San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media Wednesday to discuss Jerick McKinnon, MetfLife Stadium, his experience on the east coast, and much more.
In light of the fact that you lost two players to ACL injuries on this surface that you have to play on Sunday, how do you convince your guys to be confident and play at full speed on this MetLife surface?
“Well, if you’re playing, you better be confident and full speed. People that know what they’re talking about, the NFL and NFLPA’s having people look at it right now. So, we’ll go with that. If they don’t find anything, you go out there and play. Other people tore their ACL in this league last week and they weren’t all on turf. So, you know how we felt about it so we’ll see what the professionals say and hopefully we’ll learn something.”
You’ve been able to see RB Jerick McKinnon now for two games and without Mostert or Coleman, he’s probably in line to start. How confident are you in Jet and what have you seen from him?
“I’m very confident in Jet. He’s done a great job in all the reps that he’s gotten in these two weeks. Every time he’s gotten opportunities, he came through for us. Obviously, with those two guys being out, he should get more opportunities this week and he deserves it. I know he’s excited for it and we’re excited to see him.”
What’s been the experience so far at the Greenbrier and why the Greenbrier? What was the kind of deciding factors that convinced you guys that that was the good place to stay between these games?
“Just that it works. You need a place where you have practice fields to start with. You want a place that’s on the East Coast to start with, so you don’t have to change time and a place that can accommodate everybody as far as meeting rooms, hotel rooms. This place has put on training camp for a number of teams, so it’s actually built amazingly perfect for this. I can’t think of a better place for it.”
Obviously, you’ve been doing this for a long time, but being hit the way you’ve been hit, what are the experiences that you draw on as a head coach to deal with kind of a crisis situation where you have so many injuries and things going on at the same time?
“You pull from the experience of your whole career a little bit. I even go to last year. We had players, I went over them earlier today, but we had guys miss 147 games total last year. We had a lot of guys miss a lot of time last year and for the most part, even though we’d step back in places, other places stepped it up. I thought we really handled injuries very well last year. It was tough when you lose a couple of really good players for the year, like [DL] Nick [Bosa] and [DL] Solly [Thomas], but all those other guys, you didn’t lose them for the year. We’ve got to see how long we’ve got to weather the storm without them, but we can do that. We’ve got the players to do that and I think we can get better as this year goes. Obviously, when you lose a great one like Nick, it’s tough, but we’ve got a lot of good players in here and a lot of guys that can help us win games and that’s what we fully expect to do.”
Can you elaborate a little bit on Nick Mullens and maybe how he’s developed in this last year and a half when he hasn’t played much and a separate question, kind of your reaction to getting fined for not wearing a mask the other day?
“Yeah, Nick’s been great. When he’s got the experience, when he got thrown in the fire, he played very well with little experience in practice because he didn’t get a ton of reps, not counting training camp. This year was a shorter training camp and he didn’t get to play last year. So, you go off to the reps he had a ton of last year in the preseason, everything. I know our players believe in him and he’ll be fine. And what was your second?”
Your reaction to getting fined for not wearing a mask during the game the other day.
“I’m obviously disappointed. No one ever wants to have to spend that type of money, but the biggest disappointment was, and I think our organization is taking this stuff very seriously. I think our organization has been unbelievable with the protocols that we’ve done and the ones that have been given to us and what we follow. Obviously, I can do a better job during the game of wearing it and I got the message and I will do a better job. But, I don’t want to take away from the fact of how good our organization has done in this stuff, in the buildings, with all the players, how we’ve traveled, the money we’ve put into it to make it safe. But yeah, I got the message and I will do better.”
WR Mohamed Sanu has already been coaching up your guys on the sidelines. They showed him during the broadcast talking to WR Kendrick Bourne and WR Brandon Aiyuk has already talked about he’s been such a leader for him. Is that something you kind of thought about when you brought him in? Is that kind of what you projected?
