San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media after Friday’s practice to discuss Kendrick Bourne’s travel situation, what he likes so much about Jerick McKinnon, where the future of Colton McKivitz could be, and much more.
How did CB Richard Sherman look in practice this week and are you ruling him out as well for Sunday?
“Yes. He did a good job. Was able to practice all three days on scout team. If we had to do it, we could push it, but wouldn’t be the smartest thing. So, we’re going to take him into this bye week and feel good about him going versus Rams.”
What’s the update with WR Kendrick Bourne. Is he ready to play in this game?
“Yeah, Kendrick Bourne was back in the building today. Got him in the meetings. He got to get out there for our walkthrough type practice.”
Because Kendrick’s been in quarantine for, I guess, over a week, will that potentially factor in to his workload? I guess, in other words, is conditioning a possible issue?
“Yes. I’m sure he’s been doing some things on his own, hopefully. Just running. But, any time you’re not here for 10 days and miss two weeks of practice, it is an issue, but we’re down some receivers. So, he’s going to be up regardless, but we’ve got to be smart with him.”
You guys have played pretty well on the road this season, and it’s obviously weird circumstances. So, when you go to like New Orleans today, you’re going to be in that hotel for almost 48 hours, right? Outside of maybe a walkthrough. What is it like just to try to get the guys kind of get back into game mode and how is a road trip?
“I love it because it’s a lot of time to catch up on sleep and if you’re not sleeping, there’s not anything else to do. So, you’d sit there and prepare for the game. So, I think it’s nice. There’s no distractions. There’s no family in town. You always like to be home with the family and stuff, but it’s all football or your hotel room. So, I think it helps you just lock in more and rest a little bit more and we haven’t had to play with any fans in the stadium. So, there hasn’t really been such thing as homefield or advantage. I know we got a little bit this week. I know they’re allowing 6,000 in, so obviously that’ll be louder than nobody, but we’ll see how it is.”
What have you learned about RB Jerick McKinnon? You’ve had him in the building, now this is year three, but seeing how he’s performed in your offense? Then last week, and I’m assuming this week, he’ll have to take on a little bit more of the load than I’m sure you wanted him to. What do you think about his readiness to play a full game and play all three downs?
“I think he’s been having to do that for a number of weeks here. I think that’s what set him back a little bit. I think it started after the Philly game, what happened to him when we lost a few guys and how much he had to go and then what that led to in the next few weeks, but I’ve been real happy with Jet. Love him as our third down back. I love him in there was a running back.
I don’t want him to have to carry the load too much because that wears down everybody, especially a guy who’s had two years off football coming back with what he’s done. I think the way we’ve taken care of him here these last few weeks, I think it showed better for him versus the Packers last week. I think it’ll help him this week going into it and hoping to get some more guys back so we can take that stuff off of him and get him back to using him specifically how we planned on.”
On draft day, I think you guys said that you really liked OL Colton McKivitz. You weren’t sure whether he was a tackle for you or a guard or what position was his future position. Has that started to become more clear? Are you guys now looking at him as a guard for the future?
“I think you look at him where you need him the most right now. It’s his best chance to get on the field after we drafted him, after we got [T] Trent [Williams], already having [T Mike] McGlinchey, his best chance was at guard. So, we threw him in there to get in that competition with [OL Daniel] Brunskill and [OL Tom] Compton. That’s where he’s needed to stay.
It’s nice to have him as an option if things happen at tackle. We’ll evaluate our whole roster at the end of the season because I think he has the ability to play both in this league, but he needs to work at whatever one it is to become a solid starter. This year it’s been at guard and that’s why he’s having that opportunity right now at guard.”
WR Richie James has obviously played at the slot most of his career and then in a pinch had to be played outside. He said he prefers being a slot guy, but clearly has that flexibility. What do you look for when you’re evaluating guys in the draft and in free agency, in terms of outside receivers? What are the qualities you look for?
“Well, an outside receiver has to have the ability to get on top of people and run by people. So, for me personally, it starts with the 40 time. If you don’t have that 40, there’s plenty of outside receivers who don’t have that 40 time, but you’ve got to be able to still threaten people with the go route.
Whether that’s what size, whether it’s with your ball skills, whatever that is, just your savviness to get on top of guys. And if you can threaten people with the go route on the outside, then you have the ability to run every other route. Once people realize you can’t run a go route on the outside, then people squat on you, then you can’t go out there. That was my life story.”
Obviously, you’re in the middle of a season and you’re trying to win games, but when you have so many guys, so many key guys, facing potential free agency, do you have to find a balance between pushing them and wanting to win now and also evaluating how they’re doing and what they could bring to the team in the future?
“I think, trying to do the best you can each week, every practice, I think that goes hand in hand with evaluating guys, what they are now, what they’re going to be next week, how they’re going to help us finish out this year and what they’re going to be in the future. So, I don’t think I have to compare those things. Right now, with so many guys out and just where we’ve been at, that makes guys down a little bit.
So, my biggest thing and what I’m getting guys to focus on is just getting better. That’s a cliché you say a lot, you get better or worse, but when guys are down, you better make sure you don’t make it worse. That’s why we just started out at practice on Wednesday, that our goal is to just go out there and focus each person individually and getting better. I was really proud of the guys for that. We had a few low days after that Green Bay game and sometimes it’s hard to get back up for work, but guys came in that Wednesday practice, guys were grinding.
Thought we had one of our most physical practices yesterday, on Thursday, in both of our team run drills, which was real exciting to see. That gives me confidence in our guys that we can keep getting better. Hopefully, we’ll get a few guys back as this goes through the end. And to me, when guys just worry about that stuff, it helps us know what they are, how they’re responding to adversity, how they’re going to be going forward. I want guys who are always continuing to improve, whether you’re a rookie or you’re a 10-year vet. If you’re not improving, you’re on your way out.”
