This has been an offseason like no other. The pandemic forced teams to drastically change their training schedules, and with social justice being at the forefront of the sports world, all of the professional sports leagues are allowing their players to have their voices heard.
The Niners have been hit hard by the injury bug leading up to Week 1, but the good news is that most of the starters are expected to be ready to go. Shanahan caught up with the media, and spoke about several different topics, including how the 49ers are handling protests, Friday’s scrimmage, potentially using fake crowd noise at Levi’s Stadium, and more.
Transcript courtesy of the 49ers’ communications team:
What’s been the dialogue inside the organization about what’s going on socially? Was there thought given today, I know you guys had the walk-thru as opposed to the fully padded practice, but was there any thought given to following the lead of the NBA and other teams in the NFL and just cancel practice altogether?
“No, I usually follow the lead of our players on that. If it was important, if they wanted to not have practice today, we definitely would have done that. No one brought that to my attention and I opened it up to all of them and that wasn’t what they wanted to do. Our dialogue in here is, I mean, I do think we have a pretty authentic place. We discussed a ton over the offseason, especially with the George Floyd stuff, when that happened. It’s stuff that lots of our players have been dealing with their entire life, that people have been dealing with for hundreds of years. Now that there’s cameras and stuff out there, people see it a lot more which is why I truly believe it will eventually change. It’s not happening fast enough, obviously. But, the way our building is, I was talking about this earlier today, we didn’t have jobs for a little bit, not being allowed to come into the building during quarantine and everything. We’re sitting at home and discussing this stuff left and right with family members, with teammates, with anybody you’re in contact with, and to do that for a while and to see the different relationships and everything that are going on in the world right now, it was so nice for us to get back into our building where I feel like this place is a little bit of a sanctuary for us. Where you can come in and be yourself. We have a very authentic relationship between players and coaches, players and other players, players and personnel, just everyone in our building. It’s a place that you don’t have to kind of really walk around on eggshells. You can kind of just be yourself. I feel that it’s been good for our players. I think sometimes it allows guys to get away from that just a little bit, but at the same time, you’ve got to bring into, it’s not a sanctuary for everybody. A lot of our guys are here, but there’s lots of families out there and family members of our team that have to deal with this stuff right now. They’re dealing with it all the time. That’s the stuff you do have to take into account because everybody is on a different page, where they’re at in their life with it and how they are being affected and how they do want to handle it. Everybody, I know, feels the same about it. At least the people around here. When you look at all that, you let guys know that it’s okay to bring it up at any time, whether they want to come into my office and talk to me personally about it. If the guys want to bring it up in a team meeting and have all of us talk about it together. Whether guys want to take a day off of practice because they feel that there’s something that we can go do that to help this cause, that definitely is obviously more important than football and any type of sport. But, you try to keep that open for all the players, so guys aren’t just doing something just to do it. They’re doing something they believe in and that they think can help and stuff. I think guys do that in how they live their life every day, at least the guys that I’m around. If there’s ever anything they want to do constructively as a team, or take practice off to do that, there’ll be zero hesitation on our part. But, that’s something that I’ll always leave up to the players to bring to my attention.”
What’s the thinking about tomorrow’s practice at Levi’s? Will the practice structure be different? Is this sort of serving as a dry run for September 13?
“It would be pretty similar to last week’s practice. The one where we did a lot more drives and stuff. A lot more move the ball. A little bit less individual and scripted periods. You try to make it a little bit more like a game atmosphere, but we’re going into the stadium just because one, it’s nice to get a break from our practice field, but two, so that we can check out the noise, stuff like that. We’ll have all the tablets, headsets out there. So, our guys who are in charge of doing that stuff, make sure it’s all working. I doubt I use it. I’d expect it to be working on Week One. All the guys who deal with that stuff are used to getting four trial runs at it. I can remember a number of preseason games where the pictures aren’t working or a tablet goes down and we’re a lot more patient there in the preseason, but they’ve got four games to get better at it. Then we’re usually a good by Week One. So, I think that’s going to help a lot of guys like that, but I don’t see it much different than our practice from last week.”
You mentioned the noise inside Levi’s Stadium. I think I could be wrong, but Levi’s is unique in that all the speakers are set up on the south side. If you guys are planning to have some sort of crowd noise pumped in or atmosphere created through sound, is there going to be an effort to maybe add some speakers to the north side of the stadium so it’s not just coming from one side?
“Yeah, I’m still trying to understand what the parameters are of that. Once we do get any official word of exactly what the rules are, I think we’re going to have a lot of ideas. Crowd noise is a huge effect in the NFL and that’s why I truly believe home field advantage is a bigger deal in football than any other sport because the communication that’s involved when an O-Lineman cannot hear a snap count, it is extremely hard to block defense alignments. So, I think that’s a huge advantage. When are we going to play the noise? How’s it going to be? Right now, I’m hearing you’ve got to press play on the noise at the beginning of the game and you can’t turn it off till the end of the game. So, that means we’re helping both D-Lines when we’re at home. There’s lots of stuff that I really don’t know about yet. I’ve got a lot of ideas, but try not to waste too many extra thoughts when I don’t know the exact parameters yet. So, hopefully we’ll get that sooner than later and then we can come up with whatever decision gives the Niners the best chance to win.”
