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Kyle Shanahan talks injuries, who has the strongest hands on the team, and Jalen Hurd

The 49ers head coach gave plenty of updates to the media after Thursday’s practice

SiriusXM At Super Bowl LIII Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media to talk through some of the recent injuries, the progress of Jalen Hurd, and which receivers have the strongest hands on the team. Shanahan talked about plenty more than that. Check it out:

Do you guys have a timeframe on DL Nick Bosa as far as that injury?

“Hoping Week 1.”

Do you know what the extent is? Because general manager John Lynch said there are components of a high ankle sprain. What does that mean exactly?

“I believe there are three components of a high ankle sprain, which makes it an official high ankle sprain. He does not have all three of them. That’s all the science I know on that. Basically, it’s a minor high ankle sprain, but there’s no such thing as a minor high ankle sprain, because we know those are a much bigger deal than low ones. We’re hoping for Week 1.”

And then what about CB Jason Verrett?

“Same thing, and it’s not a high ankle sprain, but the same type of timeline. We’re hoping to get him back by Week 1 also.”

So, a similar injury?

“I know it’s in the ankle, but I’m not exactly sure of the specifics.”

But, Verrett is done as far as the preseason?

“Yes, him and Bosa.”

Have you guys figured out who’s going to play and who’s not going to play on Saturday?

“We had a pretty good idea a couple of days ago, but it’s changed a little bit over these last two days, just with some of the injuries. We’ll get in, make sure everyone got out of this fine and try to reshuffle it tonight.”

Have you decided which quarterback will start the game?

“No, we haven’t.”

Were you kind of pissed off at how the team practiced yesterday as far as protecting each other?

“Yeah, I was. I thought it was just a little sloppy, too many guys on the ground. That’s why I don’t like to tackle. Guys get hurt when you go to the ground. We had two guys go to the ground yesterday and had two good players have some pretty serious injuries from it. Verrett went to the ground and got his ankle and then we stumbled up and we had a body land on Nick’s knee. So, it was good on him getting his knee out of there. It was a pretty freak thing and just fortunate to come out the way he did.”

You have guys who are working hard, practicing hard, they want to make an impression. Isn’t some of that just unavoidable when you have guys going hard?

“Yes, that’s why it’s football. That’s why it’s tough to practice football. You don’t have many days to do it. Now you look at our schedule now, this is our last chance to get three practices in a row. We’re going to play Dallas and then we have a couple off days. We’re going to travel to Denver, get some scrimmage time in. You’ve got 10 days between those two games, but then we’re going to have three games in a 10-day span. It gets pretty weird with these games and how to rest guys and play, but it’s part of football. You keep showing guys you want guys to compete, you want guys to do things, but you’ve got to really not let it get carried away, because when guys are trying to make the team, they’re trying to compete, if they’re not in a position to thud someone up and be square on someone or not bring their legs with them, it’s not worth it. You can prove that some other time, but it’s not worth proving it in practice.”

You mentioned the schedule with those three games in a 10-game span. In an ideal world, do you need four preseason games or would you rather have more of a normalized schedule?

“Yeah, you absolutely don’t need four preseason games. I’d rather have zero than four, preferably I’d like two. One to evaluate the people trying to make the team and then just one to knock a little rust off.”

For you, obviously, these joint practices against Denver and what you’re doing on the practice field now, you put a lot more value on that than--?

“A ton more value, yeah. I put more value into what we did today.”

John Lynch said on the radio this morning that QB Nick Mullens worked out with motion performance expert Tom House this offseason and added a little juice to his throws. Is that where you’ve seen him make the biggest strides since last year?

“I’m not sure. I mean, all three of the guys did. [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Ryan did that my last year with him there. I think a lot of guys do that. He really understands the mechanics of throwing and how to get the most out of your arm and how to take care of it so it doesn’t wear down. Hopefully, they add a little velocity, they add about four yards. I think they can feel it, I think it gives them a little more confidence, but we’ll see in the games.”

What’s the biggest difference between Nick now and Nick at the end of last season?

“That he’s gotten so much more reps. Nick got reps last year in training camp and stuff, but then his reps were usually at free safety once practice started and everything. The fact that he got to play and do that and once he started playing and playing well, he got more confidence, got the reps each week and he’s just very confident. You know where he’s going to go with the ball and it’s pretty easy to think the same with him.”

Were all four guys down there? With House, were all four of your QBs down there?

“No, just three of our guys were. [QB] C.J. [Beathard] did some, too.”

Same question for C.J., what’s the biggest difference between him now and the end of last season?