With Trent Williams and WR Brandon Aiyuk being out last week, probably a little frustration on everybody’s part. How did they seem in practice and with having a week off, did they have a little bit of extra pep in their step? Was there a little bit more energy from those two?
“Yeah, I think they did. I think those are two guys in particular that I think we’re playing at probably their personal highest levels of the year. They were really eager to get to that game and you go through the week of practice and you kind of get surprised by it. So, I think they were a little frustrated and eager to get out there on the football field, which was nice. Anytime they sweat or we’re breathing too hard, guys mess with them, they should have extremely fresh legs and be nice and ready to go. It was just a few days that they missed. So, I know they’re happy to back and we’re happy to have them out there.”
Obviously, you’re significantly shorthanded again for this game. Everyone saw nationally what happened against the Packers. The Saints looked like one of the greatest teams in NFL history against the Buccaneers. Obviously, everyone’s kind of figured out what’s going to happen Sunday. Do you, I don’t know, get into any of that? Like, us against the world, no one believes in us? Do you not get into all that kind of mumbo jumbo?
“I mean, it depends on the week. I mean sometimes. I try to keep it real with the guys. I know no one’s giving us a shot and it’s not like I’m going to sit in there and go give the best raw raw speech ever that it’s us against the world and so that’s why we’re going to go out there and shock everyone. Guys love that challenge. Anything you do, it’s always more fun to do something people don’t think you can. So, that is a motivation.
That is exciting, but really what I said a few questions ago, everything I’ve been this week is I really don’t care about much else except getting better. Whoever that is, whatever player it is, whatever coach it is. If you can kind of narrow your thoughts to that, then you have a chance to do better. The better you do, the better chance we have at winning. Then you add on the spot that no one thinks you can. I think that entices everybody.
You always want to prove people wrong and we know it’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s something that we’re ready to go compete for and not just on Sunday. We’ve been working for this all week and we’ll see what happens Sunday, but our guys are going to go out there and go for it.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said yesterday that the defense really responded well to the mini bye week and practiced extremely well on Wednesday and Thursday. Does that mean that the offense didn’t practice well? How did the offense practice and how did it respond to the mini bye week?
“You didn’t ask Saleh how the offense practiced? All right. No, I thought the offense had a good practice. I think it’s more of the intent of it. We card stuff. That doesn’t mean our stats were good out there, not that we take them. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t complete every completion, but it’s more how you go about things. After the tough loss, after a few days off, we’ve all coached a while.
Saleh, myself, and those are the times where it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get these guys up. It’s going to be hard to get them going.’ It wasn’t that way. I didn’t hear Saleh, but I’m sure that’s why he talked positive about the defense yesterday because on Wednesday and Thursday, it would’ve seemed, if you just watched guys’ demeanor, watched the silent tape, it would look like we are going, we’re working our butts off and things are going well.”
With S Jaquiski Tartt out for the rest of the season, do you guys just roll with S Marcell Harris or do you guys have some options that you worked on in practice as far as whether it’s DB Tarvarius Moore or S Johnathan Cyprien? How do you guys figure to play that beginning on Sunday?
“Well, we’ve got the same guys there. Just losing Tartt, so we work all the options with everyone. You’ll see on Sunday exactly who we go with, but we’ve had guys who play all the positions. So, Marcell’s done a real good job for us. Tarvarius has done a good job when he gets in, [DB] Jimmie [Ward] has the capability to really play anywhere in the secondary. New Orleans does a lot of different things, so losing Tartt’s a big blow because of the versatility and just the player he is, but we’ve got some other guys who can go in there and we can mix around. So, we do still have a lot of options.”
Two-part question. Is Trent Taylor’s back injury related to the back issues that he’s dealt with in the past? The second part is about his position. You haven’t had a lot of consistency at that F position since you’ve been here. Has that been problematic, frustrating to you, just not having the same guys game in and game out at that spot?
“Yeah, anytime you have to, continuity is a big thing. I know you guys hear it a lot because it is true. Whether it’s the receivers getting used to it day in and day out, the quarterback’s getting used to it, how you break the huddle, how you move, just the whole rhythm of an offense. So, continuity is a big deal. Trent did a hell of a job his first year for us as a rookie at that spot. Then the next two years, had some real bad injuries that really set him back. Worked his butt off to get back to give him a chance to be in the league and help us this year.
That’s where he started off the year, especially with Aiyuk out and Deebo out. Bourne ended up taking over our F-role last year about, I want to say Week Nine or something. It took us a while with a bunch of guys in and out. Deebo was coming on strong to start at our X. [New Orleans Saints WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] came in, took over our Z and then Bourne took over our F.
From then on out, I feel like that’s when our offense took off. We didn’t change receivers. It was those three with Richie rotating in for them, but it was those three from that moment all the way to the Super Bowl. I felt like we got better each week over that. We had that for two and a half games this year. It started out with Miami, but we weren’t totally ready. Guys were just coming back.
I really felt that versus the Rams. All right, we got two weeks in a row of our guys going and I’m starting to feel it. I think that’s why we play a little bit better. Then you go into the third week with New England, it was the same thing. I felt like that is what you saw, guys getting better, the continuity coming. Then at the end of that game, losing Deebo was a big setback because we lost him and then you go to the next week, you lose [TE George] Kittle and [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] and [RB] Tevin [Coleman] and [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.]. Then getting Aiyuk, losing him and Bourne right before the game last week. So yes, the continuity has been off big time.
We got Aiyuk back. We got Bourne in today. Then hopefully we’ll get Deebo back next week and then hopefully we can build off that and see how many games in a row we can get those three out there.”