What are the injury updates? We really haven’t heard about TE Ross Dwelley. I know S Marcel Harris was out yesterday and FB Kyle Juszczyk looked like that was a vet day? Then TE George Kittle went off at the end.
“George had a tight hamstring. Checked out all right. It was tight, so he took him out of there before something bad happened. Juice did end up having a hamstring strain. He’s going to be week-to-week. Marcell, I think, rolled his ankle a little bit, missed a practice. He was back out there today. We just had to walk through, but I think he should be good to go for tomorrow. Who was the other one? Dwelley had some foot issues, was having a little bit of pain. Scared us for a little bit because of how much it was hurting him, but it’s improving pretty rapidly right now. We’re feeling a little bit more optimistic about that. So, right now he is day-to-day. I’d be surprised if we have him tomorrow, but hopefully we get him back next week.”
The decision to just have the walk through, were you feeling like the team overall was just kind of needing a break or was that more of a function of just being pretty light at certain positions?
“Both. We’re all learning what it’s like to go through a training camp starting with 80 players instead of 90. Having to do this without going to a preseason game, doing it in less time where you’ve got to cram some stuff in, you don’t realize how it’s going to affect you until you get to these points. I planned on doing a little bit of live drills and stuff. I planned on hitting a little, a lot more reps today than we actually did, but you’ve got to adjust and play it out day-to-day. You start out with 80 and you’re used to 90, but you have five people on PUP, so it goes to 75. You have the normal wear and tear of training camp, which usually has about 10 to 12 guys out. So, now all of a sudden, you’re trying to run a training camp with about 62 players. When you do a training camp practice with 62 players, ones twos and threes, that’s not going to last. Our guys came out yesterday and I thought they were real sore, real tight. I thought guys would kind of just go through the motions and they didn’t. We had a great practice yesterday. They went hard, as hard as they could go. When the guys do that, even when they don’t have much left, I think it’s my responsibility to shut them down a little bit, protect them from themselves. So, I was really worried if we went and did the same thing today, we could have lost six more people. Then, it’s hard to pull off practice tomorrow. Then, the other people have to pick up the load just to do it and then you end up hurting five more. So, it ends up being kind of a chain reaction to everything. There’s nothing I want to do more than practice because it’s my responsibility to prepare these guys for Week One. That’s the only way you can do it. You’re not going to be prepared for Week One if you’re not healthy. So, that’s kind of the dilemma we’re at every day right now. We made that decision just to walk-thru today because we thought that’d be best for the team and give us a chance to get the most out of tomorrow.”
You guys signed a couple of veteran type receivers. Tell me what WR River Cracraft and WR Kevin White bring to the table. Also, I believe DL Jonathan Kongbo practiced yesterday. What was the injury that he incurred?
“Yeah, he had a groin injury. So, we had to make a move with that. He had an injury and we don’t have enough guys there. So, we had to waive him injured, bring in some more people. So, hopefully we get a guy in here in the next couple of days. It takes a while with all the COVID testing and stuff, but we’re just low on numbers and that’s what happens. Guys miss out, miss some time. So, the next guy has got to get a little bit more reps than he’s used to and then he ends up getting hurt. To answer your question about the receivers, it’s kind of the same thing. You’ve got a number of receivers going out, so you up the reps for other people and now you’ve got guys like [WR] Tavon [Austin] and [WR] J.J. [Nelson] and stuff. Now they’re getting a little bit tighter and haven’t gotten hurt yet, but gets close the more reps you take. So, you’ve got to keep bringing other guys in to help spell those legs. Every time we do bring guys in to help do that, we’re hoping that we’re bringing some NFL players. You’re not just bringing in legs, but you’re bringing in guys that you want to work with, spend the time at, who have a chance to help our team, if they’re better than people we’ve got or if they get an opportunity because of injuries.”
Just asking for an update on G Ross Reynolds, also. It’s one guy that we missed. Then, with the new wide receivers you’re bringing in, what are you not seeing from the guys that you have or what are you looking for that you’re really trying to get from your wide receiver group?
