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Kyle Shanahan talks playing time, DeForest Buckner on the edge, Dante Pettis

The 49ers head coach had his final press conference before the 49ers preseason opener. We’ve got a full transcript, and you can watch video here.

With the preseason, are you treating QB Jimmy Garoppolo like a regular starting quarterback because he’s learning the playbook?

“We’ll treat him like what we’ve probably done more in the past. He’ll play somewhat into the first quarter. We’ll see how long the opening drive is. Usually, the second game you play guys a little more into the second quarter. Usually, the third game they play the whole first half and sometimes start the third quarter. Then, the fourth game they rarely play.”

Just to confirm, Jimmy will get a series on Thursday, at least?

“Yes. Yeah, definitely.”

We saw G Jonathan Cooper out there with the first team some today. Could he play with the first-team offense at all on Thursday?

“No, he’s not able to get through a practice yet. We’re just putting him in, I want to say it’s two plays a period. We’re very selective with those plays we put him in. Just trying to build back his confidence from coming off his injury.”

What’s your plan for T Mike McGlinchey? Obviously, this is going to be his first game in a 49ers uniform. Do you plan on giving him more reps?

“Yeah, he’ll be out with the starters to start. Then, we’ll see how it goes, how many reps we get. For the most part, we do it with most rookies. Even if he’s a starter, we might play him a little bit more.”

What about DB Jimmie Ward? Is he ready to come back?

“Yeah. He has had two full practices in the last couple days so I expect him to come out there and replace [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm in the lineup. Same thing with him.”

Are there any veterans you’re going to hold out of the game?

“Not that we’ve decided yet. I don’t promise I’ll stick with it. We’ll see by game time, but right now there’s no one we plan on.”

Same plan for the defense? One series, potentially two?

“Yeah. It all depends on how long it is. It’s kind of a feel. We don’t want to keep them out there too long, but we definitely want guys to get some reps. There’s certain positions that don’t have as much depth. Some guys sometimes have got to go longer just so you don’t put so much on a player for the next three quarters. There’s some guys that we think do need a little bit more reps even though they are starters. We’ll play that accordingly.”

It was brought up last week how you have 13 players from when you started last year. How important is it to build relationships with the players, not just you, but the players together? As a coaching staff, are there things that you intentionally do to help the team build relationships?

“I think relationships, they can be beneficial. I think all types of relationships are different. I think the true essence of coaching is just to get someone to whole-heartedly listen to what you’re saying and just accept it and know your intentions, that you’re very good at your job, that they truly just believe in what you’re trying to do and they know you have their best interests in them. When you have a player in that, they’re easy to coach. It’s easy to be hard on them, and it’s easy to praise them, too. That happens usually with showing that you’re good at what you do, but also developing a relationship where they know that you care about them, too.”

Have you felt out the players in terms of how they want to handle the national anthem this season?

“No, I haven’t. I know we hear a lot about it and I try to always keep things in perspective in here. If I ever feel something is an issue with our team, our team knows this and everyone who knows me knows it, I’ll address it that moment in that day. It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind for our team. I haven’t heard much about it and if it ever does become something that I feel I need to address, I will.”

Regarding Johnathan Cooper, obviously he has talent and injuries throughout his career. Are you kind of intrigued to see him once he gets up to full speed what he could offer?

“Yeah. Very intrigued. I think it’s very similar to [G Joshua] Garnett’s situation. You’ve got two guys who are former first-round picks, which shows you right there that they have a lot of ability. But, neither of them have played a lot of football. They both have battled some tough injuries. They’re guys that should have the ability to help us, but they’ve got to show it. It’s a tough situation because they are dealing with things. So, I hope for them that they can get as healthy as they can so they can come out and earn a job and make this team. But yeah, you’re always pulling for those guys. They’re working hard, they’re good people and they’re also very talented players. So, you hope they can get back and show us that so they can earn a spot.”

Is it too early to say what kind of impression that Cooper’s left on you?

“Yeah, way too early. The only impression I have is of him as a person. I love how he’s carried himself, or handled himself, throughout the offseason and into training camp. I know our team really likes him. I know he’s working hard to get back. As far as the field, no he’s not there yet. That’s why we’re not putting too much on him right now.”

Could you explain the thought process that went into giving DL DeForest Buckner more time on the edge and when that idea sort of came to fruition?

“I feel like everywhere, you try to think about that stuff. Coaches are always thinking about, ‘What happens if this guy is down? Where can this guy go?’ You want to know the options that you have, so that’s a great time to test that stuff out in one-on-one and things like that. Then, also, when you do have that stuff, so you can survive some injuries and things. Also, if a guy is good at it. You can see what people’s schematic rules are from protection standpoints, how it changes it. Stuff that kind of offensive guys can help defensive guys with. Just gives you a variety of options to attack defenses.”

