Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – December 22, 2020
San Francisco 49ers
“All right guys, injuries for today. Most likely not to practice, we’ve got [DL] Dion Jordan, knee sprain, day-to-day. [DT Javon] Kinlaw, knee, day-to-day. [DB] Tarvarius Moore, knee sprain, also day-to-day. [RB] Raheem Mostert with his high ankle sprain. He reaggravated that. We’re going to shut him down for these next two games, the rest of the season. [QB] Nick Mullens, elbow. Pretty serious injury. We’re going to let the swelling go down before we exactly decide what to do, but he’ll be out also. [WR] Deebo Samuel, same thing, out for the year with the hamstring. [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm had calf soreness after the game. We’ll see how the week goes with him. [DB] Jimmie Ward, still in the protocol. Limited today will be [OL Hroniss] Grasu with a knee sprain, [WR] Richie James with an ankle sprain. I think that’s it. Go ahead, guys.”
A lot to unpack here, but with QB Jimmy Garoppolo, the window opening for him, with QB Josh Johnson going on the Reserve/COVID List and with Nick out, what’s your quarterback situation? Can you get somebody to come in to be QB C.J. Beathard’s backup? How do you approach this game in particular?
“The only way we could get a backup in for the game because of the six-day rule to get guys in is if we take someone off someone else’s practice squad since they are already in the testing and stuff. So, we’re in the process of trying to do that now. Hopefully we’ll get a backup for the game.”
Just in terms of Garoppolo, the thought process of activating him for these final two weeks of practice window, is he an insurance option as well?
“No, he’s not. I mean, that’s only if the doctors told me it’s a hundred percent safe and he feels good and I’d be very surprised if that happens. Right now, he’s safe to go out to practice, which we’re only having a walkthrough today, but it’ll be fun for him to throw the ball around a little bit tomorrow, but we’re going to be very safe with him this week and we’ll see next week, but I’d be very surprised if that changes.”
You mentioned a potentially serious injury for Nick Mullens. Is Tommy John surgery a possibility?
Regarding the history with Richard Sherman’s calf, is he a candidate to not play again this year as well?
“Yeah, if he’s not healthy and can’t go, definitely. So, I know he’s hurting today. You could tell he was hurting in the game, too. I mean, we’re only two days removed from the game, so we’ll see how it goes later in the week, but not going to make that decision now, but anyone who is not healthy and hurting is definitely a guy who might not play.”
Just in terms of these last few games, how do you approach them from a standpoint of try trying to see who can stick with the roster beyond the rest of the season and winning games and being competitive? Just what’s your messaging to the team? I guess organizationally, how are you approaching all of this?
“Really no different than I’ve been approaching these last few weeks. We’re not in a situation where we can just sit and give some guys opportunities who maybe wouldn’t have had one earlier in the year. Each week we’re playing with all that we have. There’s no guys behind those guys, so we’re just trying to make sure we get a team ready for Saturday. It’s been a challenge, especially recently and stuff that come up with COVID on top of the injuries are the biggest thing, but you’ve got to be prepared for something to come up with COVID. That happened to us on Sunday morning also, losing [TE] Charlie [Woerner] like that. So, that’s the stuff we’re concerned with the most is trying to field a team here for two more games. Not at all thinking about – we don’t have that luxury right now.”
C.J. obviously has gone through a very difficult year with the loss of his brother and he seemed to kind of transform himself in the offseason, at least physically. Just wondering if you’ve noticed that and what you’ve seen from him in the last year?
“Yeah, I have noticed that. I think anybody who went through something as tragic as he did last year, I know that is heavy on his heart and will be for the rest of his life. I know he’s very religious and has a very personal relationship with God and is very close with his family, so I know he’s dealing with it that way. But, to go through what he did last year and then go right into quarantine for so long and then to come right to us with the season, I know it’s been a huge challenge for him. I’m excited he’s going to get an opportunity this week. I’ve got as much respect for C.J. as anyone I’ve ever been with as a person and as a player and it’s going to be fun to work with him this week.”
What’s it been like having your family down there with you now, and how do you approach the holiday week with guys obviously wanting to see their families and balance that with the preparation?
