San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media after practice about everything from the wideouts to his expectations for Jimmy Garoppolo.
I suppose I should start with a TE George Kittle question. Was today’s practice always sort of the loose deadline for getting that deal done and what was it like to be out there, 11-on-11 stuff, sort of a real practice for the first time this season?
“I don’t know if it was a deadline, that’s probably the first day that I would have been concerned, so that was the first day I would have noticed something being affected if it wasn’t done. I don’t think that was actually the deadline for everyone. Just, that’s usually when stuff matters once it passes that day. It does help things, I think, get done. Just getting out there was great. We’ve been here for a couple of weeks. We’ve been out on the field doing some walkthroughs and stuff, but being able to go out there and go full speed finally was great. We’ve got one more day of that without pads and then we’ll be past all these restrictions.”
One of the question marks this offseason, given that you had two guys who played really well at the WILL linebacker spot, was who was going to be the starter, LB Kwon Alexander or LB Dre Greenlaw, this year? It seemed like Kwon was getting the bulk of the work, at least, there today. Can you sort of comment on that? I don’t know if it is an issue or not or does Kwon have that job from last season?
“Yes, I mean, everyone’s job and we compete all the time, so no one just has a job set in stone, but I don’t see that as open competition right now. We brought Kwon here for a reason. He did exactly what we wanted when he was out there and did even more than we anticipated from a leadership standpoint. Kwon has been great here. That’s not taking anything away from Dre. He had a hell of a rookie year. The more he got his opportunities, the better he got, but we’ve got a few good guys there and we see that as Kwon’s job right now.”
Just wondering your early impressions of WR Brandon Aiyuk and how is he just coming along and learning the offense?
“Today was the first full speed practice and I thought he did a pretty good job today. We’ll see when we go watch the film, but I’ve been real impressed with him just being around him. He was very impressive on the zoom meetings. Just his attention to detail. But, since we’ve gotten here just going through these walkthroughs and stuff, you can tell he knows how to practice like a pro. You can tell he comes prepared every day. He’s not a guy you’ve had to teach how to act or teach how important it is to learn this stuff. You can tell he understood that before he got here and since we’ve been around him, you can tell he’s been working and that’s why he’s further ahead, I think, than a lot of rookies would be at this time.”
Also on that receiving core, you’ve got WR Trent Taylor back, WR Jalen Hurd was out there for a little bit. What does it mean to have Trent back and how is he looking along with Jalen from what you saw earlier?
“They both went through a lot of stuff last year and missed the whole year. Trent’s been battling with that for a couple of years, so I was just really happy for him that he’s overcome a lot, all the infections that he did get and the rehabbing to do that surgery. I know how tough last year was for him and before that happened, how high of a level he was playing at. So, just to get him back out there is a huge deal. He looks like the same guy. I know how hard he’s worked and I know how excited he is. He’s not a guy you want to go up to and baby right now or ask him how his foot’s feeling. He’ll be very irritated with that question. He’s ready to move on. He’s ready to play some football and that’s the guy you see out there. Jalen has been very similar. He came back and he put a lot of time in here. You know, the only guys that were allowed to come up here and be allowed in the building during the quarantine and everything were guys who had injuries and stuff. So, him being around our training staff, being around Dustin Perry, our strength coach, he’s put in a lot of work to get to where he is right now, to come back from that back injury. I thought he had a great first ten days, and we are trying to be smart with them and ease them in. Just did individual today and stuff, but hopefully that will pick up as we go.”
What’s your level of concern for DL Arik Armstead and do you have a potential timeframe on when he can get back out there?
“I want to say he’s day-to-day, even though I probably didn’t hear that, but I think that could tell you my level of concern. I’m not too worried about it. Just has some back stiffness, which happens to a lot of people, especially with guys his size. He could be out there if we really needed him to right now, but we’re trying to be smart. So, just me guessing right now, I bet we’ll probably be smart these first four days and then try to get him in the next block of practices.”
I know that you were eager to see RB Jerick McKinnon get on the field each of the past two seasons, but finally seeing him out there on the practice field again and the way he’s moving, how do you evaluate him?
