Here’s the transcript from 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s media availability on Friday. It sounds like we’ll see George Kittle on Sunday.
Check out what Shanahan said about Trey Sermon and how he’s progressing. I can’t tell whether the coaching staff trusts Sermon or not. Sermon seems like the type of running back that gets better with each carry.
It’s tough to keep giving him the ball when he’s averaging three yards a pop. Then again, it felt like Sermon had to avoid a defender in the backfield more often than not against the Packers.
The way Shanahan talks about Raheem Mostert, then the way he talks about Sermon and Elijah Mitchell explains why Mitchell started over Sermon. During Sunday night’s broadcast, Chris Collinsworth mentioned the 49ers coaching staff, saying that Sermon had a habit of being a “dancer” in the backfield.
If Mitchell “did a hell of a job filling in for Raheem,” then Mitchell likely hits the hole quicker than Sermon. To me, Shanahan said a lot about what he thinks about his running back room.
Below, Shanahan also explains why Aaron Banks hasn’t been playing. It sounds as though Banks isn’t moving well enough or can’t get to his spots as a blocker.
I saw Kittle running a little bit out there just as you guys are warming up, but it kind of seemed encouraging. Is it a game-time decision?
“Yeah, I think we’ll have a pretty good idea tomorrow. I think I said earlier in the week that I thought he’d be alright. The fact that he wasn’t ready to go on Thursday just worried us a little bit more than we were expecting.
And the fact that he could do a little bit today was much more encouraging than what it was yesterday. And hopefully, we have that same result tomorrow.”
Did he first tweak that in Philadelphia?
“I don’t know whether it was Philly or whether it was Detroit. He’d gotten stepped on pretty hard, so that bothered him. You have to ask him which week it was. So, I know that bothered him. And then we just thought that was irritated a little bit on Monday, but the fact that it was bothering him more than last week just concerned us a little bit more.”
So, it’s kind of contusion then?
“Yeah, we think so.”
I’ve seen RB Raheem Mostert out at practice the last couple of weeks. Has anything changed with his status? Is he still waiting to have season-ending surgery?
“Yeah. Nothing’s changed. He’s still waiting to have the surgery, which they told me it takes some time for them to find the right donor for that part. So, he’s just waiting and spending time with the team.”
You mentioned Norman needed to do some testing and things like that. Is he still in that process?
“No, that testing, I believe, is tomorrow at noon or one. One or the other. And that’s a big part of it. A lot of it’s going to be how Josh feels, but regardless of that, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t pass the testing.”
Do you know what that consists of? The tests?
“I think fluid in his lungs, things like that. The stuff that made him have to go to the hospital and all that. And they just have to make sure that’s all out completely. I know he’s feeling a lot better. But they got to make sure the tests show that.”
If he can’t play, I don’t know if you can spell it out?
“I can’t, but go ahead.”
What is your potential plan as far as your top three cornerbacks?
“We’ll play one of our top three, whichever ones we decide there by Sunday. But I think you guys know the situation we brought in [CB] Buster [Skrine] this week, so he’s another option. You know, D-Mo [CB Deommodore Lenoir] has been out there for us. He’s played at nickel, and he’s played outside for us. [CB] Dre Kirkpatrick has a chance to be up there, and who am I missing? And, you know, [CB] Dontae Johnson, he’s filled in at every spot for us. So, we know we can put him wherever. I don’t have it set in stone though right now, because I’m still trying to wait until for sure, Josh is ruled out.”
What about CB Ambry Thomas?
“Ambry, he would have a chance to get up, but with those guys I just mentioned, probably not.”
How much further along are your running backs that aren’t Elijah Mitchell and RB Trey Sermon, the guys that you brought in the last couple of weeks?
“I think they know more. You never know until you see them in games. That’s one of the toughest things about running backs but in terms of going the right direction, taking the handoffs the right way.
Pass game is always a little bit slower because there’s a little bit more to learn in that. But they’re ahead mentally more than they were last week and for a couple of them, two weeks before, but you usually find that out in the games.”
Is RB Trenton Cannon a guy that you would use as a running back, or is he more kind of exclusively special teams?
“We brought him here for special teams, but with what he’s shown us in practice and stuff, we have no problem putting him in at running back. I’ve watched what he’s done on other teams, and when he’s gotten his opportunity, he has playmaking ability, which he has shown as a returner. And there’s no reason that we wouldn’t want to use him.”
You mentioned Mostert’s speed allowed you to do things and run plays that were unique to him. Can you speak to just not having him and mapping some of what’s going on with the running game?
