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Kyle Shanahan talks injuries, competition, accountability, and Tre Boston

NFL Combine - Day 1

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan met with the media after Thursday’s practice to talk about some of the recent injuries on the team, how players are fitting into their new roles, and the competition on the field. He also addressed whether the team was ever interested in Tre Boston. Here’s the transcript of his interview:

After practice you got to meet the family of Tara O’Sullivan. Can you talk about what it was like to have them out here and to see them?

“It was awesome to have them out here. I was glad they were able to do that. I told them they can come anytime. I just want to give them our condolences and we had the whole team sign something for them, but it’s just hard to kind of go there. It’s very emotional talking to them and things. I can’t have enough respect for what they’re going through, what their daughter went through.”

Is there anything further on G Joshua Garnett?

“Josh got surgery a couple days ago on his finger. I believe he should be back in about three weeks. That’s the timeline we’re hoping for to where he can start practicing. So, we’ll see how that heals up.”

Where was he at before the injury?

“Just competing at right guard. I think he hurt it the second day, so we weren’t very far along. He hurt it before we put pads on and stuff. Josh had a good OTAs, he was in great shape, he’s been working hard and just had another unfortunate thing with his finger, nothing he could have done about it. He tried to come out and practice with it, but it kept popping out and that was going to continue to happen so we had to make a decision to get surgery.”

OL Najee Toran got a lot of snaps today with him and OL Mike Person out. What did you see from him today?

“Just battling through everything. I’ll see when I watch the tape. He didn’t stick out a lot in practice to me which usually means he had a pretty good practice from an O-Line standpoint. He’s trying to battle too, just like Garnett was. We’d love those guys to push Person to get better, to push him to beat him out. We’ve got a lot of competition there and we need a number of guys to step up.”

Was there any indication on DL Kapron Lewis-Moore’s injury?

“It was a groin-type injury. They took him to get an MRI right now so we’ll find out later today.”

With DL Dee Ford not being in the team drills--?

“No, he was just talking about he was having a little bit of knee tendonitis. He says it happens about every camp and then usually goes away. He talked about that this morning, he went out there and it was bothering him throughout individuals so we just pulled him.”

Is that cause for concern or do you just have to rest him and monitor him?

“Yeah, talking to him it doesn’t seem like a cause for concern. You can tell usually when you talk to a player and he says it’s used to it and it’s something that happens to him every camp. He could have gone too, but we just didn’t think it was necessary.”

In that scenario, is DL Nick Bosa the guy that fills in for Ford and would that be what happens in the season if that were to happen?

“We’ll see. It’s so early we aren’t even going there yet. We’ve got 90 guys, so there’s a lot of guys that fill in for Ford when he’s out. When we’ve got them rolling in and out, tons of different groups, it’s not always the same group every time. So, it’s too early to go there.”

How did you feel the offense did in the red zone drills?

“So, so. I thought it was pretty even matched, some good, some bad. I mean, it’s all scripted plays and stuff. It’s scripted defenses, scripted offenses. So, we are trying to get certain looks to go against stuff. We’re still in, we’re not through our install, we’re on the fifth day right now. That was our first red zone period, so we’ll continue trying to do that almost every day. But, I thought it was some good, some bad. It was a pretty even match.”

What are kind of teaching points that you and quarterbacks coach Shane Day want to see from QB Jimmy Garoppolo during these first early stages of training camp?

“Just being consistent, doing the same thing over and over. Going through the progressions the same way, looking at plays the same way. Not making the same mistake twice and when he does make a mistake, correcting it the next day, continuing to improve that way. Trying to knock certain things out or get one thing down. That’s why we have, basically offensively we have an eight day install, but hopefully we get it each day and you don’t have to go back on that, he gets it down before he leaves this building. He did it through OTAs, but he couldn’t do it always with an O-Line and D-Line and now he’s doing it for the second time, but there’s an O-Line and D-Line out there which makes it a lot easier to get those reps of play-action stuff and keepers. Just continuing to get better.”

Are the installs new stuff or is it stuff that he had at the end of ’17?

“No, it’s the same stuff, same stuff.”

Are you more cautious than normal because of the injury he’s coming back from?

“No, I’m not. We never let the quarterbacks get hit anyway so nothing’s different. He’s out there practicing. Once the doctors tell you he’s healthy, you talk to the guy and he’s healthy, then you let him go. We’re never going to let a guy hit him and stuff like that, so we’ll see how he does in the games and we’ll make those decisions accordingly when it gets closer to those games.”

