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Shanahan discusses Witherspoon’s setback and Hurd returning

The Niners head coach met with the media before Thursday’s practice

Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media before Thursday’s practice to provide injury updates, his opinion on who has the best sack dance on the team, Jalen Hurd, and a couple of “dumb” questions.

Opening comments:

“Injuries for today: guys who will be limited, we’ve got [RB] Raheem [Mostert], [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice, [T Mike] McGlinchey, [T Joe] Staley, [DL] Dee Ford and [TE Garrett] Celek’s coming back so he’ll be limited his first day back with reps. Guys who won’t practice, [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon], [TE George] Kittle, [TE Levine] Toilolo and [K Robbie] Gould.”

What is Kittle’s situation?

“Just day-to-day. Hoping he can play this week, but we’ll see. It’s going to probably not be a decision until the end of the week.”

Is it a bone bruise or what’s the--?

“It’s something on the knee and ankle. He’s got two things in both areas. We know Kittle’s a very tough guy and that’s why he was able to come back in that game, but it’s something that we’re not going to know until the end of the week.”

Did he have an MRI on it?


Did it come up clean?

“Yeah, I mean there’s issues. He’s got things in his knee and ankle so we’ll see.”

Are you worried that Ahkello is not more active right now?

“Not really. I would have been a few weeks ago, but he had that setback 10 days ago or something like that. We knew it was going to come down to this. He was able to do a little bit just rehabbing this weekend. I think he’ll get out there tomorrow, but we’re still holding him today.”

What about WR Trent Taylor? Where do things stand with him?

“Same as I said last time. I think we have a decision that we can bring him back by Baltimore, but it’s not looking likely right now.”

Do you mean not looking likely that you’ll bring him back or that he’d be available between now and the end of the season?

“No, if he was able to come back 100-percent healthy, there’s no doubt we’d bring Trent back. But, he’s had some setbacks in his injury. He had an infection with it too so he had to start that over. It’s just cost him some time.”

What about WR Jalen Hurd? He was out on the field--?

“He’s got a chance to come back in, the first time we can activate him to practice I think is next week, the Arizona week. So, we’ll see how this week goes and we’ll make that decision next week. If he’s not ready by then, he’ll be week-to-week to give him that chance to open up that three-week window.”

How encouraged were you by what you saw from QB Jimmy Garoppolo on Thursday in the context that you’re going to be going against some better offenses, some better quarterbacks over the second half of the schedule and you might need more performances like that from him down the stretch.

“I was very impressed. I thought he played his best game of the year. He made a lot of really good throws in rhythm and made a lot of off-schedule throws where he had to move in the pocket and generate some plays on his own. It was a very impressive game and it would have been very tough to win that game if he didn’t play that way.”

How does playing on Monday Night Football add to the excitement and intensity of this game against the Seahawks and the rivalry?

“I think you get used to it as a coach and player. Once the game starts, your routine is different being at night and on a different day, but once the game starts you want it to feel the exact same. I think people who’ve done it, it does. Playing last Thursday, it’s really the same thing going on Monday night. I feel like me personally, and I think guys who have done it, think the neatest thing about it is that’s the one time all your peers really get to watch you also. The coaches and players in the league, it’s always cool to be on national TV for the whole world and stuff, but I think it’s special when the whole league gets to watch you too.”

You had talked about maybe changing philosophically a little bit because of what the defense was able to do. How much of that too was just the fact that Garoppolo was coming off an injury and maybe you didn’t want to put too much on his shoulders early on?

“Are you talking about through the whole year?”


“You always take that stuff into account, but every game you do what you think you’ve got to do to win the game. Everyone has an ideal plan on how they would write up how they want each game in the season to go. But each game, each quarter’s different. You try to feel the game out. What is it going to take to win? How are you playing on offense, defense and special teams? How’s your quarterback playing? Your O-Line, your D-Line? You think of it all and you make decisions accordingly to whatever you think is going to give you the best chance to get it done.”

Did Robbie get hurt on Tuesday?


Are you expecting long term?

“No, I think he’s got a chance to play Monday. If not, we expect him back the following week.”

What do you know about your new kicker?

“I know he’s a rookie. I know he was six of nine on his attempts. I think he was Big Ten Player of the Year or something like that. I know that according to [general manager] John [Lynch] and all the guys upstairs and according to [special teams coordinator Richard] Hightower and our special teams guys, he’s the best one available. I’m excited to have him here.”

With the addition of Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon to Seattle, what can you expect?

“I don’t really know. I know the fact that they brought him in, you know they want to get him out there. It depends where he’s at in their scheme and knowing their offense. I’m not going to be surprised at all if he’s out there. Josh is a good player. I got to spend a year with him. I know they’re happy to have him on their team, but we’re ready for anything and we’ll see how it goes.”

Can you talk a little bit about what makes Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson so special and how he just keeps getting better and better every year?

“He’s got the talent with his arm and with his size and then what he can do with his legs. That’s some God-given ability, that’s very impressive. Just what he’s consistently done over the years, I mean he’s one of the few guys I’ve seen that can consistently make off-schedule plays. Usually if you live and die by that pretty hard and Russell seems to be as consistent at making those as hitting open guys in rhythm too. I haven’t seen that with anybody really consistently over my own career and he seems to just get better at it and better at it as it goes.”