“Yeah, I think it is nice, just guys who haven’t seen their family for a while. Not everyone’s in the same situation, not everyone can get their families down here, but it was nice to get mine. Just got to see them Sunday night and then we’ll get to see them probably on Christmas Eve and a little bit Christmas day, since Christmas is the day before a game for us, I’ll kind of change our morning meetings a little bit, move them to that night so at least we can have Christmas morning at home. I know everyone loves being with their family, but it’s valued a lot more when you’ve been away for a while.”
For the first 15 weeks, what did C.J. not show you that kept him from starting instead of Nick Mullens?
“I think Nick has outplayed him. I think he did with the opportunities that they got to play and I think he did in training camp and I think he did in practice. It’s not a huge difference, but that’s what we go with, the guy who gives us the best chance and we believed that was Nick. I thought there was going to be a chance for C.J. to get in the Dallas game, but Nick played pretty well. It was those last two drives. Throwing those picks in the fourth quarter changed that, but C.J. was ready for that game. Then when he did get his opportunity, I thought he went in and did well and that’ll make him a lot more prepared for this week. I know he’s excited and I know the team will be excited to have him out there.”
Can you recall ever being in a similar quarterback situation like this?
“No. As far as just going into the week with one guy? I mean, yeah I have where guys have been sick and stuff and you have one guy, but you ended up getting two for the game. One guy comes back and I’ve had a game where we went into a game with only two quarterbacks and one was very, very sick and barely could move, but he just laid in the locker room with his pads on the whole game waiting to see if our quarterback got hurt because he was going to tough it out and come out in case of an emergency. So, lots of guys play sick and stuff and do that, but right now with the COVID stuff, that’s not an option. So, no, it’s a little bit different, so hopefully we’ll be able to get someone off practice squad here so we can have two guys practicing throughout the week.”
Well, first on Mullens’ elbow, when did you guys realize how serious it was and then second, what’s the situation at running back going forward without Raheem?
“We had an idea it could be serious after the game. They had to get the MRI and look if any ligaments were torn and stuff, but they let me know that yesterday. They want to let the swelling go down to know the exact severity of it and a plan for surgery and everything, but that does sound most likely. We’ll see when he does it, but that’s what it sounds like. The plan with the running backs is, whoever’s healthy is going to be up. Raheem’s down. I think [RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.] got out of the game healthy enough. [RB] Tevin’s [Coleman] getting better each week. [RB Jerick McKinnon] Jet’s been there for us every game and [RB Austin] Walter is on COVID. I think he gets cleared that day. The odds of us playing him that day probably aren’t too high, but we’ll see how, hopefully we don’t lose anyone else during the week.”
Just wanted to follow up, just the specifics of when you had two quarterbacks and one guy was laying down. What season was that? What team was that?
“It was in Washington, I think 2010 at Carolina. We started [former Washington Football Team QB] John Beck and [former Washington Football Team QB] Rex Grossman was our backup. He was just sick. Food poisoning or something, I forget, but stuff happens. It’s happened to me in Houston, too. I had [former Houston Texans QB] Matt Schaub and real sick before the game. We ended up having to shut him down and we played with [former Houston Texans QB] Sage Rosenfels the whole game and Matt Schaub just stayed in the locker room and was going to have to come out in case of emergency because there was no one else.”
What’s the plan for TE George Kittle. Is there any chance that he’ll play in the next two weeks?
“Yeah, I think he’s got a chance this week. That was the point of getting him back at practice last week to see how he responded. I know he responded good from a medical standpoint and from him. So, I’m looking to see how he is this week and if he’s good, I plan on him playing.”
Your offense has really been beating itself with turnovers the last few weeks. When you go back and review each turnover individually, do you look at them and say, ‘This one could have been avoided if I had called a different play,’ or is it just guys have got to execute?
“No, I look at every play like that, not just turnovers. Whenever a play doesn’t work, you look at it. What else can you call? Are you in the right play and things like that. So, that’s every single play in football for your whole career. Not just turnovers.”
As far as safety, does the short week make it difficult for Jimmie Ward to be able to get back? I think in the game on Sunday, S Kai Nacua played one snap after Moore got hurt, but then S Marcell Harris came in. What’s sort of the situation at backup safety?
