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Kyle Shanahan talks guard position, George Kittle’s return, Ja’Quan Gardner signing

The 49ers head coach met with the media Tuesday to discuss some of the end-game preseason storylines. We have a full transcript.

We saw TE George Kittle back out there. How is he coming along?

“He’s coming along well. He was just out there, I think he just did individual and stuff. There was no contact or anything. He was out there. I think he just wanted to put some pads on, catch some balls.”

It looked like he was testing his range of motion working on the jugs machine?

“Yeah, I didn’t. I think [assistant head coach/tight ends coach Jon Embree] Embo wanted him to, and they cleared him enough that he could do that.”

No LB Reuben Foster, no RB Joe Williams for this upcoming game?

“We haven’t ruled either one of them out for sure. Reub is still in the protocol. I think if he is out of it tomorrow, then he can go. Joe didn’t practice today. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

You guys experimented a bit with DB Tyvis Powell at strong safety. How did that go in that game with him?

“I thought he did a good job. He hadn’t been at it for too long, so there was a lot on his plate just Xs and Os-wise. But, he showed it wasn’t too big for him, did a good job. He should get some more reps in this game, also.”

Where do things stand at right guard with the way that G Joshua Garnett has played these last two weeks?

“Josh definitely helped himself out last week. I’m glad we’ve got another game to watch it. We had a good practice today where we’ll still get to evaluate when we get in there. I look forward to watching him on Thursday.”

As of right now, is OL Mike Person your starting right guard?

“Yeah, I would say it’s his job to lose right now or however you want to say it. Josh could beat him out. But, Person has been the most consistent since day one and he’s had a real good camp. We’ll see what happens these last few days.”

Where do things stand at strong safety? What would happen if S Jaquiski Tartt had to leave a game at this point?

“I think that’s what we’re trying to find out. We have [S] Marcell Harris, who we drafted, who we feel very confident he’s going to be a good player here. But, he had a setback with his hamstring earlier on. So, we’re going to have to factor that in and how long it’s going to take him to recover, and when he does, when he’ll be ready since he didn’t get to practice much because of that. Then, that’s why we’re trying other things there too, moved Powell to that position. I mean, all the guys on our roster right now do have a chance. We’ll see how it plays out here these next few days. We’ll stack them up against anyone else who is available, also.”

Is QB C.J. Beathard going to start?

“Yeah. C.J. will start.”

Did you see enough from Marcell in that small window where he was practicing to make any big judgments about him, whether he can play it?

“Not really. We saw enough to feel very excited. You study guys hard in college and stuff and a draft, but you never know exactly until you get him out on the field and it took him awhile, coming off of his Achilles. I think we waited a week into camp, maybe two. When he came out, they’re always like Bambi out there just getting used to running again when they’ve taken a year off. Each day he got better. We were getting really excited about him. Then, he got that hamstring. So, an unfortunate setback, but we’ll see how long it is going to be and we’ll see how this factors out because that will be a tough decision.”

With right guard and other positions that are still up in the air, will you have those guys play in this game, will Person and Garnett?

“Yeah, I haven’t decided on Person. We’ll see how this plays out. I know Garnett for sure will. There’s a lot of positions up for air. Like I say a lot, you know when it’s a starter sometimes, but there’s a lot of guys competing against each other at different positions for special teams spots. It’s not just who is the number one, who is the two? It’s who is going to be up on game day and just how to piece this puzzle together the best we can.”

What do you like about RB Ja’Quan Gardner? What did you like about him to bring him back?

“He did a good job in our rookie tryout camp. He was a guy who picked the stuff up in the weekend he was here. We liked him as a person. We always liked his college tape, and he ran well while he was here. We’re down some guys and we wanted to make sure we got another guy in here and he was a guy that we had on our short list since he was here in the tryout camp.”

In terms of the punters, with P Jeff Locke being left-footed, what kind of advantage does that give you that maybe other teams might not be--?

“So they say, I haven’t done it too much, but it’s a big deal when you catch punts all week from a right-handed guy and then you have to catch a left-handed one in the game. So, it’s just good. I think it helps returners. It helps them get a look and get more prepared for the game on Sunday.”

Are you going to let QB Jack Heneghan get in the game?

“Yeah, I hope so. He’s deserved it. He’s earned it. I expect to get him in.”

Kind of a bigger picture standpoint, between the way you guys ended last season and some of the moves you made in the offseason, there’s a lot of excitement around here about kind of where things are headed. Do you have to kind of try to make sure you keep things in perspective with your squad in terms of knowing that you haven’t necessarily done anything yet? How do you balance the excitement and the realism of what you’ve got to do?

“I mean, you hear it from outside a lot. That’s always a concern of yours, of mine. You know, I haven’t had to with our players. I think they have been very realistic. They know how last year went. They know what we’ve done in the offseason, and they know how tough this year is going to be. So, it hasn’t been something I’ve been worried about our team at all. We know this year is going to be tough. It’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to play a heck of a lot better than we did last year to get more than six wins.”