Obviously, talked last week, Staley was close but with the short week, didn’t want to rush things. Considering that you guys have an extended period of time to get him back out, get some reps, how confident are you that Staley will make his return on Monday? Same thing goes for McGlinchey and Juszczyk.

“Yeah, we’re hoping all three of them will be out there. I’d say I feel a little more confidence, just a little bit more with Staley and Juice. I think they are just a hair ahead of McGlinchey in that area, but today will be their first real practice. We had a practice on Tuesday, but it really wasn’t against each other, we were doing a lot of stuff on air, so this will be their first day to really go against people and put bodies on each other. I’ll have a much better feel after today. We’re hoping to get all three, but can’t guarantee any of them.”

Would you keep OL Daniel Brunskill on the right side and OL Justin Skule on the left side, as far as, would you think about moving Skule over to the right side?

“We would think about all those possibilities, but I don’t want to tell [Seattle Seahawks head coach] Pete [Carroll] right now, so we’ll wait to decide. Good question, though.”

What would you need to see from McGlinchey in order to make that and have more confidence in putting him out there?

“Not just him, but all three of them. Just that they are fully healthy, and I know they are from a medical standpoint, but you don’t get to see how much it has affected their body until they go full speed, not just for a few reps but a couple days back-to-back. If they are what they were before they left, then they will for sure be out there.”

You’ve been with CB K’Waun Williams for a while now. What kind of season is he having this year?

“I think very similar to like he does every year. I think K’Waun plays the nickel position as good as anyone in this league. I think he’s very consistent with it, he’s very good in the run and the pass. He’s tough to beat and I’m always excited about K’Waun and hope he continues to keep doing what he’s been doing.”

Is that a particularly good matchup this week, him versus Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett?

“I mean, Lockett’s tough for everybody. I mean, he’s one of the better receivers in our league. They play him on the outside and the inside so everyone will have to match up. Whoever’s got him over in man, that will be a challenge and when it’s zone it could be anybody. It could be our linebackers, our safeties, or DBs. Everyone has a challenge with Lockett and [Seattle Seahawks WR DK] Metcalf. They’ve got a good group of receivers there.”

We’ve seen offenses kind of change how they operate with your pass rush by calling more screens and quick passes. Who is the pass rusher you faced through your career that fundamentally changed the way you operate?

“I mean, it started with, drawing a blank which I can’t believe, I got [former Indianapolis Colts DL] Dwight Freeney and [former Indianapolis Colts DL] Robert Mathis in Indy. Those guys were as good as it gets on both edges, especially in Indy. I mean, everyone knows [Denver Broncos LB] Von Miller, you’ve got [Los Angeles Rams DL] Aaron Donald. We can go back and [former NFL DE] Jared Allen in the day was really tough to go against. [Former NFL DE] James Harrison was very scary to go against. When we played Pittsburgh, I saw 92 out there and I actually got nervous it was James Harrison and it wasn’t, because I have some scars from him. There’s lots of good ones, but those are the ones that come off right away.”

Is that position on defense, more so than a shutdown cornerback, the most impact, potentially, the most impactful on an offense?

“Yeah, in my opinion without a doubt. I mean, you can’t avoid those guys. Just double team them sounds good, but it’s a lot harder than people realize.”

Might be a dumb question so fair warning.

“No dumb questions.”

Last year you wore lots of different things on the sideline. This year you’ve worn white almost every game. Is there a superstition involved?

“I like to say I’m not superstitious, but I mean, we don’t have the best number of choices, in my opinion. I like that this year, we got it in the preseason. I guarantee I wore it in the preseason, we lost a preseason game so we have lost in it. I’ve liked it, so I stick with what works. We haven’t lost any yet, but that’s not the reason I’m wearing it.”

But now are you going to wear white every game the rest of the season?

“I think about that, like, right when I get into the locker room and look at what’s up there. We’ll see. Not a lot of thought into it right now. I’m glad you guys are thinking about it.”

I have a stupid question to follow his. As far as sack celebrations, where would you rank, what’s the best, DL Arik Armstead’s belly rub--?

“You are competing with his question here.”

And DL DeForest Buckner’s sweep?

“I probably like the sweep. Yeah, I like the sweep. I liked the flag one earlier, but that was a one-time deal. I’ll let you rank them, but just on the spot, I probably like the sweep.”

Being 8-0, have you had the conversation or addressed it with your team yet about listening to the outside noise of being the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL?

“No, not really. I mean, that’s stuff we talked about throughout the year. No, I think our guys are, I mean, I have a lot of confidence in our guys and who they are just as people and stuff. I haven’t sensed them any different right now than they were in Week 1 in terms of paying attention to what’s outside.”

When you compare CB Richard Sherman’s tape now to the prime Seattle years, is there much of a difference or is he looking like the same guy?

“No I think he looks like the same guy. Just different uniform and I’m very thankful for that.”