Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – November 3, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Alright guys, injuries for practice today. [RB] Tevin Coleman, he’ll be out this week with a knee sprain. [LB Demetrius] Flannigan-Fowles, out with a hamstring. [QB Jimmy] Garoppolo, out. Will go on some type of IR eventually with his high ankle sprain. [TE George] Kittle, foot fracture. We’ll go on IR. [WR] Deebo [Samuel], hamstring. He’s out. [WR] Richie James will be limited today. [S Jaquiski] Tartt, limited, and [TE] Jordan Reed, limited. I think that’s it. All right, go ahead.”

What’s the medical update on Jimmy? Did he do further damage to that high ankle sprain? And if so, is surgery an option for him?

“He essentially had a whole new one, just on the same foot. When you have those high ankle sprains, you re-injure them a lot, but it was a different way that he did it. So, it’s basically doing it all over again in a different way. So, that’s why we knew it’s going to probably be, that’s usually four to six weeks with those high ankle sprains. It is worse than the last one. That’s why surgery is an option, so we’re just getting different doctor’s opinions now. Whatever’s best for him long-term is obviously what we’ll decide on, but if he does need the surgery, then it’ll be all year. If not, then hoping six weeks, get a chance to get back at the end.”

Can you just elaborate on George Kittle’s condition and what you’re expecting with him and what exactly did he break that you didn’t initially see after the game?

“Again, I don’t know the detail that you are looking for. I know it’s something in his foot. It didn’t show up on their X-rays, but whether on the MRIs or CT scan or something with a better resolution, it showed. It happened on that one play. I think they told me eight weeks. Kittle says two, but that’s how he rolls. That’s why he’ll go on IR and if it’s better than what they’re saying, he’ll have a chance to come back this year, but eight weeks is eight weeks.”

Obviously when Jimmy came back the first game, he didn’t play particularly well, nor did he finish. He pointed to his ankle as the reason for that. Obviously, it’s easy to second guess these things now, but I guess what went into the decision to bring him back after he missed two games and in retrospect might have that been too early?

“Just how he looked in practice. We felt he was able to go in there and at least protect himself and make the throws, which we felt good about just watching him in that game. I thought it was affecting him and how he was throwing it and everything, and the way the game was going. So, we took him out, but then he looked really good in practice for the last two weeks. Also thought he looked pretty good in the game for the next two weeks following that. So, that’s why when he went down in that game, we thought it was just what happens with high ankle sprains, which happens to everybody. Once you come back from it after a month, you do stuff almost every quarter on it. I personally had one my senior year in college and I did it in training camp and it affected me for two years. So, those things do linger, but that’s why I thought he was going to have a chance to go back in the game, but he re-injured it, did it completely worse and it was a whole new thing, rolling it the way he did. So, that’s why it’s a little more serious. I don’t regret bringing him back in any of the times. Obviously, the way the Miami game went, if I could have seen that before the game, we could have avoided bringing him back, but I thought he gave us a real good chance to win and we didn’t think he was risking injury by going further with it and he didn’t. That’s why he was able to come back the next two weeks even healthier, but he re-did something in the Seattle game and it was bad. Tried hard to come back and I’m glad the docs wouldn’t let him, because it ended up being worse than we thought.”

What are you doing to kind of keep team morale up with this litany of injuries this season?

“You don’t ignore it like it’s not happening. You just keep it real with guys. It makes things more of a challenge. We have experience of losing guys in the past where our team knows how to deal with it. Kind of what we’re going through now is a little unprecedented, just I think for us and probably for anybody, but I think our guys take it as a challenge. Yeah, when you lose guys that you depend on and guys that you want out there, there’s a little depressing feeling to it for everybody right when you hear it, but then you’ve got to go play. Then our guys, the way our guys are made, you get excited for the challenge. We’ve had guys come in and step up and do well. I can go through our entire roster on who’s not playing and you can get up and that could be depressing, but then I can go through and mention a lot of people who are playing that give you a very good chance to win. So, we’ve got plenty of guys on our team who can help us win games and that’s what our guys plan to do. You’ve got to deal with it right away, but then once you get a game plan in, you start going, you start thinking about the team ahead of you, which I’m very thankful for this being a Thursday night game. I don’t like thinking about, I mean, Sunday seems almost a week ago now. Some of the stuff that happened yesterday seems like a week ago. Had a great meeting with our team and now we’re playing in about 48 hours. So, it’s time to move on and we know we’ve got a huge challenge with Green Bay and I think our guys are fired up to get out there and play against the odds.”

With Jimmy, obviously now it’ll be two of three years where he’s missed a big chunk of the season. How difficult does that make it for you to evaluate him and how does that factor into maybe his future with you guys?