For you, do you just put that out of your mind and say alright I’m not thinking about that anymore and he’s on the field he’s good?

“I mean, I am human, it’s somewhere in there, but it’s not something I can control so I try not to sit here and have anxiety or freak out about stuff that I can’t control. When that stuff happens, you just deal with it and try to move on.”

How do you feel his chemistry is growing with the wide receivers now that they’ve had a couple padded practices in?

“Yeah, I think they are working through a lot and I think it’s continuing to grow. We’ve added a number of new guys in there and we got some rookies, we brought in a free agent and the guys are competing. I think we have the most depth and the hardest competition we’ve had at receiver since we’ve gotten here. It’s taken awhile to get it this way and we added some young guys last year that contributed and we’re bringing in some new young guys who are making those guys better, pushing them or trying to take their job so there’s been some great competition out there. We’re rotating all of them so Jimmy’s gotten to work with all of them, not just a first or second group. I think it’s been good with him and the receivers and the other two quarterbacks also. It’s going to be a fun battle to watch as this camp goes and we’ll see how it plays out.”

We’ve seen WR Dante Pettis and CB Richard Sherman matched up a lot. It looks like that would be a good way for Pettis to grow and mature.

“Yeah, I mean we don’t do that on purpose. They’re all battling and they’ll have a lot of matchups throughout camp. Pettis and [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon] have been going at it a lot too. All those guys have been competing, but when you’ve got a guy like Sherm, he’s always great to go against because we know he’s talented, but he’s also smart. There’s not much he hasn’t seen so you can’t tip your routes, you can’t be lazy in anything. You’ve got to be extremely detailed because if you aren’t detailed in what you do he’ll get you.”

Do you have any early takeaways from your new punter?

“It looks like it’s going pretty high. I don’t really have a clock out there, but it looked like the hangtime was pretty good and he’s been doing a good job. We like the guy, he’s fitting in great. Even being an Aussie, guys are getting used to it. He’s a funny dude and he’s done a good job at practice.”

I had two punts that were five seconds.

“That’s pretty good then. Alright, that’s what I thought.”

Carolina Panthers S Tre Boston signed with the Panthers today, some people were connecting him to you guys. Was he on your radar at all and how comfortable do you feel with the team’s safety depth?

“I mean, anytime you have guys go out, just like we did with [DB] Jimmie Ward, I mean there’s always issues. But, we have guys on our team. You can’t just sit there and stock pile players. There’s 90 so if you want to bring one in, another one’s got to get cut. And if you want to pay another guy then you’ve got to think of another guy who you’re not going to pay. So, we would love to bring in safety after safety and load up every position and feel just so comfortable, but injuries are part of this game and you put your roster together and then you’ve got to deal with that stuff when it happens. If you do get injuries you hope guys are out there like that. Obviously, he got taken up, but there’s still guys but we like the guys in here. Hopefully we can get Jimmie back here soon and get a little bit more depth there. Some of these young guys can step up.”

With Mike Person, obviously you brought him in last spring for a reason, you had a history. Did he surprise you in any way or exceed whatever expectations you had with the way he played last year?

“Yes, definitely. Mike was great for us for the year we had him in Atlanta. He played center then. I think he got let go in the season the next year. And then we had a workout I think before the draft and we worked out three guys and he was in the best shape, had a history with him, I always liked Mike a lot too and then when he got here he was better now than I think he was even there. He’s very versatile. We brought him in because he can back up all three positions. He’s even played tackle in his career and then when he got his opportunity last year, he played very well and he also played hurt throughout the whole year. He’s a very reliable guy, a guy you know is going to be there day in and day out and we feel very fortunate that we kind of fell into him last year and he’s helped us a lot. But, I hope guys are pushing him and trying to take that job with him too but he’s not an easy guy to do that too.”

Has the running back rotation or pecking order clarified itself in your mind?

“No, because [RB Jerick McKinnon] Jet hasn’t even been out there. [RB Matt] Breida’s finally, he missed all of OTAs and he’s getting his legs back and he’s looking good. [RB] Tevin’s [Coleman] been going and then we lost [RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.] a couple days ago with a calf injury so he’s going to be out for about one to two weeks. So, I think we had four guys out there today, we’ve been trying to rotate them and that will play out as it goes. We’ve been letting Tevin and Breida go mainly with the first team, but [RB] Raheem’s [Mostert] getting in there too, so no we’re not even trying to think about that yet.”

