Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – January 18, 2022

San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening comments:

“Alright guys, injuries for today. [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair] with knee, will be limited. [S Talanoa] Hufanga, knee, limited. [DL] Jordan Willis, ankle, will not practice. [LB] Marcell Harris, achilles, limited. [CB] Ambry Thomas has a knee, limited. [LB Dre] Greenlaw, groin, limited. [QB Jimmy] Garoppolo, shoulder and thumb, limited. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, knee, limited. [DL] Nick Bosa is still in the protocol and [LB] Fred Warner, ankle, limited. Go ahead.”

How serious is the issue with Ambry Thomas’ knee and do you know where that happened?

“We’re not sure what play that happened on. It happened sometime in the game. Just a bone bruise. We think he’ll be alright, but just not alright for a Tuesday.”

Jimmy’s performance, his accuracy, was remarkably different in the second half. It looked like he got hurt on his last throw of the first half. Could you attribute any of that to his shoulder injury?

“You can ask him, but no, I don’t. I think he did it earlier than his last throw. I think he did it earlier in the second quarter, I think. But he had two throws that were off and I personally don’t think it had to do with his shoulder.”

Obviously, it’s been a long time since you played Green Bay back in Week 3. How do you think your team is different from then and how different do you think Green Bay is and in what way?

“I think both teams are a lot better. It was early in the year for both of us, I think we hadn’t lost a game yet. I think they were .500 at the time. I don’t think either of us were executing as good as we are now, on both sides. We’ve both been through a lot versus then. And I think on both sides of the ball and in special teams both teams are better in all of the phases.”

Is there anything that you guys can do to fully prepare for the weather conditions that you’re likely to face Saturday night?

“No. Prepare to dress warm and prepare to get your mind right and if you do then it’s usually not a factor. I think we’ll be alright. I don’t do well in cold, but I’ll be alright in a football game and I think everyone else will be the same.”

Just wondering what the confidence level is like and what the vibe in the locker room is like right now?

“Our guys are real confident. I think they’ve been that way for a while. It took us a while to earn that the way this year started out. We went into the year confident, had some rough patches, but we’ve believed in our team for a while and we’ve always felt we could play with anyone. And we’ve been doing that at some times, especially this last month or so, but we feel real good about ourselves and we’re up for this challenge this week.”

I think in the first Green Bay game you had, I think there was 81 yards in pass interference penalties and that was kind of an issue earlier in the year that you rectified. And I’m curious as to your take on what changed in the secondary? Was it a gradual improvement? What do you attribute the improvement in that area?

“Yeah, I think it was 116 yards, so it definitely wasn’t good. And we had another game like that too with Indy, but we had a number of guys playing in that game who’ve been in and out throughout the year. And that’s kind of how the whole year’s gone for our whole group, but I think just everybody, not just individuals, but the whole, everyone who’s gone back there has gotten better each week as it’s gone. We had some young guys play early. Now we are having some young guys play late. We’ve had some veterans play early, some different veterans play late. We’ve had guys come in for injuries, guys out and back in. So it’s been a number of guys and I just think whatever it is just collectively, we’ve all gotten a lot better. And we’ve limited some of those penalties and done a better job of eliminating the big plays too.”

I was trying to do some sign language with you to ask you if it’s all in the head, like when it comes to the weather?

“Oh. I thought you were asking if I was wearing a hat.”

Your team is so, you guys appear to have so many really tough guys. So is that kind of part of it that they just have to kind of a mind over matter type of thing?

“To a degree. I think each person looks at it individually, however people deal with it. Some people aren’t going to wear sleeves and it’s going to be mind over matter and it’s going to work for them. Me personally, I understand how cold it is. I’m going to dress as warm as possible and prepare for that so I’m not cold. But, whatever guys need you to do, just understand that it is a real deal. The weather is cold out there, but that’s no reason to affect a game. Wind is a much bigger factor. Rain is a bigger factor. But the cold weather, you could do something about that and I believe it also helps when you’re out there playing football because when you’re running and hitting you don’t stay too cold.”

Now that we’ve afforded the opportunity to talk to offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel this year, obviously he’s serious quite a bit, but he might lead the NFL in sarcastic humor and dry wit. Is he much the same with you guys or just behind the scenes? Is kind of what we’re seeing what you get?

“Yeah, I think so. I haven’t watched his press conferences, I don’t study them, but I have an idea of how they are, that’s Mike. He’s an acquired taste and you guys are getting it. So Mike’s a good dude, he’s really good at what he does and he’s himself. He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around and he’s been huge to our team and huge for me throughout my entire career.”

Fred told us earlier this year that he pulled QB Trey Lance aside and asked him to challenge the defense more in practices as the scout-team quarterback. What do you want to see from Trey this week in that role with Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on tap for the weekend?

“Exactly that. Aaron does a real good job of not making bad decisions and not turning the ball over. But he also makes all the plays down the field wherever you’re off just a hair. So we need Trey to be very aggressive, let it rip. Hopefully or if he does make some mistakes in practice, our defense will catch it and make him pay. But we need him to be aggressive in everything he does because Aaron doesn’t miss many of those opportunities when they’re presented to him.”

Having faced Aaron before and having been in the playoffs, how much are you guys able to draw on that past experience?