“I don’t think it’s difficult for me to evaluate. I’ve got a good idea with Jimmy and what Jimmy is capable of doing, and that’s why he’s been here. People get better when they play more and that’s what I feel for Jimmy on. One, Jimmy gives us the best chance to win. He’s proven that, and it’s hard that he’s not going to be here for, to me, probably about at least six weeks, because it’s harder to win without him. Regardless of that, I want Jimmy playing as much as possible because I know when he does, he’ll only get better from the experiences of it. I think that’d be the most frustrating thing about it after having the best chance to win.”

With the trade deadline three minutes away, where do you guys stand? Is there anything in the works by that time that you came here for the press conference?

“No, nothing’s in the works. Yeah, you’ll see no more trades.”

Just given the financial realities of the salary cap potentially going down next year, how do you approach the situation? I know the offseason’s a long way off, but there are going to be a lot of questions about Jimmy’s future with the team, as you just alluded to, but how do you approach the financial component to it knowing what Jimmy’s going to make and what the cap is going to be?

“It’s a big part of football, when it comes to the salary cap. People talk about that’s the business part and I always tell people, I don’t know business at all, but I do know football business. When it comes into the play of salary cap and stuff and taking into what players that allows you to have, what it doesn’t, that’s stuff you’re always thinking about and talking to people about and the people in here who think about it at all times. That goes into a lot of the decisions, but you bring up Jimmy with it. It’s not Jimmy, it’s everyone on our team. It’s never this guy for that guy. It’s how do you put a whole team together? That’s some of the hard decisions you have to make. I love [New Orleans Saints LB] Kwon Alexander. It broke my heart to have to tell him what we did yesterday, but you’ve also got to understand what that does. Sometimes, you’ve got to make those decisions, even though it’s very tough. I want Kwon here forever, and what he’s done for us, even in a year, and how much he means to us as a human. Sometimes when you look ahead and you see like keeping him here for eight more weeks, it’s going to cost us two other players at the end of this year. That’s kind of the business aspect of the NFL, but like I try to tell our team, that doesn’t totally matter. It’s the football business and when you think about guys to guys, those are some of the things that you have to balance off each other. What gives us the confidence to do something like we did with Kwon isn’t just the money part of what it does next year. It’s that, yeah, that’ll help us, help us keep guys, and I’ll lose more guys than just him, but also you never have the confidence to do something like that if you don’t have the confidence in the guys who are playing if he’s not here. I think that says everything about what I feel in [LB Dre] Greenlaw, what I feel about [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair], what I feel about Flannigan-Fowles. Yeah, he’s going to miss a couple of weeks with his hamstring, but I’ve got a ton of confidence in those guys, which allows you to make a very hard decision that you think will help you in the future, because we believe in some of the people we have now, also, and no difference at any other position.”

With a couple of the running backs in Green Bay testing positive or being on the COVID List, does that give you any pause going forward or is it just you trust in what the league is doing?

“Oh, yeah. The league, the world, everybody. I trust everybody, at least definitely with us, because we have our protocols and everything. I think everyone’s doing as good as they can and I follow those as well as I can. We challenge everyone in this building to do it as well as we can. After that, I don’t give much thought to it, but everything else kind of consumes me. When things happen, you just react and you deal with it.”

Now that you had a chance to watch the film, I’m wondering about that third quarter and specific when a lot of those Seattle blitzes were hitting. How would you evaluate your struggles with that? Was that more on Jimmy, the O-Line, a combination or his ankle?

“I think everybody had responsibility in that. When people want to give responsibility to someone, the thing I’ll say, and I’ll always say like, if you’re going to give responsibility on a player, that always starts with coaching. There’s no, ‘Hey, you blame the coach or you blame the player.’ They both are connected to each other. If a player makes a mistake, that starts with the coach preparing him for that mistake. So, when that happens, we’re not going to sit there and just keep everyone in all day. There’s times you’ve got to get rid of the ball faster to the right person. There’s sometimes that person’s got to win faster and there was a number of times that I didn’t think we protected it right. Some of those ones up the middle and stuff, when you get one guy off, we had a couple of new guys in there, starting with the center and stuff. Some calls are off and that happens fast and one guy is off on a call and someone gets on the quarterback pretty fast. They’re surprised of it, then there’s not much the quarterback can do about it. So, I was very disappointed, as a whole, how we handled some of that stuff, about four in particular. When that happens, it’s going to keep coming. That’s something I normally am excited that keeps coming, because when that stuff comes it’s a lot easier to get people open, but if you don’t make them pay, like it took us a long time to make them pay, which we didn’t do until later in the game, they’re not going to stop.”