“It’s not that we’re not seeing stuff from the guys we have, it’s how many guys are out. It’s that three of the guys that we planned on playing with we lost before we even started playing in [WR] Deebo [Samuel], [WR] Richie James and [WR] Jalen Hurd. That was a huge blow, so all the guys who have to pick up the slack there, they’re just getting worn down, too. I think all our guys are doing a great job. They’re battling and they’re having to do a lot more reps than they’re used to with a smaller group. When that happens, if we can’t get them some help, they’re going to be the next guys injured. You’re going to just be sitting there with a couple of guys. That leads to Week One, you better be training other people. That position’s just been hit a lot for us throughout camp because of how we started off and it gives other guys opportunities. We’ve got to keep practicing and you can’t just do that at the expense of a couple of healthy receivers. If that’s the case, they won’t be healthy for long. Oh, and Ross Reynolds. Yeah, that was scary what you guys all saw. He’s going to be able to recover from it. It ended up being a bone bruise, so it was an extremely painful thing, very scary for him, but he didn’t tear anything up or break anything. So, it’s going to be a lot better than how it looked out there at the time.”
Have the COVID protocols and the relatively small number of players across the league who are positive right now given you any clarity on how you might handle quarterbacks this season? There was some talk heading into training camp that some teams might isolate a quarterback just to make sure that your whole room doesn’t get infected at once. Any thoughts about handling that moving forward?
“Yeah, we talked about that at the beginning and it hasn’t changed. The less cases you have and stuff, you know it’s a huge issue, as you know, we’re not as concerned about it now as we were when we started because we haven’t had a lot of stuff. You definitely want three quarterbacks getting practice and working. If you quarantine a guy, he’s sitting in, I guess, the Marriott all week and he can go out and run by himself. I don’t know who he’s throwing to. If he is throwing to people, it’s kind of hard to quarantine a guy who is throwing to people. So, you’ve got to play it by year. We have three quarterbacks who we know can help us. If things do change, that would always be a possibility, but I don’t think that’s just the answer to everything either. We’re trying our best to not get it by following all the rules. Hopefully guys are being pretty smart when they’re out of here, which I feel pretty strongly that they are. I think it’s a little bit easier in our area too, because I feel our city is doing a pretty good job of that, also. So, hopefully we’ll keep our fingers crossed and we won’t have to address that.”
Was there any residual treatment or anything like that for CB Richard Sherman after his thing early in practice yesterday?
“I’m sure he’s getting some treatment for just the wear and tear and stuff, but he ended up not having an injury. I know it looked scary to everyone the way his shoe came off and stuff. That’s where he’s had injuries in the past, but it ended up just being a painful, guy who stepped on his foot, which probably irritated him more than anything. It looked the same to us. By the time we got over there, we realized what happened and he strapped his shoe back on and finished practice.”
Going back to what you said earlier about taking the cue from your players, has there been any discussion about any action that you guys can take as a team to try to make some change or combat what’s happening out there?
“I think the guys have discussed it a lot, things that they want to do. I know we discussed it a lot during the offseason when we weren’t in here. I know players were real active with that stuff. Since we’ve been here, we haven’t had a group setting about it where we’ve discussed it. Guys have come in here and they’ve been pretty focused on doing their job and going to work. I know guys talk about it all the time when they’re together and stuff, not as much on the practice field and meetings and everything. But, with what did happen here over the last week, it definitely brings it up more. I know we talked about it a little bit on the field last night, but it was more to open the platform again to guys like, hey, at any time, we can do whatever people want. This was about 24 hours ago I did this and no one’s brought anything to my attention yet, but I think guys do a lot of stuff. I’m sure we will do something when the season starts, I’m just guessing, but I think our guys are pretty proud of how they handle stuff on a day-to-day basis. Some guys do it in the community. Some guys are out there more. Some guys, just how they try to live their life and how they try to speak to other people, treat other people. How they decide to raise their kids and how they decide what type of friends and stuff they want to have. That’s, to me, one of the strongest things you can do, but if anything does come up, we’ll be excited to do it.”
Two quick questions. Piggybacking off of what you just said, just wanted to know if you had any message in particular when you did address the team about everything that’s kind of happened over the last couple of days? Also, is there, not to continue on injuries, but is there any update on OL Ben Garland?
“No update on Ben Garland. He’s still week-to-week with an ankle injury. His is worse than some of these other. So, he’s looking good on the side and hopefully that’ll continue. Just my message to the players is what I’ve kind of said. My players, I don’t think I have to go out of my way to tell them what I think of all this stuff. They don’t have to go out of their way to tell me. It’s common sense and we all are on the same page with that. So, we all know each other pretty well. We’re not trying to come in here and prove anything to each other. We don’t feel like we have to. We know that, but I’m always ready for anybody who’s struggling with it. Anybody who’s got something going on. Anybody who’s got an idea, that wants to do something. If there’s anything someone wants to do, I feel we’re in a place where that guy is not going to hesitate at all to bring it up to me or bring it up to the leaders on the team or bring it up to [general manager John] Lynch or bring it up to [CEO] Jed [York]. There’s really no door in this building that’s not open and I’d be extremely surprised if any of our players didn’t understand that.”