“I feel free when I’m playing football. I feel like I can completely be myself. And sometimes I am angry, if the play calls for that. But sometimes you need to be patient; sometimes you need to be calm; sometimes you need to be light on your feet and move swiftly. If you’re angry at certain points, running with your head down and pissed off, you could miss the cut. When you’re free you’re able to access every emotion that’s required with the play. I think the beauty of football is it brings out natural emotions that you don’t have to force.
“He’s a fool in pads,” Greenlaw said admiringly. “I think he fits right in. He’s one of those f—d up people. When you’re a f—d up person, you can tell when someone else is. He wants to be part of that 49er culture. You come in here and see a bunch of crazy guys. Join the club.”
McCaffrey’s membership status is a point of pride.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I think when you see a guy like Deebo who’ll break 10 tackles in a run, that’ll pump you up, and you want to do the same thing. When you see George, who’s been blocking his ass off every play and all of a sudden he gets the ball, trucks two dudes, stiff-arms a guy — you want to be a part of that culture. Tape doesn’t lie.”
Said Juszczyk: “He plays angry. He plays like he’s been disrespected. I do think it is typical of guys when they come here to want to match the mentality of guys around you. You see guys like (Brandon Aiyuk), Deebo and George Kittle and you feed off that. You don’t want to be the guy who gets taken down on a single tackle. (Running backs coach) Bobby Turner, he’ll use Christian as an example. He’ll say, ‘He’s got blonde hair, blue eyes; he’s a good-looking guy, he’s polite. But he’s got s— in his neck when he’s out there.’
“I think the beauty of football is it brings out natural emotions that you don’t have to force,” McCaffrey said. “I hate forcing emotions. I hate acting. I hate being inauthentic and having to force myself to be someone I’m not. That’s why I love football, because any emotion that you have is real, and that’s what it requires.
“Sometimes when you’re out there you might black out and start talking s— to somebody, and it’s real. That’s actually happening. That’s why it’s the best sport in the world, ’cause there’s not really another canvas where you can do that. You can’t go into an office and just hit somebody and stiff-arm someone in the face.”
“I think there are just great matches in life,” Collinsworth said. “You’ve seen couples where you just go, ‘Those two were meant to be married and live together for 60 years.’ You can just feel it, right? And somehow the Purdy-Shanahan relationship just feels like Kyle got to mold Brock from a little ball of clay. And he got to mold him in his image.”
In the mid-2010s in Atlanta, Shanahan, then an offensive coordinator, inherited Matt Ryan, a veteran QB who initially bucked at changes Shanahan required him to make. Last year, Jimmy Garoppolo made it known that he sometimes felt shackled in Shanahan’s system.
Collinsworth thinks Purdy arrived in the NFL without significant ingrained flaws. He referenced the way Purdy calmly hangs in the pocket and reads his progressions, likening it to a prizefighter bouncing on the balls of his feet before exploiting an opening.
“He doesn’t have any demons that Kyle had to get rid of,” Collinsworth said. “And it looks like Kyle playing quarterback out there if Kyle could throw. … It’s really cool to watch.”
“So he and I are still splitting rent,” Purdy said. “I still drive my Toyota Sequoia. Other than that, it’s pretty simple.”
“George Kittle got just one target on Sunday. Kittle has generally expressed understated frustration when he’s not involved, but acknowledged “there’s a lot of mouths to feed on this offense,” and that it’s extremely difficult to get the ball to everyone in every game.
Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Chris Foerster, echoed that, saying “every dog has its day.” But he went on — as he has an endearing propensity to do — to break down how play calls designed to go to someone can match up against the wrong coverage. While they can manufacture touches for Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, it’s a bit harder for traditional pass catchers like Kittle, and depends on what the defense offers.”
Walsh, meanwhile, was a stickler for detail. But if the practice pace wasn’t up to snuff, he’d never scream and raise a fit. He’d simply shake his head, the signal for one of his sergeants-at-arms, like Hackett, to halt practice and yell, “OK, let’s run it again!”
In that same way, offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who also serves as the 49ers run game coordinator, is the vocal, do-it-again coach during practices.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard Kyle yell at all,” Pryor said. “I think (Foerster) is probably the one who yells the most. (Shanahan) will let you know after practice, though: ‘Hey, the tempo wasn’t where it needs to be.’”
This year, those critiques have been rare. The veterans on the team have set the pace and the newcomers have fallen in line.
“You either get with it or you’re not here, quite frankly,” Conley said.
“I think as a whole team everyone understands how the tempo’s supposed to be,” Pryor said. “And everyone’s out there practicing like they’re going to play in the game. I think that’s where certain teams kind of separate themselves from each other.”
“I feel great,” McCaffrey said. “The body feels great. I think even when you take the off day, all the trainers and strength-and-conditioning coaches do a good job of keeping you moving, keeping you in shape.
“But at the same time, getting a day off every once in a while feels great on your body.”
“I feel I’ve played against all of them who’s out there,” Hargrave said. “Of course, Tyler Smith switched to guard now. But they definitely work good together. They’re a great offensive line. One of the better in the league.”