Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 21, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening Comments:

“Injuries for today, [LB Dre] Greenlaw, won’t practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell won’t practice. [DL] Maurice Hurst won’t practice. Huf [S Talanoa Hufanga], we’re still trying to evaluate him to see if he can. [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair] will be limited and [S Jaquiski] Tartt will be limited. Go ahead.”

General Manager John Lynch said on the radio today that Mitchell might be a little bit better than you guys had thought, is that correct?

“Yes, it’s true. Yeah, he had some encouraging things happen this weekend.”

This is a 5:30 p.m. practice, it gets pretty dark at that point. How are you going to actually practice physically today?

“Because of the sun not being up?”


“We’re going to all hold our iPhones up. No, we’re going to go in the stadium. We’ve got lights in there and we’re just walking through, so they won’t get mad at us for messing the field up.”

How is everyone feeling today a couple days after that win, but now with your focus to Tennessee?

“It seemed good. Guys seemed energetic in the meetings. There’s so much to put in, in such a small amount of time. We see them in the meetings. I see them quickly, then we all break up and they’re all just cramming stuff in. And I’ll see them out here for our first walkthrough in a little bit and we’ll come back in, have another meeting and then go out for a longer walkthrough later tonight.”

This is a really random question, but somebody wanted to know how long did WR Deebo Samuel practice before becoming the quarterback?

“How long did he before we moved him there? He made a hell of a play, but did that guy who asked that question see him throw the ball?”

He did.

“It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t very good either. But Deebo can do anything he works at, so I’m sure one day he’ll get his opportunity.”

You had one week where WR Brandon Aiyuk was running a play where he might have a chance to throw it, the next week Deebo does. Do those two guys have a back and forth, kind of lobbying you to get a chance to do something like that?

“They all do. That’s what they do every week and every year. [WR] Jauan [Jennings] had one early in the year and none of them had done great on them so far. None of them were great looks either, but we’ll keep trying to work at that. [WR Mohamed] Sanu [Sr.] has got the best track record because he’s been doing it for a long time.”

How is RB Trenton Cannon?

“Trenton Cannon’s doing good. He was in the meetings today. Got to see him for the first time in a little bit, but it sounds like he’s doing a lot better. Still in the protocol, but just his health and how he’s feeling seems pretty good.”

There was on that, I think TE George Kittle’s first catch, the screen. Aiyuk had a really nice seal block. Is that the type of block either like technique-wise he wasn’t capable of making like earlier in the season or effort-wise? Is that like an example of, ‘Okay, that’s better’?

“Yeah, that was all three of those guys. That was a hard block to execute. It was when we were backed up, we hadn’t done anything yet, so we needed them to take some pressure off us with that play. We had switched the splits a bunch during the week trying to get it right and those guys, they had the easy look down, but that was the hard look. And that was just from getting some reps in. Those guys listened to what they did good, what they did bad and it was him and Jauan who were on it because that was very tight. And I thought the defense played it pretty good, but if they were a half second off, Jauan or Aiyuk, Kittle would’ve taken a pretty big hit in the backfield.”

Both of Tennessee’s safeties seem to be putting up a good year, what particular challenges do they present your offense?

“Their whole defense just as a whole, we haven’t seen them for a few years and it’s not just their defense, it’s their whole team. They’re extremely physical. It starts with their front seven, with their D-Line and their linebackers. But then it goes all the way back to their backend, both safeties, they come up, are very good tacklers. They don’t make many mistakes and they got real good ball skills that’ll make you pay too.”

CB Ambry Thomas, what have you seen from him? And I know at that position, whenever you get beat, that’s what people talk about. What’s his mindset and how does he take those kind of adverse plays?

“That’s what I’ve been most impressed with him about in these last two weeks. Sometimes it takes guys a little bit of time and you don’t always have time in the NFL. But not every single guy right when they get drafted, no matter where it is, is ready to play right away. And I thought it did hurt him missing his last year of college with COVID. Coming in here not getting him into OTAs and getting used to football and at the same time getting used to NFL football and those preseason games. I think it was a little bit of shock to him and some of our other guys. And then he didn’t get an opportunity for a while and when he did, you could tell that he had learned from what he had done earlier. It didn’t look like a shock to him, by no means was it perfect. He got beat a couple times, had some penalties. But his body language, his demeanor, he kept competing, kept trying to be physical. And by watching him and how he was moving, you could tell he wasn’t looking to hide or looking to get off. He was competing.”