“I think C.J.’s gotten to play a lot. He’s had some games where he’s played very well and he’s had some games he’s struggled. I think there’s a lot of tape that he knows the stuff that he can do very well and he knows the things he’s struggled at. He’s got to really learn on how to stay healthy, which sometimes is tough, because he’s been in some games where regardless of what he did, he was going to get hit. He’s also trying to do a better job of avoiding some of those. Just having a little bit of a better feel in that pocket. Sometimes your biggest strength is your biggest weakness, and C.J. is as tough and fearless as anyone I know. That’s why he keeps his eyes down the field and that’s why he can read coverages and get the ball to the right spot. Sometimes, you’ve got to be a little scared or at least see that big guy coming at you to hit you so you can avoid it and protect yourself.”

With Verrett, how do you evaluate where he’s at and his future with this team this season given that you’re not going to have him for the rest of this month?

“Well, fortunately, for Jason, he’s played football, we’ve seen him on tape. Everyone studied him coming out of college, everyone knows the ability that he has. He’s one that we can be more patient with. We know the football player he is, we’ve seen the guy since he’s been here. He’s as good of a guy and as good of a competitor as I’ve been around. We’ve got ultimate trust in him, it’s just about him getting his body right. When he left the field yesterday, we thought it was a lot worse than it ended up being. So, I mean, it was a rough day, but by the end of the day, it ended up being better news than we anticipated. The fact that it was just an ankle and he will be able to come back, it’s unfortunate for him, but he’ll be good to go by Week 1, at least healthy. Then hopefully, he’ll be ready with his mentality. I know he hasn’t played in a while, so we’ll have to get him back in there, but when Jason’s good to go, and I think he’ll let us know that when he’s good to go, we’re excited about who we have and there will be some good competition.”

Are Nick and Verrett the only guys in danger of missing Week 1 right now?

“No, I mean, you’ve got [C/G Weston] Richburg on PUP, so that’s the goal to get him back for Week 1. I don’t know if you guys know yet, but [CB] K’Waun [Williams] got his knee scoped a little bit ago. He’s iffy for Week 1 also. That’s the goal for all, did I say three guys? That’s the goal for all four of those guys. Did I miss anyone else? Oh and [RB Jerick McKinnon] Jet. Jet’s the guy we’ve got to be careful with. Jet we took off PUP, he got two days into practice and after two days, he had a lot of soreness. So, we’ve got to be smart with that. Him having soreness after a couple days, we’re going to take it off of him. I think we’re going to end up getting some PRP for him, which should give him about two weeks off to let that recover and then he’ll have 18 days before Week 1 after that. If he’s ready, that’ll be great. If not, we’ll be patient with him, let him come back and expect one of our other guys to step up.”

As head coach, have you had to do any emotional management with Nick and Jason just because of their history?

“A little bit. I think you’re dealing with two guys that it means more to them to play football and be successful than you could ever imagine. That’s their livelihood, that’s everything they do. What Jason’s been through these last few years, everyone knows how good of a corner he is. Not just us, everyone does. For him to not be able to go out there and show that, I know has got to be frustrating for him. I think he was in a little dark place yesterday morning because we thought it was going to be worse than it was, and I think the day ended up positive. He knows he can get back, he knows he can still do this, just it’s going to be a couple week setback. Then Nick, everyone knows Nick missed his last year of college for a pretty serious injury. I think it’s hard, it’s hard for me to watch because everyone acts like he’s a guy who’s going to get hurt and do stuff like this. I have been around probably one of the most physical rookies in practice that I’ve been around as far as playing the run, playing the pass. He gets after it. He’s as tough as can be and I just try to tell him, the last thing he wants to do is get hurt. He’s trying to go out there and play with it. He wants to come back tomorrow. But I mean, he had over a 300-pound man land on his leg, and it was very fortunate that we didn’t lose him for the year. Even though I’ve only been around those two for a little bit, I’ve got the upmost respect for them and how they carry themselves. There’s not any doubt in my mind that it’s more important for them to get back to the field than it is for anyone else.”

Is K’Waun also done for the preseason?


Is DL Arik Armstead’s calf injury serious or is he coming back soon?

“That’s day-to-day. We’re trying to see how it plays out. We don’t think it is, but it’s kept him out the last few days.”

And for Jerick McKinnon, I forget how it works, but is he eligible to go back on PUP?

“No, you can’t go back on PUP.”

So, is he being considered for an injury list to begin the season?

“No, I believe the only choice is, and I will definitely confirm this with the smarter guys upstairs with [president of 49ers enterprises and executive vice president of football operations] Paraag [Marathe] and [director of football administration & analytics Brian Hampton] Hamp, but no once you come off PUP the only chance is you can be on your active 53 and just wait until they’re healthy or you can put them IR and then you get two guys designated to return that year.”

Is that an option for him that he starts the season on IR and then gets brought up?