“Yeah, that’s what I definitely was hoping for. [New Orleans Saints WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] helped us so much last year and the type of talent he was, but also the person he was, just being the veteran he was, how he approached the game every way. Mo’s very similar in his mindset of that. Going into this year with our veterans truly being KB and [WR] Deebo [Samuel] coming back for a second year and having Deebo out and stuff like that and having some of the injuries, losing [WR] Richie [James] and Aiyuk just coming back. Thought it was great to get another guy in here, but also a guy who’s been in the league, been in a lot of situations and could help us on the field and also help us out in that room.”
The guys who are coming back from injuries after not playing last year, McKinnon and TE Jordan Reed, how do you balance now trying to make up for some of the injury issues that you do have and keeping them sort of on the schedule that you had planned ramping them up and not giving them too heavy of a workload?
“You do both. You start out easing them in. One, because of the depth we had at those positions. Regardless of the situation, Kittle’s a pretty good tight end and Raheem and Tevin are pretty good running backs also. So, it just kind of worked out that way naturally, especially with Jet and giving him a role as a third down back and everything. I know Jet is up for the challenge. I know his body’s up for the challenge. If we didn’t think their body was, then it would be different. But, Jet’s good to go from what we see, from what the doctor see and from what he tells us. So, I don’t really look at it as those guys have to be on pitch counts. Jordan was just taking time getting into our offense and stuff and the late start and he had a couple setbacks in camp too, when he started to get going. He wasn’t quite ready to be thrown out there that much and he wasn’t quite needed to right away. He was needed to a little bit more last week as he got better. We’ll see if Kittle comes back and how much that changes, but I know health-wise and mentality-wise, he was ready for what he did last week and he had no setbacks.”
It was announced this morning the DL Ziggy Ansah deal, DL Dion Jordan coming from the practice squad. Can you just give us your overall oversight now that, at least for this first wave, that you’ve got the outside rushers and you’re kind of going to go with this? I don’t know much about Dion Jordan other than what I saw a little bit with the Raiders and the Seahawks. Can you just give us your insight on Dion specifically too?
“Yeah, Ziggy’s had a hell of a career. He did a great job in Detroit, had to play against him a number of times. He’s a guy I always hated playing against. Had a little bit of a setback the last couple of years with some injuries and we think we’re getting him in here and we know he’s hungry. We love the guy. It was great that [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek has worked with him and knows him well. They’ve got a good relationship and we’ve been trying to get him here for a while and we’re glad it finally worked out. Dion, everyone knows how he started out in his career, all the setbacks he had, but we tried to get him here a few years ago. We ended up losing him. Seattle got him. When he played for them, he was a tough guy to go against and had a very good year there. When he came and helped out Oakland too, we thought he did a good job. So, we were pumped to get him in camp this year. He battled through camp. It was his first camp since 2013. He was able to grind through it, stay healthy. He’s just kept working and he stayed with us on the practice squad and we knew it was a matter of time when he was going to get an opportunity. I didn’t know it would come this fast, but we’ve been expecting him to come up and help us out this year. Now it’s Week Three and it’s his time.”
A West Virginia specific question. The city or the town of White Sulfur Springs, a couple hundred years ago, built an entire industry on tourists believing in the healing powers of the waters there in that area. So, I just wondered if you could tell us what you guys are doing specifically, maybe different while you’re at the Greenbrier this week?
“Well, I did not know that about the healing powers of the water. So, I’ll stop with the bottled water and get right to that for our players. We could use it right now. Me personally, I’ve been kind of stuck in my room the last two days. I know the players got the day off, so they’ve been running around. There’s all these things to do around the resort. I know a couple of guys did the golf course. I think there’s some shooting places. I know there’s a bowling alley. So, there’s a ton of things here. I brought my family here when I lived in Washington about five years ago. I know how much they loved it when we came, so it’s a great place. I’m not really seeing it all and enjoying it all. Maybe I’ll get to a little bit Friday afternoon, but I know our players are loving it and they got their two days and now we’re in a normal workweek. So, there’ll be tied down here probably to about Friday afternoon.”