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Shanahan on the 49ers locker room: We’ve got a real special group of guys

The 49ers head coach met with media before Wednesday’s practice

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49er Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talked about the team plans on stopping Baltimore, some injury updates, the team’s locker room, and much more. Here it is.

Opening comments:

“Alright guys, injuries for today: [RB Matt] Breida will be limited, not practicing will be [DL] Dee Ford, [TE George] Kittle, and [T Joe] Staley. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] and [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] will both be limited. That’s all I’ve got.”

With Kittle, is that anything that happened in the last game or is that just part of his routine?

“Just part of it. Definitely can’t go everyday with the stuff he’s got.”

And K Robbie Gould is good to go?

“Yeah, Robbie’s full.”

Are you going to be making a roster move with Robbie ready to go?

“Not right now.”

Is that just in case something were to happen with him?

“Yeah, you make roster moves if you need to and I felt pretty good with the guys we can have active. We’ll straighten it out if we need to.”

Is there still a chance for Dee on Sunday?

“Yes, there is.”

How does Staley have to work on his finger, maintenance-wise, this week?

“Just that he feels comfortable enough to go out there. He’s getting right to where he could be healthy enough to go or to where at least it’s protected and how he’s feeling with his other stuff that’s lingering from last time too. Think he’s got a chance to go tomorrow, but we’ll see. Taking it day-by-day.”

For what you guys hope to accomplish, the fact that you’re playing a game that people are pointing to as one of the epic games of the season, what does that say about what you guys have accomplished here?

“I think it says that both teams have had a real good season so far. I think both teams are playing at a very high level. Everyone knows what both team’s records are and I think we’ve got some similar styles in how we have been successful, too. Playing good defense and running the ball well, and both teams being pretty efficient in the pass game. It’s exciting to be here and excited to get to the game on Sunday.”

You played some mobile quarterbacks the last few weeks, but how is Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson different and what sort of challenges do you see?

“He’s just different in that he’s a running back when he has the ball. You know, the other two guys, they can make a lot of plays with their legs and stuff, but eventually, they are going to slide and things like that. This guy, he’s a running back out there, and a quarterback when he’s throwing, but he can run hard. You’ve got to bring him down. He can take the hits and he also can deliver them.”

You had a running quarterback in 2012 in Washington. What did you find as far as the defenses that played you guys well that year, played Baltimore Ravens QB Robert Griffin III well that year, what was the common denominator that they did?

“It was only one year doing that and not many people did play it that well. I think teams hadn’t seen a lot it at that time, so teams were pretty simple, eight-man fronts all the time, which was real fun to run the zone-read versus that. It helped all our outside zone, but now there is so much more. This isn’t just zone-read. This guy runs quarterback power, quarterback counter, all types of running back runs. It’s not just a race to the sideline. I don’t think its real comparable. You’ve got to be ready for anything. You’ve got to be ready for a wildcat offense, but the wildcat guy is still a quarterback too. That brings a lot of changes.”

I know you’re an offensive coach, but having defensive coordinator Robert Saleh who was on Seattle’s staff when going up against Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman when he was here, is there any carryover, anything Robert can take from that?

“From being with us?”

No, from being with Seattle going against Greg Roman.

“Oh sorry. Robert Saleh. Yeah, I mean, I think Robert carries over what he’s done in all the buildings he’s been in. You’ve got to know a lot of football to put together plans to stop unique stuff and there’s no easy way to do it. They involve one more guy in the running game than defenses are used to, so that causes a lot of problems for any team week-in and week-out and you’ve got to be able to make some adjustments. Robert, with his experience and stuff and how he works at it, the way he ties our scheme together, he’s more than capable of doing it.”

You’ve talked about all those different things that Lamar Jackson does and the Ravens do. Is that why defenses haven’t caught up to what they’re doing?

“I don’t think it necessarily is catching up. Just like I didn’t think the defense ever caught up with the zone-read either. It’s not a trick play. It puts guys in a bind. It makes teams play 11-on-11 football. You’ve got to decide whether you want to play 11-on-11 or if you want to keep things the same and play 10-on-11. Most people, usually the quarterback makes you pay if you play 10-on-11 when you have these type of quarterbacks. You do have to change some stuff up and then what else does that open up and how good are you at that? Eventually, you can take stuff away. Then you’ve got to balance it out and see what holes that opened up because they take it away. I Think it will be that way until the end of time. I mean, no one catches up with this stuff. It’s not a gimmick play, it’s a very sound way to run an offense and they are doing it at a very high level right now.”

You’ve talked in the past about why you preferred pocket passers when you can run and develop necessarily reading coverages and everything. Obviously, Lamar seems to be taking some steps in the second season. What have you seen from him and are you impressed with that jump just throwing from the pocket?

“Yeah, definitely. I’m impressed with how unbelievable he has been in the run game. That starts with it. If you are that generational type of runner, then you’re going to get some better passes, too. He’s been more than good at doing well in those situations. The way he’s thrown, he’s gotten it to the right guys, and if the looks aren’t there right away, he’s been unbelievable turning it into a run just like you see Russell do a number of times. He’s going to get better, as everyone does, with the reps and more looks that they have throwing the ball more in the league. But, when you are as special as he is running the ball, you can be a lot more patient with that because his looks aren’t going to be quite the same because of how much he scares everyone on every other play.”

In the playoffs last year, I know the Chargers strategy was using a lot of DBs. Has Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram II made that a worse strategy just because he’s a big power back?

