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Kyle Shanahan says Deebo Samuel’s dedication earned him the team captain title

Plus, the 49ers head coach shares his thoughts about the Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Three minutes before Kyle Shanahan took the podium for his press conference on Wednesday, the news of Nick Bosa’s historic extension was passed along to the San Francisco 49ers coach. Naturally, the first few questions were about the newly-paid EDGE rusher and the plan to prepare him for Sunday’s season opener in Pittsburgh.

Shanahan expressed his excitement and shock that the media already got the news of Bosa’s signing. After the flurry of Bosa questions, Shanahan spoke about the challenges of facing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense and the defining traits of a Teryl Austin (defensive coordinator) and Mike Tomlin defense:

“They play as hard as anyone. Their D-Line, their linebackers, their secondary, they all get after it. They’re an extremely physical group. We haven’t played them for a number of years, but just watching, [DT Cameron] Heyward, watching [LB T.J.] Watt, [S] Minkah [Fitzpatrick], I mean those guys, not only are they as they as talented as it gets, but the mindset they play with, the effort they play with. When you don’t see a team for a while because you know not being in the AFC and it’s been like three-four years since we’ve gone against them. You don’t know where they’ve come and it’s very obvious why they won seven out of the last nine games. It’s just watching the defensive side of the ball and then get into their offense, seeing some of the players they have and the way that quarterback’s been playing and the way he played last year at the end of the year. It’s been real impressive.”

Shanahan also named six team captains for the 2023 season. Arik Armstead, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Fred Warner, George Kittle, and Brock Purdy.

Starting quarterbacks are a natural choice for team captains, but Shanahan was asked why Purdy earned the captain nod and Trey Lance did not when named the starter last season.

With Brock being a captain pretty early in his career, Dallas Cowboys QB Trey Lance wasn’t last season. Did you want to see that? Is it important for you that you’re starting quarterbacks a captain?

“It really isn’t to me. I thought about this when I became a head coach. I mean when you think really hard about the captains and stuff and it’d be cool if there was just one on each, which I kind of like and stuff, but then it becomes a little bit of a popularity contest with the players. I never want to have to get involved and tell them I disagree or anything. So I always just get their top guys. I have them all vote for four people. You get a first place, second place, third place, and fourth place vote. I get the top eight and then you decide off of that and we went one through six and I think the most we’ve kept is seven before. But, there’s a lot more than six guys on our team who could do it and so that’s why it’s kind of a thing I try not to make too big a deal about because you’re going to offend someone on your team.”

When asked about whether Shanahan sees Purdy as a leader, Shanahan replied with:

“Yeah, I do. I definitely do. It’s when you go out and you play like he did last year, that’s what it is. I mean, it’s hard to be seen as a leader when you haven’t been out there before. Guys can think you’re a leader, you can act like a leader, but guys don’t follow many people who don’t produce on the field and I think that’s why he got so many votes this year because I think they believed in him and felt he was one of the leaders last year. Not because he’s being some vet and talking to guys a certain way, just because of how he prepares, that they can count on him and how he handled a number of situations when he got in there.”

Samuel being named a team captain drew a question about Samuel’s comments in the off-season about not being happy with his play in 2022.

What does this say about Deebo too, after he admitted he wasn’t what he should have been last year?

“I think it says a ton. I was happy for Deebo, he got that. I think he was disappointed he didn’t last year. I know he was and for him to be one of those guys, especially how last year ended a little bit for him, I think it shows how dedicated he’s been. You guys have seen it out on the field and you guys have written about and stuff and the players feel it strongly also.”