“Not much. Every game is its own game and each year and each situation, each team is different. He’s the same quarterback that we’ve played, which makes it a huge challenge. Everyone knows Aaron’s the man. But this doesn’t have to do with the last time we met in the playoffs and it doesn’t have to do with our game earlier this year. It’s one game, it’s going to be on Saturday, it’s three and a half hours and it’s this team right now versus their team. And it’s going to be as simple as that.”

You obviously don’t want to start the season 3-5 and go through a four-game losing streak, but is there any benefit to it in terms of your team having to play with its back against the wall maybe earlier in the season and sort of being accustomed to that sense of urgency as you get to this point?

“Yeah, definitely. I think your experiences are what make you who you are. In life and definitely as a team. Being 3-5, I don’t wish that on anyone, but when you can fight through it and I always feel when bad things happen or things you would label a bad thing, they can be such a good thing if you can get through them. And if you get through them, you always can do it individually, but when you have to do it as a team and when you get through it with a group of people, it makes you stronger as an individual. It makes your whole team so much stronger. And we got through a lot of stuff this year and I feel that struggle has made us who we are and that’s why I feel like there’s not a situation we’re going to ever panic in. We feel like we’ve been in it and we believe that we have a chance to win any game we play in until there’s zero on the clock. That’s the only time we can accept it.”

This is a follow-up to that and hopefully not too similar, but I think you have 25 or 26 guys on your roster that were on the team in 2019. When you have guys who have been through it, particularly in the playoffs, how much can that help you when you get into situations like Sunday and you have a close game coming down to it, guys who have not only been in tough games, but on that big stage like that?

“I think it’s good to have your team mixed up of everything because when you’ve been there before, sometimes you know how hard it is to get there. So sometimes those guys are the most uptight ones, sometimes, not always. Sometimes they’ve been there before and they’re used to it. But sometimes you’ve got a new guy who’s never been involved in it and he thinks that this happens every single year and it’s just like any other game, so you’ve got tons of situations with each individual. And I just love that we have the experience on our team that’s done it. We have some other guys who have been in the league a ton and haven’t gotten this experience. Being able to hear people like [T] Trent Williams talk to our team last week or guys like [C] Alex Mack. Alex Mack told our rookies before the Rams game, it took him until his eighth year to win more than six games. Trent just won his first playoff game last week and he had only been in two. So you want guys to realize because at the end of this year, everyone’s tired. And when everyone gets to break, it’s not as hard. It’s hard to get up each week and keep doing this grind. But when you’re doing it for something special, like the playoffs and trying to get it to the ultimate goal of the last game, you don’t let that pass by. You don’t get in these situations very much. You can’t guarantee it every year and guys are going to look back and hope they gave their all in these moments. And I think we’ve got a team filled with different leaders, filled with different experience and I think collectively that’s why our team really understands what this moment is.”

A quick one on Fred Warner. He said he expects to play, basically. Is that your expectation? And then also you said you can’t glean too much from a Week 3 game. What’s your process? How far back do you go? Like how useful is it? How far back do you watch Packers?

“You always go back and watch it, unless you change coaches. So you always watch the schemes and what you do against each other. And you watch every game throughout the year, but I just mean in terms of what happens. You never want to say, ‘Hey, it was this way, that time, so it’s going be this way now.’ That’s for people to talk about and if I wasn’t coaching, I’d be watching that game and I’d be talking about it all week based off of that game, but it really doesn’t matter in here. Once that game starts, it’s just all about that first play. And when that’s over, it’s about the second play and that’s really all that matters. So you’ve just got to keep your guys focused on that, preparing for that. You watch the last game, you prepare for situations, but you’ve mixed that in with everything else and you what’s going to go down on Saturday and you get ready to adjust.”

When Trent Williams talked to the guys the other night, can you share what his message was and what he said?

“He talked to the special teams just about how important it was. Really trying to motivate those guys and tell them when he watches them, get 10 yards on it, he knows that’s one less first down that the offense has to get. When you hear a guy like Trent say that and Trent, like I’ve said before, he genuinely loves football. And when you have a guy get up in a special teams meeting who probably hasn’t played special teams, probably ever. I would be very surprised if he has. But he says how much he enjoys it and how much it inspires him. I think that inspires our guys. And to know when you have a player like that who’s played such good football, but had never won a playoff game and only got an opportunity to play in two, you realize how tough this is to get. And I think when you hear a guy like that talk that everyone respects so much, it wakes everybody up a lot.”

I’m not looking for a percentage, but obviously your run game has evolved quite a bit over the years. How much of that is Mike McDaniel?

“Mike does a ton of it. We all do it in here, but we all have our separate areas that we work on. Then we try to bring it together and patch it all together to make an offense as a whole. And then we distribute it to all our position coaches, so Mike gets as much credit as anyone in this building. [Offensive line coach] Chris Foerster gets a lot of credit, our O-Line, all the assistants, all the guys who draw it, the position coaches, but Mike’s in charge of that. And Mike’s been unbelievable, not just here, he did the same thing for me in Atlanta, Cleveland and was a big part in Washington too.”

As far as the linebackers and Dre, it seemed like he was the weakside linebacker to start the game against Dallas, but then Azeez came in at some point and was playing that role too. Was that the plan to begin with or is Dre still sort of working through that core injury?

“Yeah, they’re both working through stuff. Both of those guys just to get back these last two weeks, it’s been extremely impressive. But yeah, we wanted to get both of them out there, but neither of them have got to play or practice a ton of football, so it kind of takes care of itself throughout the game.”