I’m assuming that QB Nick Mullens is going to be your starting quarterback Thursday night. And if so, what do you want to see out of Nick that you haven’t seen from him? What does he need to do?

“Just play up to his ability. I’ve seen it from Nick and I think Nick has had some very good games. I think the first game he ever got in was, from what I remember, statistically or whatever, is  of the best games of all time for a quarterback his first time in, which was a Thursday Night game. And it was his first week of getting any reps, let alone walkthrough reps. Earlier this year, I thought Nick did some pretty unbelievable things in the Giants game. Just had a lot of second and longs, third and longs, and we didn’t punt all game, which I thought he was one of the main reasons for that. Everyone knows he struggled to miss some throws versus Philly, but Nick showed us what he could do. I know Nick can go out and do that. You guys saw that throughout the game in Seattle, and it’s important that we just build a good game plan around him, all our guys play as well as they can and just let the game come to Nick.”

I know as the coach, obviously you deal with the injuries and you just like figure out what to do next, but was yesterday different? It’s pretty rare to potentially lose your quarterback and arguably your best player for the rest of the season. Did that take a little bit longer to kind of reset yourself and then kind of figure out what to do next?

“It did a little bit. I would say, it was one of the, it seems like a bad thing. That’s one of the good things about having a Thursday Night game, you don’t have a choice. Like I can’t sit and dwell on it too long. The stuff with Kwon was a huge thing in the morning and that took a lot of just my time and talking to people. I thought that was a pretty emotional thing for us, just how our whole team, including myself, [general manager] John [Lynch], everyone in this building, everyone, how much we love Kwon and we’re going to miss him. So, it started out with that and had an idea on the injuries, but then we kept getting worse news on that stuff, which was tough, but eventually you’re running out of hours in a day. You’ve got to get to game planning because yesterday, I guess, was Monday. It already feels like today’s Thursday, which it kind of is from a football world, if you consider we’re playing on Sunday. So, in a few hours, I’ll be considering it a Friday. So, you’re kind of messed up on these days, but you just go hard, you deal with it all, you do everything you can to pull off a win. The cool thing about Thursdays is you’re kind of messed up like that all week because of how these days go, but once it ends, you can kind of calm down for the first time all year and sit back and take three days to just have your little mini bye week where you can clear your mind. Our players help their bodies and I think that’s something that’s very important for us right now, something that we really need right now, but I know those three days feel a hell of a lot different after a win compared to a loss. That’s why all we can think about is one thing right now. I just told our team, my wife’s calling me yesterday, wants to talk about school systems and homeschooling and how frustrating it is right now with some of our kids. I hear her, that’s a big deal, but I can’t talk about it until Friday. I feel like that’s the rest for all of us. We just don’t have time right now, but that stuff’s important, but we’ll get to catch up on the weekend.”

Production wise, WR Brandon Aiyuk’s had a couple of big games the last week. I’m just wondering how you’ve seen him grow through the course of the season and now with Deebo and Kittle out, how much more of an integral piece he is for you guys?

“Yeah, I’ve been very proud of Brandon these last few weeks. Just like we did to Deebo his rookie year, we’re putting a little bit more pressure on him earlier than I would like to. You don’t like to put all that on a guy coming in and especially a guy who missed most of training camp and didn’t have an offseason. What I’ve loved about him is the pressure that he’s had, you don’t get to learn, you think you do good from, the standard of your whole life and then you get into a meeting with us on Monday and you have no idea how we see it. A lot of guys don’t react totally the right way. Just us challenging Brandon and putting that pressure on him, I see a guy who’s responded in the right way. Regardless of his stats and stuff, I see a guy who’s been getting better each week here in these last three weeks. Now he’s getting into his first time learning how to take care of your body and get it to recover in about a three-day time span, which is a big deal. It’s important for him to do it because, especially a number of the guys that you just mentioned that we’re missing, so we’re going to keep putting pressure on him. I expect him to keep handling it well, and we’re also going to put some pressure on some other guys that need to step up too.”

With Tevin Coleman out, do you plan on promoting RB Austin Walter and how has he looked in practice and what do you expect from him?

‘Yeah, he’s done a good job. It’s been nice, It’s hard when you bring some backs in during the year to put them on practice squad because it’s hard to get a real good look at them. They’re doing other people’s stuff. What helped us with Austin was we had him training camp last year. So, we got to spend about five weeks with him last year throughout the offseason and everything. So, he had some more familiarity with our offense than someone would who had just been here a couple of weeks. Yeah, Tevin’s going to be out for a little bit of time, so we’ll see how the whole roster goes, but most likely we’ll have to get him up for this week. I know he’ll be ready.”