Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 13, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Injuries from yesterday. [CB] Ambry Thomas is in the concussion protocol. [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair] had an elbow sprain. He’s day-to-day. [LB] Fred Warner has an ankle sprain. He’s expected to be alright. That was all the injuries from the game, go ahead.”

Do you know when the ankle sprain happened for Fred?

“I don’t know which play. I believe it happened in the first half. I think he played a lot of the game with it.”

As far as RB Jeff Wilson Jr., he seemed to be closer to his pre-injury form. Just wondering what your observations of him were?

“Yeah, we were saying the same thing. He looked better in practice this week and it got carried over to the game and I think he looked healthier and looked like he’s getting his legs back under him too.”

QB Jimmy Garoppolo was very efficient in the two-minute drill and he tends to be that way. Is there anything you can put your finger on as to why he’s so efficient in the two-minute drill? And I don’t know, not necessarily saying that he’s not in regular game time, but how he’s so much more efficient there?

“I don’t know. Jimmy’s got some real good throwing ability. When we go there, it’s usually we need it and you’ve got to cut it loose and make plays and he’s had some success with that. We’ve done it sometimes in situations when it’s not two-minute, but it’s all or nothing when it’s those moments. So you know he is going to make some plays and try to avoid the bad ones.”

Do you think it’s partially the pressure that maybe he thrives underneath that?

“I think so. I think he does really good in those situations. The game never seems too big for him. When you’re going fast, there’s not a lot of time to sit there and think. You just react. And usually when Jimmy’s reacting, he’s letting it rip and not hesitating and he’s pretty automatic.”

Ambry Thomas, you said that he did some really good things. Obviously, his mistakes were amplified with those reversals of big plays by the defense. What did you see from his play?

“I liked how he looked out there. I thought it was the best that I’ve seen him look, the way he was throwing his body around, made some tackles. I thought he was really good in his jams off the line of scrimmage. So good that he got two penalties from it. He’s just got to lower his target area because he was jamming the receivers as good as I feel like we’ve had at keeping them from getting off the line. And he had two, one that slipped up to the face mask, one that hit the guy in the chin, which were penalties. But I liked his intent on the plays. He wasn’t trying to hide, he was putting himself out there and going against a real good receiver who got him a couple times, but I thought there was a number of times he covered real well that you don’t see the ball thrown there because he is covering well. First game and there’s a lot to learn from it, but I was very encouraged with it.”

OL Tom Compton has run blocked very well, especially when he was out in front on that WR Deebo Samuel touchdown. I know you worked with him before in Washington. How has he made such big strides in that facet of the game?

“I think he’s just gotten more consistent. I was with Tom, we drafted him in Washington and was with him a little bit in Atlanta too. And Tom, he’s been so versatile. He’s played so many different positions in his career. He’s really helped out everywhere except center, played and started games at all those spots. But this year and since he’s been here, I think he’s really been able to hone in on tackle, always ready for guard if we need it. But being able to do that tackle spot and getting back with [offensive line coach] Chris Foerster who was his original coach in Washington. He knows what we’re asking from him. He knows what we want him to do. And he has been working at it for a while and I do feel he is playing as good as he has in his career.”

Might be more of a special teams coordinator Richard Hightower question, but with P Mitch Wishnowsky and his punts, I know he’s got so many tricks in his bag. Was he doing anything special on the two that ended up in muffs?

“You can ask Richard that when he goes, but his punts are always hard to catch. I don’t have a lot of experience, just sophomore year of high school returning punts, good ones back then. But I talked to [wide receivers coach] Wes Welker who did it his whole career and was one of the most trusted guys and he tells me that Mitch’s ball is the hardest he’s ever had to catch. The way it can knuckle, the way it can move. Especially when you get in some elements where it’s wind and at night. I don’t know if he did his hard ones on those two specific ones, but it wouldn’t surprise me because I hear about it from Wes all the time and you can see it.”

On the trick play that you ran where WR Brandon Aiyuk was looking to throw, obviously there was nothing there down field for him, but how important was it in terms of game flow and momentum for you guys that he was able to salvage that, not take a loss and then get those four yards?

“Oh, it’s huge. Trick plays, they’re hit or miss and they’re tough to call because when they don’t hit a lot of times it’s disastrous and could end a drive. To be able to call that play, take our shot, we didn’t get what we wanted. They defended it well and Aiyuk still found a way to get four yards out of it. I thought it was a big time play by him, was very aware on it.”

Can you just speak to Brandon Aiyuk gaining more trust with you and his improvement since the beginning of the season?

“Yeah Aiyuk, each week now and it’s been a number of weeks in a row. I think you guys know when I started talking about it, it’s probably been over the last six weeks, but he’s getting better every time he plays football, whether it’s practice or whether it’s games. And it wasn’t that way early on in camp, not from a lack of effort, but there’s been something here that just his attention to detail and the littler things, that’s been very impressive. He’s a very smart guy. I think he’s grown up a lot in these last few months, just communicating with the quarterbacks better with the coaches and really fun to coach here. It’s been fun to watch him have some success doing it and me and the whole team is appreciating it.”