“Yeah, it’s all an option. I hope that doesn’t happen. I know he doesn’t, but that’s an option with anybody. Those are tough decisions you’ve got to make, but when I feel our goal is Week 1 and with everything’s that’s been going on and that’s not just because we’re hoping Week 1, that’s because the doctors feel that’s a realistic goal, then that’s pretty far from my mind right now. But, anytime guys are in this situation that’s always the tough thing about the 53, it’s that we’ve got more guys here than 53 people. Sometimes it’s tough, you get rid of people to keep someone but when are they going to be available and that’s just the issue you have with rosters. “

What about DL Ronald Blair III?

“Ronald Blair, I think he had a slight groin, he was not out there today, but he’s day-to-day.”

I don’t think anyone’s questioned Bosa’s toughness or ability to play football or anything like that, but is there a level of concern when a guy just can’t stay on the field?

“Not with me because I go back to his history and I think the guy stayed on the field throughout college. I mean, look, he played 12 games his freshman year, I think 13 his sophomore year, I think he played in three his next year and he had a surgery to repair his, I think his oblique, that probably was a pretty good decision for him, too. So, when you go back to that decision, he played game-in and game-out until that year and now we have a guy come in and someone landed on his leg and that doesn’t make me say someone’s injury prone because he had one serious injury in college and he tore his ACL sometime in high school like 60-percent of the players out there.”

We saw QB Jimmy Garoppolo connect with WR Trent Taylor I believe three times in the red zone today. For one, how good is that to see considering where they were at the end of 2017 and what about each of their games kind of makes them be able to gel so well in close quarters like that?

“I mean, Trent’s got a very good feel for his zone. Trent, he’s one of our better man-to-man players, but he also has a feel out there where he can just feel open areas. And there’s a lot of guys who are just supposed to run the route that’s called and then they see a space and they can adjust it and there are a lot of guys who think they can do that but they can’t. Trent’s one of the guys who can. I mean, if he sees something and changes a route it’s usually because he should. And I think Jimmy has a good feel for him in that way and sometimes when guys are like that you’ll stay on them a little bit longer than usual instead of progressing to the next option.”

WR Jalen Hurd started off by showing you stuff as a run blocker and kind of the aggression, but is he showing that also now catching the ball?

“Definitely. He’s got an aggressiveness to him that he’s big and stuff so I think you guys can see that blocking, but that’s what I like about him and [WR] Deebo [Samuel]. I mean, both of them, they’re big guys. I know Deebo doesn’t have the same height, but they’re both big guys, big targets, who have strong hands, who can defeat holdings. When guys are on them they’re not thrown off their routes as much and not only do they have the bodies like that, but they have the mentalities to go with it.

You had Hurd on the front side today and I think he cracked down on a defensive end and that kind of speaks to how confident you are having him blocking right. Is that something you could use in the season as well?

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, we do that with Trent a lot too. Actually, Jalen blocked him too good today because he knocked him into a tackle and picked our tackle so the WILL backer could go make the tackle, they should have gotten someone littler on it. But, that shows he is a bigger guy, it’s not like he means to, he’s just bigger. There’s not a receiver on our team that we won’t ask to do that. They all have to be able to do that. You don’t just put the obvious guy there, but he should be the best at it, he’s the biggest.”

How can you tell if a guy has strong hands?

“How they attack the ball. You know how the guys who get a rebound you can feel the ball up in there and they grab it like it’s going to pop. People tell you growing up have soft hands and you absorb it and stuff, but that’s not people teaching you how to catch. I want people with aggressive hands where you’re running through the ball, you’re attacking it. People can be on your wrists and stuff, but you are popping that basketball every time. Those are like the [Cleveland Browns WR] Jarvis Landry’s, going back to [free agent WR] Brandon Marshall. When you have hands like [former NFL WR] Anquan Boldin, when you have hands like that you don’t always have to separate and if you have those type of hands and you can separate, then you have a chance to be special.”

When you are talking philosophically about football, do you like to go to basketball analogies?

“I stopped baseball in eighth grade and I always played, basketball was my favorite, so I always loved basketball. I think those are the best athletes, they’re the most fun to watch and that’s the one I wish I could have played.”

Who has the most aggressive hands on the team?

“It’s different. When you come to aggressive hands, I mean there’s guys with good hand eye, which [WR] Dante [Pettis] is up there with his hand-eye and stuff, but when you go to the strongest most aggressive hands, I’m going to go with [WR Kendrick] Bourne, Deebo and Jalen.”

You mentioned two rookies there?

“Yep, that’s why they are here.”

A lot of times, coaches want the veterans to kind of set the standard. Are you kind of ramping things up now for the veterans to take a look at the rookies, that they can add something that can help your game?

“I mean, you’d like to, but you can’t make stuff up as coaches. I’m just saying what I see out on the field and they see it too. We’ve got guys pushing those guys so it’s a really fun competition to watch.”