Do you need to bring somebody else in there with Wilson and McKinnon not practicing?

“Yeah, it depends on how long this stuff goes. How long Jet’s out, how long Wilson’s going to be out. We would love to bring someone in, but in order to bring someone in we’ve got to cut someone. So, we’ve got a lot of guys here we like too so we’ll see how it plays out. But, you’d always like to not have to cut somebody just to bring in someone for legs. Hopefully we’ll get Jet back sooner than later.”

Is there any update on his status?

“I think one to two weeks. Yeah, so I think this first game versus Dallas might be tough.”

Are you trying to create specific roles for each running back or will you have a rotation of running backs who just do it all?

“I mean, you need guys who can do it all. We always think of roles and stuff. And all those guys have their traits and we try to put those in on stuff, but we also don’t just give those plays at this time of year to the guys who are best at it. We know the guys that we like on certain plays, but we also know there’s chance those guys can get hurt so you also give those plays to people who might not be as good as it, trying to get them better at it so you can overcome an injury. So, we’re really having all of them do everything and we’ll know what we want them to do when it gets closer.

I asked about McKinnon.

“Oh, McKinnon. Sorry, I was thinking about Jeff. Yeah, McKinnon, we’re not going to put him in these four days, in this four-day block. Then we’ll get a day off and then we’ll reassess at the next one. We’re hoping to get him back in the next set of blocks.”

Are you talking about, you said that even if a guy comes off PUP, he’s not necessarily going to practice, so you’re saying he will stay on PUP through this block?


What did you see from, you did a lot of work inside the 10 today, whether it was one-on-one with receivers and DBs or in the red zone. What do you want to see out of those drills besides scoring touchdowns?

“Everything gets tighter down there, so it’s much harder. It’s harder to get open. You don’t have as much time, guys can squat on things. So, today was the first day going in there, so everything’s scripted. We just went in and introduced it to them. We chose to do the red zone routes because that’s also a way you can save legs without asking them to go slower or not go as hard, because routes are just naturally shorter in there. That’s why we did that and then we just finished with the last period there in red zone. You’ve got to have a lot more detail down there. The main thing when you get down there is that you end with points. Everyone wants to end with a touchdown, but you better make sure you at least end with a field goal. The last thing you want to see are turnovers. That’s the main thing we’re trying to do is not get turnovers, not get penalties. I think we’ve struggled with penalties down there in our two years here. When you get a penalty, especially a turnover, you go back and it’s very hard to score. So, just trying to clean thing up down there and be a little more detailed in what we do.”

You’ve added some size too at receiver and even tight end with TE Levine Toilolo. I know you said that size isn’t always the solution to red zone issues, but does that help to have a WR Jordan Matthews or a WR Jalen Hurd on the team?

“Yeah, if guys are big and they have strong hands, then it really helps. They’ve got to have good hands, they’ve got to have ball skills. Anytime, it’s hard down there to get guys as open, especially versus zones because zones are all smaller and then versus man, you don’t really have to defend the go route, so guys squat on you. When they squat on you, they can hold you, and it’s hard to get away from that holding, and it doesn’t always get called. When you do have a bigger guy, they can defeat holding, but it’s going to depend on their ball skills and how much they can do that. I think we’ve got some guys with size who do have ball skills, so I expect some of those guys to help us down there this year.”

Do you think the defensive backs, when it is tight like that, get away with more holding in those situations?

“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt about it. It’s coached. If you don’t coach it, it’s not a good decision. It’s a lot easier to hold down there.”

Dante Pettis said a few days ago that Richard Sherman would hold him accountable when he was matched up against him if he didn’t go hard enough or run a good enough route, he would call him out right there. How important is it as a coach to know you have players out there that would do that?

“Extremely important. I mean, I don’t think it becomes real until the players hold each other accountable. The coaches can sit there and yell all day and yell all day, but you know you’ve got a good team when you don’t have to do that. When the other guys are going to hold them accountable, they’re going to set the standard. When a coach is always having to do that, you’ve got to do it at first, and they’ve got to learn what you want, but if you have to continue to do that over and over, you’re usually in trouble.”