Do you think that having the work that you do with him, what the defense back coaches do with him, up to this point, has made him more equipped to handle that than if he’d just been thrown into the fire early in the season?

“Yeah, because I don’t think he was ready. I think we learned that in preseason, so that’s why we tried to give him more time and you don’t always get that when injuries happen. Fortunately, we were able to bring some veterans off the street who had done it, which bought us some more time. And the good thing about him was the experience that he got in preseason. I think he was honest with himself. Some guys will fight you and just think of excuses. ‘It’s your fault for telling me I’m not ready,’ or something like that. And he wasn’t like that. He kept working, didn’t get discouraged and guys stayed with him after (practice). He’s done a lot of work in the weight room. It always is, with me, how hard they go on scout team because we watch all those reps. And even though they think they’re playing a different coverage, that’s some of the stuff I watch the hardest because I’m watching the offense too when I get to evaluate them there. That’s where I started to notice [CB Emmanuel] Moseley the most, his first year. So just taking advantage of all that stuff and knowing that when he did get his opportunity, he was going be ready. And yeah, he still has a long way to go and still has to get better, but when he did get it, he was much more ready to play and help us out.”

I think that Week 8 game in Chicago was the first one where DL Nick Bosa did a lot of moving side-to-side. I think it was the first one where DL Arik Armstead played a lot inside. Did something happen in the game before that against Indianapolis that told you, ‘Okay. We need to make some changes moving forward,’ on the D-Line?

“Yeah, I think it was holding out the hope that [DL] Dee [Ford] would come back because Dee, when he was out there and healthy, was effective on that side. And then we could have our two best pass rushers there on the edges and move Armstead inside just on third down and allow him to really work on the outside on the first and second down. And once we kind of realized Dee wasn’t going to be the and [DL Javon] Kinlaw, putting him on IR, we knew it was going to be tough to hold up if Arik wasn’t inside predominantly. So we made that change so he could get better at it and we could use one of our best players there and then start getting the other guys more consistent on the outside. And it’s also what made it easier to move Bosa around.”

How has Tennessee managed to keep the running game strong, even without RB Derrick Henry? They’re not used to using a lot of backs like you guys are and then to lose a guy of that stature.

“Yeah, you would expect when you lose a player like that, you turn the tape, it’s going to look different, but you can tell that’s their philosophy. They commit to the run. I think they call more runs than anyone in the NFL and in almost all situations, they’ll do it on third down too. First and second, it doesn’t really matter the down and distance. They’ll do it when they’re behind. That’s what they believe in and that’s why they’ve been hard to beat these few years, especially even with injuries. They had it with Pittsburgh. They dominated that game and then they just turned it over three times in the fourth quarter, which I can relate to. It’s tough to win games when you do that, but they’ve got a good formula where they play real good defense, they run the ball. And when they don’t turn it over that’s when they’ve won more games than most teams here the last few years.”

I guess all NFL teams want be physical and dominate and all that, but I guess that’s their kind of ethos or whatever just because Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel is a former linebacker, but are they similar to you in that they want to punish you and do those things as far as the run game and all that?

“Yes, its’s very obvious. In all three of their phases they kind of take on the same mentality. I’m sure it’s a lot like how Mike played, but you can see it at all spots. He does a real good job of it, no matter who’s there.”

I’ve got your favorite kind question, a holiday question for you and it’s a two-parter. What are your favorite Christmas traditions? And do you have any wishes for the coming new year?

“My favorite is I always read to my kids the night before Christmas, which was more fun when we were younger. Now, it’s kind of just becomes laugh at daddy when he doesn’t pronounce the words right, but that’s a good tradition for us. And what was the other question?”

Your wishes for 2022?

“That we’re still playing football longer than a week into it.”

You talked about the importance of sleep for your players. What is your sleep schedule like on a week like this?

“Not the best, but that’s more to regenerate your muscles. I don’t have any, so I don’t have to worry about it. Just so you get your legs back and everything, you recover. Coaches, we get sleep on the plane on our way out there and I’ll take cramming four days in. You can do whatever in four days if you get three days off, so we’re not complaining about it as coaches.”

Was it a couple years ago, I think it was the Thursday night in Arizona where you said you basically stayed in your office during the week, because it’s so condensed?

“Yep. That’s what we usually do. Some people do it a lot, but I usually just only do it on Thursday night games.”

Did you sleep here?

“Do I look like I did? Yes, but it’s nothing special, most of us do. We have to.”