don’t. But, it shows the most on the field. When you’re having success as a quarterback, as a receiver, as anybody, that confidence is only going to grow. When people start seeing you, the more plays you can put together the higher it gets. So, it’s been pretty good so far.”

There was that one pitch left to RB Joe Williams late where it just seemed that he shot out of a cannon. Is that kind of the run that is really conducive to his skillset?

“Yes. It was a very good hole for him. They blocked it very well. Joe has the size and speed and explosiveness to if he has a good hole and he hits it and doesn’t hesitate, he can make some big plays. He got an opportunity where he had some space and it was really good. There was zero hesitation and he hit it without blinking. I think that’s why it was a pretty good result.”

Yesterday, you didn’t seem too happy with some of the confusion of some of the scripted plays. There was one instance, I believe it was WR Kendrick Bourne who had some confusion motioning in the backfield. What happened on that? Are you still scripting plays?

“Yeah. We’ll script, I think we script until Tuesday. Then, we’ll always have scripted periods and then you have a couple team move-the-ball periods. I’m not exactly sure what happened on the specific play, but it happens a lot. Sometimes you’re in a huddle and the quarterback says Z left and the receiver thought he said X left. You just come out of the huddle and it gets to confusion and you re-huddle. We had too much of it yesterday. Very rarely, especially early in camp, do you not have at least one of those throughout a practice especially when you’re rotating 11 or 12 receivers in and out of every play and they’re changing three positions. It is a little hectic. Sometimes it’s on the players, sometimes it’s on the coaches because they didn’t sub them right. Myself and the quarterbacks, we don’t wait. We just call the play and go so there’s kind of a panic for [wide receivers/passing game coordinator] Mike LaFleur, our receiver coach, to [offensive assistant] T.C. McCartney and [seasonal offensive assistant] Katie [Sowers] helping getting those guys in, subbing them in and out. We go fast so it’s a little stressful. We put pressure on everybody. It doesn’t bother me when there’s one or two. It’s part of camp at this time. But, when you get to eight or 10, it gets a little frustrating.”

There were a couple long throws to WR Marquise Goodwin that Jimmy missed. What’s your assessment of those two plays? I know it’s very early.

“Yeah, just give him more opportunities at it and get more reps. I’m not worried about making those, but they’re not automatic. You need to practice them. It’s hard to get opportunities down the field going against cover-three. It’s a bend but don’t break scheme so it’s kind of tough to get those opps. But, when you do get them, you’ve got to make the best out of that rep. We actually got a few today. It was disappointing we didn’t come down with them, but hopefully that’ll make us better the next time we get those reps.”

What’s a coaching point for you, just to try to get Jimmy to maybe be more accurate with those throws?

“Give him more opportunities. Put your eyes in the right spot. Getting used to the difference of the receivers, the speed. When you say where something is going to be but it’s bump coverage and the DB moves the receiver a little bit and now it’s slightly in a different spot. You want to know where you expect it to be, but then you’ve got to see things and know how to adjust. Very rarely, except on a go-route do you know that you’re throwing it deep. You have three-level throws. You have two-level throws. You don’t know where you’re going with that ball until you get to the top of your drop and you see who is jumping what and then you’ve got to let it go on time. It’s not always about just, ‘Can you throw it?’ It’s the rhythm of it, how to hit it and it’s hard to orchestrate a lot, especially when you don’t get the right coverages. But, that’s something we’re trying to orchestrate for him and that’s the challenge always with quarterbacks and receivers throughout camp.”

For a tall guy, does WR Steven Dunbar Jr. have that short-area quickness that you’re looking for?

“Yeah, I think so. He’s done a good job in these three days. He did a decent job in OTAs, too. We’ve got a good group of receivers. It’s going to be a fun battle to watch.”

Because of that rhythm you just talked about, how important is it for Jimmy to have the full offseason here with you?

“I think it’s very important. It’s very important for everyone. I know he played very well last year, but it’s going to be a long season and there’s lots of situations that you can go through that happen every quarter and week to week. There’s lots of things you have to adjust throughout the year. You don’t know things we’re doing now might not come up until Week 8. It might come up Week 1. You don’t know. It depends what you’re going against, but at least when it does come up, even if it’s been a while, you can go back to something and remember it. So, when you get out those reps on Wednesday and Thursday that are carded to get ready for a game on Sunday, it’s not all about the three reps you got that week. You can go back to the film you had in camp and study that a little bit. It’s not like you can get on a Friday and put Marquise on 15 post routes until your guys are perfect. Then, you feel good about it going into Sunday. That might work there but Marquise now is going to be slow and not slower, well, not as fast, on Sunday because you’ve worn him out on Friday. That’s why you’ve got to work people now because if you don’t get that foundation now, it’s almost impossible to play catchup in the year.”

How much are you emphasizing to Joe Williams consistency, holding onto the ball, all those things?

“A ton. It’s more, it’s a mindset. I’ve talked about it before. I think Joe has got a lot of ability and it’s been very apparent that he has had a different mindset this year than he did last year. Sometimes that just takes time. Everyone handles it differently and it took Joe a little bit, I think mentality-wise, but just watching him out there today, the run we just brought up, running back, you cannot think you have to hit it and not hesitate. He’s been doing that in OTAs and he did it in these three practices. It was real neat to get the pads on today and he got a few good opportunities. He didn’t flinch, he hit it and had some pretty good results for it. You hope he can feel that and give him some confidence and continue to build off of it.”

Do you think this running back corps is probably the most competitive unit you guys have out there?

“We have a lot of competitive units. I think our receivers are very competitive, our running backs are, our linebackers are. We’ve got some, that’s what we were trying to say earlier on. When you go into camp, last year we didn’t know a lot of our guys but you still knew who had a chance and who didn’t. Out of our 90 people, I’d say almost all 90 of those guys do have a chance.”

When you’re deciding on that number three running back in early September, how much does special teams and a Sunday contribution factor into that?

“A ton, a ton. That’s a lot of the stuff that goes into decisions that people don’t totally understand because you rarely play three running backs at once. Usually that third running back is one of your better special teams players just because of the type of body he has and things like that. But also, you get one running back in the game hurt and if he’s a special teams running back and that’s all he is, it’s going to be hard to win the game if you need to use him as a running back. So, you’ve got to balance all of that out. So, special teams is a huge bonus for all positions to make the team. But, you can’t dress everybody on game day. So, those special teams players are one play away, sometimes two plays away from having to win that game for us at a position so you have to be good at your position also.”

You guys picked up DL Arik Armstead’s option for next season. What are your impressions of him so far in camp just knowing everything that he has riding on this season?

“Arik shows up a lot in OTAs because of his length and stuff. He tips a lot of balls. I think it’s hard for a D-Lineman sometimes without pads on because we want them to get after the quarterback but they better never touch the quarterback, so it’s kind of speaking out of both sides of my mouth. It’s going to be fun to go in there today. I didn’t get to see one-on-ones, but watch how his pass rushes were and things. It’s a little easier for O-Linemen to have a chance to block guys when you have pads on. So, today was a little more realistic day to judge D-Linemen and I’m excited to see that when I get in.”