What are you looking to see out of RB Joe Williams on Thursday?

“I’m just excited to watch him play out on the field. I’m a lot more excited now than I was last year just because of what he’s shown in practice. I think you guys have seen it yourselves. I know you guys have heard us talk about it. He’s come a long way in a year and he’s given himself a chance to be a good running back. We’ll see how it looks on Thursday.”

WR Marquise Goodwin has had a really strong camp up to this point. One thing I really noticed about him from last year is he’s fine tuning his route running. He does a really good job coming in and out of his breaks. What’s your stance on Marquise Goodwin, as a coach, his progress from last year as opposed to this year in terms of his route running specifically?

“He’s continued to get better in every facet of his game. He probably hasn’t gotten faster, he’s always been fast. But, his hands have gotten better, he’s gotten more consistent. He tracks the ball well. It’s not just catching the easy ones now, he’s starting to make some tough ones. You can see his confident in his hands and how he goes up for the ball. People who attack the ball like that means they’re not scared to drop it and when you do that you’ve got a much better chance to make some better plays. And his route running, he works on it all the time. I like to joke around and say he’s being a weirdo over there because he’s always in his own world doing his feet, doing stuff. That’s how you get better. He’s consistently thinking about it, he’s extremely detailed. I think all of you guys have seen it and it’s paid off.”

You mentioned his hands and tracking the ball. When a player does have an issue catching the ball, is it usually a physical issue with his hands or an issue tracking the ball?

“I always say it’s eyes. Catching the ball is about your eyes, to me. That’s why I always laugh when people sit there and think they’re practicing catching by standing in place. I mean, my son who is eight needs to do that because he’s still learning how to get coordinated and everything. But, we all can stand and catch in place. Can you catch when you’re running a 4.2, 40 and your eyes are bouncing and you’re tracking stuff? That’s when it gets really hard. When it’s windy, that ball is moving. I always say wind is harder to catch than rain. Hands are something that, I believe, gets in shape, but it’s your eyes that get in shape. You’ve got to get used to tracking things.”

Have you ever given players eye tests in terms of tracking dots and things like that?

“Yeah, yeah we have.”

WR Dante Pettis looks a little timid sometimes going over the middle catching passes. From a coaching perspective, how to you work to get him over that fear or that timid-ness, absorbing hits and things like that?

“I don’t see it the same way as you do, but I think there’s a difference between timid and under control. Dante is a guy that I don’t worry about being scared. He’s not just a kamikaze. He’s going to go out there and be a wedge buster, even though we don’t have those anymore, on special teams and just run people over left and right. He’s a very smooth, under control athlete who’s got great vision, great balance. I think he’s a guy who doesn’t take hits much and it’s not because he’s avoiding them because he’s scared. It’s because he’s a good athlete and he can control his body and can get himself in good positions. That happens to people. I’m not saying there’s never going to be a time that he doesn’t looks timid. I’ve seen some tough guys look timid over the middle, but that’s something that you can’t think about in football. Even if you are a guy who is timid, you better make a conscious decision before that play starts that I’m going to man up for this one play and then do it again the next play. But, you have to talk yourself into it because once that creeps into this game, you can’t do it.”

Do you think it’s a function of him not quite knowing NFL coverages and not quite knowing where everyone is, all of his threats are on the field when he’s going over the middle and looking back?

“No, I think he understands that as well as any receiver I’ve been around. He’s very smart. He understands the game. I’m not worried about that.”

Kind of a broad question, but the league, a lot of the offenses are spread out, get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. You do some of that too, but you also incorporate tight ends a lot and you do it with bigger personnel groupings. Could you just explain the benefit of having the versatility of tight ends on the field to be able to do that in a quick passing game which is different than a lot of other coaches?

“Always being able to have the threat of a run play. When you have a fullback on the field, there’s a huge threat of run plays. When you’ve got two tight ends on the field, it’s kind of the same thing. If you have no tight ends on the field, they know the most people that can block are six unless you want one of your receivers to do pass protection which we’re not going to do that. When you have tight ends out there, when you have fullbacks, you have the possibility of doing anything you want and that scares defenses. There are some crazy blitzes that defenses do that are extremely hard to pick up in protection, but they’re so gap unsound that you wish you could run the ball versus that stuff and gash them. That’s why you get a lot of stuff on third and long when they know you won’t run the ball. If you’re getting into all of these receiver sets on first and second down, you can start getting all that stuff again because there’s not many run plays you can do.”