“Yeah, when you lose your number one back, that’s a huge deal. And we knew that on the second play of the Detroit game, how big of a deal that was. And that’s why we tried to take care of him so much through the preseason because he was a guy we knew that would be really tough to lose.
Fortunately, we did get some draft picks, so we had some depth. The hardest thing, too, with losing Raheem was the way we lost [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] in OTAs, so that made it a lot tougher. So got a lot of confidence in these young backs, but a little more pressure put on them a little quicker than we were anticipating, but we had a little bit of bad luck with that, and that’s part of the league.
I thought that Elijah did a hell of a job filling in for Raheem, showed that he was more than ready. Trey, it took him a while to get up, but he has with these injuries. And I thought he ran the ball a lot better versus Green Bay than he did in the preseason. He had a better week this week than he did last week. And I expect him to keep getting better with the opportunities being given.”
When you say a guy has a better week, are you talking like classroom stuff or just what you see on the field?
“What I see on the field. There’s a feel to running backs and how fast they can hit stuff. Guys who just run full speed through there sometimes run into the backs of people and can’t hit it the right way, and they miss a lot of holes and opportunities.
And then some guys slow down so much to try to hit it that you had the holes there, and it just passed them. And they got three yards instead of eight yards. That’s something Raheem didn’t have right away, but holy cow, did he get as good as anyone as I’ve been around at being able to use his speed while getting to the right holes, and it takes guys a lot of time.
And just watching Trey this week, what he’s done good or bad in games. You always want to see how they apply it to the next week and things that I thought he has struggled with that we’ve tried to get him to focus on. You see him go in to practice and do it. And we saw that on Wednesday. We saw it on Thursday, and I hope it carries over to Sunday.”
I think you said on the radio that for Elijah Mitchell, it depends on a Saturday test, is that just a pain?
“Yeah, it’s just a pain thing, and it’s nothing. I can tell you guys right now, I don’t question his pain tolerance. The fact that it’s taken a while means there’s a lot pain in there. And if he can go and take it, that’d be pretty impressive. And each day helps a little bit more. I think it’s taken a lot longer than he was hoping.
But he’s been able to do a little bit more this week than he was last week, and with our situation, I’ll give him as long as he needs and as long as we have.”
Not that you’ve got your list in front of you, but where does WR Mohamed Sanu Sr. rank on your list with like outside wide receivers you’ve had?
“He’s right up there. The game’s not too big for Sanu at all. He’s never nervous of the moment. He never turns anything down. He’s been a very good receiver, and he’s been a very effective Wildcat quarterback when people have used him that way. I think he’s had like one incompletion and a bunch of touchdowns in his career throwing the ball too. Sanu’s a very good football player in every aspect.”
He had a block on WR Deebo Samuel’s 19-yard screen. Did you catch that? He was pretty pleased with himself, rightly so.
“He should have been. He takes a lot of pride in blocking, and I hope to say that our whole team does. That’s something that’s very important to us, and it’s we get just as excited about a great block as a great catch. And when they know it’s that important to the coaches, and we point it out a lot, and they see how important that is to winning and losing games. I like to have guys that understand that’s just as big of a deal even though not the rest of the world always realizes it.”
How much could it, or does it potentially change your process when you’re devising a game plan during the week when somebody like George is uncertain to play? Given what you can and can’t do on offense?
“A lot. It’s easier if you know, right away, because then you don’t have to sit and wonder and go plan A, B, C, and D. But you know, how good of a player George is, so it’s alright we’re dealing with that. I’m going to leave out as much hope as you can until the last second to get a guy like George up.”
We haven’t seen OL Aaron Banks since preseason, has he made strides here over the course of practice over the last month?
“Yeah, I think he has. Scout team is a big deal for Aaron. I think he got hurt his second preseason play and then missed the whole pre-season and coming out of college, being a much bigger player, not asked to run as much as we do, he was going to have to practice a lot to get into the playing shape and the movement that requires such a big man to do some of the stuff we’re asking.
And he missed all that time. So, for him to just get there and to go every day on scout team, for now, he’s going into his fourth week of it, I think it’s helped a lot. It’s helped him get into a much better football shape, and I can see him becoming better at what he does, more consistent each day.”
Was that transition similar to what T Laken Tomlinson dealt with when he first got here in terms of not being a super smooth transition?
“Yeah. Very similar, Laken had been in the league for a little bit. For all rookies, it takes a little bit of time to understand the difference in the NFL. So, I think Laken already had that.
But yeah, Laken had never been asked to do some of the stuff we were asking him to do. And it did take him some time. We didn’t have the same depth and the same situation at that time. So, he was still forced in to be a starter by like his seventh day here or something like that. But that’s why he got better as it went. And he’s gotten pretty good at it.”