“Yeah, and just all their personnel. The way their O-Line is built, the running backs they’ve chose, their tight ends are unbelievable. They are a very downhill team, starting with Ingram, but going to their fullback to their tight ends to their guards to everyone. They’re built to go downhill at you and they have a quarterback who can out flank you at any time.”

P Mitch Wishnowsky looked to get you out of some tough spots toward the back of the end zone on Sunday. How have you seen his progression this season and how important is he to the team?

“Mitch has been huge. That’s why we spent a high draft pick on him to get him here. He’s been exactly what we hoped for, if not better. I think he’s getting better as the year goes. It will be a big one here this Sunday because going against a running team like this, field position is a big deal.”

So, you think his importance will grow as you get towards the playoffs and deeper into the season?

“Everybody’s does. It’s more important each week as we get here, but the better teams you play, the better your special teams better be.”

What are the hallmarks of the Ravens defense?

“For a while, they attack, they try to get after you every play. You’ve got to be ready for anything. You see stuff week-in and week-out from them on tape that you haven’t seen for a while. They can play coverage, they can do crazy blitzes, they can play any personnel grouping. It’s usually some controlled chaos by them and it’s a lot of feast or famine. Your players have got to be ready or you’re going to have some really bad looks. When you do have the right look, you’ve got to capitalize on it.”

Lamar threw for, I think, 15 times on Monday night and five went for touchdowns. What does that say about their efficiency?

“It says it’s pretty good. If he had an incompletion, he probably could do a little bit better, but if he didn’t then it sounds about perfect. That’s what it means. You’ve got to commit a lot of stuff to stop this run game to not get embarrassed by it, and he’s making guys pay in the pass game when teams do that.”

Has FB Kyle Juszczyk exceeded your expectations from when you guys got him out of Baltimore? What does he mean?

“Yeah. We wanted him pretty bad. I think everyone knows that by what we did to go out and get him. I’d say he exceeded expectations because you don’t know the guy totally. He’s been here and after being with him three years, we can tell now why we liked him so much on tape because he is very talented but just how automatic he is in all the stuff you ask him to do, just the angles of getting the backers. Nothing seems too big for him. Some of the catches he’s made in the pass game, even though he doesn’t get a lot of them, when he does, he’s been real efficient with it and made some big plays for us.”

There are some plays with him where it looks like the run will go one direction and he peels off the other direction. Is that by design or is that him recognizing what’s happening and sort of freelancing it as the play develops?

“It’s usually by design. We try to tie a lot of the stuff together. He’s the best at it. You can’t tell where his eyes are going, he doesn’t show anyone until the last second. He’s also fluid enough to be able to do that stuff.”

You have a lot of different factors about going to Baltimore. You’ve got weather, probably temperature, and the east coast time difference. How do you manage all of those?

“I think we’ve done a number of those situations this year. At least we’ve had some success in them, unlike the last two years. So, I think that helps guys just knowing that we’ve done that. Our team, it really doesn’t matter the situation. You always try to say that, but it truly become a reality this year. Whether it’s been injuries, or where we’ve played or what time we’ve played, we feel we’ve always gotten our team’s best shot. I do understand the challenges of going to the east coast, but fortunately they also got a little bit of a late start because they played a Monday night game on the west coast. Everyone has some tough situations and I know theirs is just as tough as ours.”

With the weather being like it is right now, there’s a decent chance of it raining. Do you factor that in at this point in the week?

“Yeah, just because there’s a pretty good chance of it, so I’m definitely more aware of it right now than I’d usually be at this time. I have a feeling they’re going to run the ball whether it’s raining or not. I don’t know how much it’s going to change.”

What are you going to do?

“Try to stop their runs.”

Having been home, or at least in this time zone to the other questions, the holiday as well, how do you continue to keep the guys hyper focused on making sure they are prepared for this travel? Especially, two weeks of it.

“You address it, you talk about it so they are aware of it. You can talk all you want. Guys really have got to live it and believe it. Like I’ve said all year, I think we’ve got a real good group of guys so I don’t worry about them too much. I think it’s actually nicer, probably, going out of town on Thanksgiving because everyone’s got to deal with Thanksgiving, but I think the harder thing for players is all the family members and the uncles and everyone who is bored Friday night, waiting for you to come back home. Then Saturday trying to hang out with you, trying to keep you up and play cards and enjoy their vacation on their time off. They don’t realize that you’ve got a big game. It’s a lot of pressure, I think, for some of these guys, so I think it’s kind of nice that we can get them out of here Friday.”

How much different is this locker room than the other locker rooms you’ve been around?

“Its real different. I mean, every team is different each year, but we’ve got a real special group of guys. I know I keep saying that. I felt that way last year just with what we were going through and how many losses we had and the season we had and just the way guys didn’t really turn on each other. Then just to add a new group of guys this year with the same group of guys that were here, they’ve fit in perfect right away and I think they’ve even made us stronger. It’s been a special group all year.”

How do you handle the families? Do the families meet you guys in Florida or is that off limits?

“I mean, I can’t tell people’s families where they can’t go. We just don’t have a lot of time out there, so it’s a long place to go to not see guys. We’re done with our meetings, oh you’re saying in Florida the following week?”


“Yeah, they can see them on Monday and Tuesday, especially Tuesday the player off day. But no, I try to get guys to get away. If they come, it’s not like I can stop them, but they won’t be allowed in our hotel, on our floor with the players.”