“Very similar to how I talked about Trent, Jet’s even been through more and he hasn’t been able to get on the field since he’s been here as a Niner. I think everyone knows how hard that’s been for him just emotionally and mentally, but what he’s done too this offseason, I think he spent most of his time in Houston and he spent a lot of time with [OL] Trent Williams down there. I think [WR] Deebo [Samuel] was down there a little bit, but those guys grinded. They worked very hard. Jet’s always been as hard of a workers as there is, he came in as prepared as anyone could be. My only worry about Jet is sometimes he might overdo it because that’s how hard he works. The good thing for Jet is, we’ve been through this twice with him and when he came back last year with it, trying to get him back and he’d get out there and try to work through it, you could tell it just didn’t heal right and then he had to go through all that stuff again. It’s still the first day, the first step, but you can tell that it healed right and you can tell Jet’s put that work in and you feel all this that he’s gone through in the last two years. I feel he’s finally in a position where he has a chance to have this comeback now and everyone’s pulling for him. He’s as good of a guy there is on our team and he had a real good first day of practice.”
Obviously over the past several years, throughout your whole career, I think blocking from receivers has been very important in your system. What can it add when you have guys with bigger bodies out there? You talk about Jalen Hurd, WR Jauan Jennings. Can that add another dimension to what you like to do with receivers blocking for the run game?
“I think it can because you can entertain the idea of putting them on some different matchups. Some of the guys you mentioned and their size, it actually would be possible for them to block a linebacker or at times go through a defensive end with the help of a tackle or something like that. So, it does give you different options, but it always starts with blocking strong safeties or blocking the four secondary guys. We’ve had big guys who can do that, but being big doesn’t always make you great at that. Those guys are trying to fit up in certain ways and you’ve got to have some intelligence to yourself, too. You’ve got to get in the right positions, the right technique, know whether their running an outside run, an inside run, a gap run. There’s a lot of different ways to do it and we have had a lot of success with smaller guys who are willing to do it, even though they don’t have to be just dominating guys. You need to get in the way so corners crack replace and things like that, but when you do think of some of these dudes you mentioned who are bigger, it does give you a few different options.”
DL Nick Bosa came back saying he was a lot healthier this season as opposed to last year. It looked like he was disrupting the offensive line a little bit today. What have you seen from him?
“Not much more than usual, because he always disrupts the offensive line. I wouldn’t have thought that right away, but I guess with him saying that, early in practice last year, I think he was coming off from some things from Ohio State that he had. I think it was a high ankle sprain early in practice last year, so we had to shut him down pretty fast. Nick is obsessed with preparing to play football, so I know he does that all year round every single day. He came prepared to play football just like he did, but having a healthier offseason, I bet, not having to rehab as much. Anytime guys spend the year before rehabbing, they all work just as hard, but you don’t get to focus on other areas. It’s all about getting healthy instead of getting as good as you can. So, him just going into this offseason healthy, it makes sense that you say that.”
A lot of the guys we’ve talked to have talked about DL Javon Kinlaw and said that he really doesn’t seem like a rookie just in terms of his preparation and where he is. Can you speak to that a little bit please?
“We haven’t been around each other a ton, so we all get here and everyone’s going to look at the first-round picks first. Kinlaw and Aiyuk are probably the guys the players are watching more, trying to judge how they are and these guys came in working their tails off. We haven’t been here that long, so I’m not just going to say it’s a finished product. We’ve got to keep doing that and keep working, but both of those guys have come in, fallen right in line. It really helps how the rest of our team is. We didn’t get as many team meetings when we started and we’d go out to walk through and everything and to not have to address a lot of people on how hard we go and the rookies kind of just fall in line because they watch everyone else doing it. So if you come in slacking around, you look pretty out of place. Usually a lot of the players are going to get to you before even a coach has to. When you have guys like Kinlaw and Aiyuk come in and the players are probably expecting to tell them, ‘Hey, you’ve got to turn it on a little bit. This isn’t college.’ When you don’t have to tell guys like that, it is impressive. They are working right away, so they do seem like a pro, but today was the first practice. We’ve got a long way to go. The key will be keeping that up.”
What can you expect from the two veteran wide receivers that just came in? Why did you bring them in and what do you hope that they can contribute?