With the recent uptick in COVID around the league, are you guys doing anything different? Doing anything more virtual or any like that?

“We haven’t yet. We just got back from our trip late last night. So everyone got tested day and everyone had to be done by two. So, odds are that some people could have came in late and we’re still waiting for the results back, but as long as we don’t have any positives from our situation, we shouldn’t have to change up. We’ve been pretty good with it. And I think we’re fortunate the area we live in. I know some other parts of the country are definitely a lot harder to have the luck that we have had, but we wouldn’t do anything drastically until there’s evidence that it got in our building.”

When you talk about almost a guarantee that you’re going win, if you don’t commit turnovers, I know you always want to avoid turnovers and you’re always telling that to your team, but do you coach that way sometimes? Is there a way to, even emphasize that more just in the way you’re coaching, the plays you’re calling, the things you’re doing specifically offensively?

“Oh yes. Without a doubt. That’s something I don’t think I was always as good at when I was younger, but you just learned that through experience. I think we’re 12-1 here since 2019 when we don’t have any turnovers. I think the one game that we lost was our first game last year versus Arizona at home in the empty stadium. I think we had a blocked punt, which is almost a turnover, but there wasn’t a technical turnover and that’s only one we’ve lost here and we know that. And you can’t just sit there and just say, ‘Hey guys, don’t turn it over.’ Guys are still going to try to make plays and they’ll try to do all the stuff that puts points on the board, which is hard to do. You can definitely be better in how you call a game. You do things that are necessary. You have to know when to take your shots. You don’t want to take some that are low percentage. You have to call them at the right time and you have to call them if they’re necessary, sometimes you don’t need to do it. You feel you’re in a certain type of game that you’ll win this game, unless you give up a turnover or you give up a punt return. And those are ways you have to protect it as a coach. I didn’t know that stuff as much when I was younger in my career. A couple of years as the coordinator in Houston, we put up really good numbers all the time and we had a really good offense throwing the ball, but we struggle to win games. And they had too many turnovers, didn’t run the ball well enough and I feel like turnovers and running the ball well usually equals wins. And that’s what you try to do the most is how you build your team and you also hope to call a game that way too.”

You were wearing an 88 pin yesterday. You didn’t necessarily overlap with former NFL WR Demaryius Thomas in Denver, but can you talk about your connection with him?

“Yeah, I don’t personally have a connection with him. I know so many people that are so close to him. Just me being from Denver and a bunch of my good friends who I have there were really good friends with him. I know how much they’ve been hurting these last couple days. Talking to people who played in Denver. I have a lot of family members out there, not just my family, like my wife’s family’s from there. I know my brother and sister-in-law, they used to live close to him and how Demaryius knew their kids and how nice he was to their kids. And I’ve heard this from so many different people and I know how hard it is. It was really tough on Wes Welker this weekend, really tough on [former NFL offensive lineman] Orlando Franklin, guys who played with him. I just am close to so many people who know him that I asked Wes, I knew Wes was doing it because he had a personal relationship with him, but I just asked Wes if he thought that was something that his family would want to see. And he said, yes, and I am very happy to do it. And it is a horrible thing that happened.”

Just to clarify with Fred Warner, do you expect him to be ready to go this week?

“I expect him to be, but you never know. It wasn’t a high ankle sprain, it was low ankle sprain and he did go back and finish the game. So I’m expecting him to be fine, but we’ll see how the week plays out.”

With the injuries to linebacker, what’s LB Dre Greenlaw’s status this week?

“He has a chance, but it’s been bothering him all year. We got two games here in the next 10 days, so we’ll see what he does on the field today and tomorrow and if he’s got a chance to get into practice this week, then he will have a chance. So I’m not counting on it, but I hope it does happen.”

You mentioned yesterday, if you just win games  you know you’ll take care of business, but you’re sitting in a six seed now at 7-6. Do you think about how good it would be to get to five? How important, just positioning is over these last four games?

“I personally don’t think about positioning at all. I just think of how to get there. If we were guaranteed, if we were locked in there and that was done, then my mind would probably move to positioning and what we thought gave us the best advantage, but the main thing, you always look is just how you get a home game. And that’s far away from looking at that, that way. So no, I haven’t considered anything except win enough games until they tell us we’re in and when we’re in, then probably have another thought after that.”

Do you guys have to make a decision on DL Dee Ford by Wednesday or on Wednesday?

“Yeah, I believe we’ve got to make it by Wednesday and yeah, we’ll see how that goes. That’s something that I never can predict, but I’ll be surprised if he’s back. I think we’ll just have to continue playing without him.”