Since there are literally going to be over a thousand players cut here in a few days, does releasing a guy like S Chanceller James a few days early, does that maybe give him a better chance to get--?

“That’s what we thought and hoped. It doesn’t work out that way for all situations, but Chanceller has been great for us here. He’s been a guy we really like. He was close last year and had a bad injury and things just didn’t go as well so far. That was a simpler one for us that we knew we were going to go and we had given him a lot of reps in those first two games. So, when you know you’re going to make the decision, you know who you’re dealing with, we just thought we’d give him a chance to go on.”

What would you make of the pass rush on Saturday? I know the sack was kind of a result of a game on that left side. Did that embody what you’re sort of looking for from that unit in terms of executing something and playing together?

“Yeah definitely, and we’re going to have to. Watching that whole game, I was pleased with our rush. I thought we effected the quarterback and stuff. Obviously, you’d like more sacks than one, but I thought we pushed that pocket well. I thought we had the opportunity to get more than one, we just didn’t come through with it. I know [Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew] Luck did a really good job getting away on one in particular where it was, I think third-and-13 where he scrambled for a first. I thought collectively that was one of our best rushes of the game, too. If we rush like that every week and we get pressure on the quarterback like we did, I’ll be happy.”

Having to cut down from 53 to 90, as opposed to years past, how do you compare your first year being in this position heading into having to cut guys, and this year when it might be a little bit narrower?

“It’s a lot harder this year. For the whole 90, usually you get to this time, as a coach, and there’s a number of people at each position that you’ve been waiting to move on from because the writing has been on the wall for a while. But, it’s not like that here. We’re going to cut a lot of guys, to me, who are NFL players. That’s what I said when I got here, that I hope that we are cutting NFL players which means they go on to play other places. You never want to lose a guy who’s going to go help someone else out, but when you have someone better than that guy, then that’s a good problem to have. So, we’re in that situation a lot more this year than we were last year and I know there’s not many guys that I don’t want to have on our practice squad. We’re going to cut a number of people, 37 of them because we’re only allowed 10 guys on our practice squad. I promise you, there’s a lot more than 10 that we want.”

What impressed you most about RB Alfred Morris on Saturday? Obviously, he didn’t seem to show a whole lot of rust first game back.

“It was just good to see him do it live. You believed he could do it. I thought we blocked very well so we gave him an opportunity to do it. Then, I didn’t think he missed any. Sometimes there’s some great runs and you expect them to get that so those are the ones that aren’t always as impressive as you would think. But, I thought each run that he had in the game, he got more than we blocked for. The big ones were, anyone would like to run through those, but he had a couple third-and-ones where I thought we missed a couple of guys in the backfield and he got hit behind the line of scrimmage but was still able to get us a yard. Those are the ones that allow you to stay on the field and keep running plays.”

Will we see him Thursday night? Do you need to see him again?

“I don’t think we need to see much of him. I think we have an idea of what he can do. But, also going into this game, you need guys up, too. So, I don’t know how many guys are going to go. I don’t know how long Alf will go. I’d like to get some other guys some opportunities to evaluate them, too. I saw enough of Alf I think at Indy. But, we haven’t decided if he’ll dress or not, but I would expect him to right now.”

With DL Arik Armstead and DL Solomon Thomas both missing time, are you comfortable with what you’ve seen from them or do you think they might get a little bit of run on Thursday?

“That hasn’t been decided either. I’m going to communicate with them on that also. They’re guys who, any time you don’t get much time, guys like [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm also, guys like that, you want to be healthy and ready for Week 1 but you also don’t want to risk anything. So, a lot goes into that. They’re all guys that I do trust that I know we’re going to count on in Week 1, but there’s a fine line with it. I wouldn’t say all of them are for sure ruled out. Some of them we’ll try to decide up to that game. But, if any of them do play, it won’t be very long.”

You’ve kind of mentioned in the past being impressed with Sherman’s competitiveness, his personality, things like that. Having been around him for a little while longer, I know everyone here is competitive, is he on a different level even than other guys you have been around?

“Yeah, I believe so. That was one of the first things [Atlanta Falcons head coach] Dan Quinn told me about him, that he was one of the most competitive people he’s ever been around. Being a coach, you’re around a lot of competitive people so he doesn’t just say that to say it. He has been exactly as advertised so far. He’s been great. He’s been the same person each day. When people are like that, you can really figure out who they are and get to know them and know what to expect. That’s all we ask for.”

Did he recover fine after that big workload on Saturday?

“Yeah, he did. Just talking to him and stuff, I was asking him today how he felt after it and I think he was expecting to be sore and stuff from it. It’s the most workload he’s had, but I think he felt better than he expected so it was good news.”