“First, it was awesome to bring in two guys, like [WR] J.J. [Nelson] and [WR] Tavon [Austin]. Two guys who are NFL players who have done things in this league and two guys we’ve always liked. I liked both of them coming out of college and we’ve liked them in all their stops. But also, when you have nine receivers, we have 11, but two of them are on PUP with [WR] Richie [James Jr.] and Deebo. So, the fact that they aren’t out there able to practice leaves you with nine and receivers are always going to have tweaks, so they can’t do it every day. So, very quickly we can get down to seven. If you have seven receivers at our practice, you’re in trouble. You always try to have 11. That’s always the goal. I think last year we had ten in camp, so we needed to get some more guys in just for legs, but the fact that we got two guys in who have the ability to make our roster, who could have roles on this team with both of their skill assets made me very excited to get them. We didn’t know if we were going to get one or two, but the way they looked in workouts yesterday, they were both in shape, looked like they had in previous places they’ve been in their career. That’s what excites me the most is we needed the numbers to help guys, but we also added two guys who are capable of beating people out on this roster and capable of earning a spot. Plus, the whole thing with this year of having an option where you can have a veteran on practice squad and who knows how that’ll work out, but we want guys like that to where it could be an option. [WR] Travis [Benjamin] was an option like that who also had a good chance to make the team. But, he would’ve been a veteran there who could have made that spot. We’re bringing in two guys just like that now that they’re going to push people to make this team, or hopefully they can show they can be a part to help us at some time.”
Following up on that a little bit, you mentioned Deebo. Do you have any updated expectations on when he could be ready or a timeframe at all?
“The way I kind of see it in my mind, I think we’re hoping for Week One. Not counting on it, but I think that’s kind of the area that these injuries usually heal by, but a lot of that has to do with: are you ready to play? Has it fully healed by that time? Are you in football shape? Deebo’s going to do everything he can to be in shape, but it’s hard to be in football shape until you can play football. So, how many practices do we get him in here before Arizona? That’s going to all go into play, but I’m hoping for Week One, but not sure yet. It’s a little too early.”
QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee brace has gotten a lot of attention in the last week or so. He seemed to be wearing it today. What’s the thinking, the philosophy on the brace?
“If you need it, wear it, is my philosophy. I think it’s funny. I didn’t know there was a lot of talk about his knee brace. The reason I know about it is because [vice president of communications] Bob [Lange] told me he didn’t wear one. I got updated by Bob before I came in here, so I know that he wore one today because Bob told me he did and I know he didn’t wear one in walkthrough because Bob told me he didn’t because [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice said it. So, I think that shows my philosophy on it that that’s not much of my concern. If he was coming right off his ACL, I’d probably be like, ‘Why aren’t you wearing one?’ Players, after they get through it, that’s up to a player. Some guys feel it can hurt them more. Some people think it helps, but I’m not going to pretend that I know that. That’s his body, that’s his knee and everyone’s different.”
TE Jordan Reed, he wasn’t involved with 11-on-11. Is that just a precautionary measure and he was involved in catching some passes...
“Sorry you went out, but I think I’ve got an idea of what you’re saying. We were being smart with Jordan, very similar to Hurd. Jordan hasn’t been here very long. We do know his history and he just hasn’t been here as long as the other guys, so we eased him in today, routes on air, did all the individual work, but we didn’t want him going against anyone yet. We’ll reassess that each day and we’ll get him in there when we’re comfortable with it.”
I know it’s just one practice, but what are your expectations for Jimmy Garoppolo just in terms of the way he’s progressing, running the offense right now and do you expect him to be more vocal, take on more of a leadership role now that he is more comfortable or where are you on all of those things?
“I expect Jimmy to be himself. You don’t ever come in and say, ‘Hey, you learned two more plays so now you yell more.’ I think Jimmy had a great grasp of the offense last year, I think he’ll have the same one this year. Hopefully more experience in going through it more. You learn from your situations and that usually makes you better. That’s where I hope he just continues to get better in that aspect and I know my goal as a coach is to make him the best he possibly can be and that’s what our standard is for coaches. We’re really never satisfied, so we’re always just trying to get guys better.”
A video surfaced yesterday or recently of Trent Williams appearing to drive 125 miles an hour on the freeway. Is that something that you inserted yourself into and what are your concerns about that and what did you address with Trent?
“I haven’t addressed it with him yet. I didn’t really find out about it until I prepared to come in here. I think my concerns about that would be the same as anyone else who understands what can happen when you drive that fast. It puts everyone out there in risk and puts yourself at risk. So, I’ll ask Trent about it. I’ve been told that he said it was his brother and not him. I’ll ask Trent for myself and find out, but regardless of it, that’s nothing anyone should do on this planet unless you’re in a NASCAR race.”