“Yes, it’s always harder when you’re in the protocol because you’ve got to hit a certain number of things. So, having a shorter day does make it tougher, but we’ll see how that goes with that. Yeah, the backup safety situation are all the guys you just mentioned. They’re dealing with some stuff, too, but it’s been pretty fluid there. He came in for one play, Tarvarius hurt his knee a little bit, had to go out some. Marcell and Tarvarius have both been in this year, but we’ve got to expect all three of those guys and we have other guys who would have to go there, too, if there are more injuries.”
When you look at practice squad quarterbacks around the league, do you pretty much have to focus in on non-playoff teams because of the possibility or the likelihood that a guy would want to continue to stay with a playoff caliber team and chase a ring?
“Yeah, you’ll try anyone you can and if they say no, you go to the next one. So, it’s always harder with a playoff team, because they’re going to get the playoff bonus and stuff like that. It’s much harder to get a guy to leave those situations, so that’s what you’ve got to be up for everything.”
With you guys being eliminated from the postseason, why is it important to get George Kittle potentially back on the field?
“If he’s healthy, I just don’t see the reason why not to. That’s the same as every other player on our roster. If you’re healthy and you’re not risking something, I mean we would never ask him to play injured or anything like that, but he had a good week of practice last week. Most of the soreness was going away and we’re definitely going to test it again this week. But, when you have a guy, if he’s a hundred percent healthy and stuff, how do you sit one guy and then look at everybody else in the eye on the team? There probably isn’t anybody playing out there a hundred percent healthy right now. So, when you are, there’s a respect level that players have towards each other and everyone goes through this whole thing. Players risk, every time they step on the field, no matter who you are, you’re risking your career. That’s what’s tough about this sport and that’s why I don’t think players get paid enough, even though a lot of people would disagree with me on that. There’s not many people in the world that can do what you do and you’re risking your future every time you go out there and that’s no different for George. It’s no different for all the other 52 guys on our roster. So, obviously I don’t want to get George hurt or anything like that, and that’s why we’re going to be overly cautious with it and that’s why we have been, but if someone’s a hundred percent healthy, I can’t look the rest of the team in the eye and tell them they have to play, but George doesn’t. So, that’s just part of having a team and part of treating people the right way.”
Following up on the turnover question, in terms of the four against Dallas, were there any where you look back and say, ‘That one in particular was on me?’
“No, I think throwing the ball on third and eight on a quick game that [Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus] Lawrence got around the edge and made a really good play reaching out. I wouldn’t say that was on me. I wouldn’t say it’s on anyone in particular. I’d say he made a hell of a play and wish we were a little bit better so he didn’t make a hell of a play. Fumbling a punt, I wouldn’t say is on me. Wish we could protect the ball better. Richie has a sprained thumb that he didn’t practice, which doesn’t help. So, I’ll let people know that for him, but he’s got to hold onto the ball. We haven’t done a very good job with our punt returners this year, whoever’s been out there. The first pick on third and eight, I wouldn’t say. I’d like the corner route versus two-man, its usually where you want to go. Then in the red zone at the end, not in the red zone, in the strike zone on the 40-yard line, trying to hit [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice down the sidelines. Had a chance of it, but we locked on [WR Brandon] Aiyuk and the protection wasn’t good enough and Nick didn’t see that corner on the backside. So, no, I don’t look at that, that way. I know as a play caller throughout my career, having a lot of experience of that type of stuff, what you try to do the most when you’re turning the ball over a lot, especially at the quarterback position, which to me has to do with your whole team, but it always starts and ends with the quarterback. What I’ve learned and I’ve always tried my hardest to do is run the ball when it’s like that. We had 36 runs starting out the game down 14-to-zero and finishing the game in two minute drill with about 15 straight passes. I feel like you’re trying as hard as you can not to turn the ball over.”
I have a non-injury question. Kind of just, we’ve been struck that, obviously you’ve mentioned you are fiery and you can get excited or whatever. When we see you after losses, however, throughout your career as a coach, you are generally composed, even if they’re bad questions, you don’t snap at anyone. Is that difficult or has it become easier? It seems like you may be unique in that respect in that you are able to keep your composure in those types of situations.
“I think I’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t think I’ve always, whether you think that’s good or bad or that’s just people’s opinion, but I think I’ve done it for a while, so I’ve learned not to take that personally and I expect it. When you don’t win and stuff, I expect to have tough questions, but I also, giving you guys a soft compliment, I think you guys have been pretty good to us, too. I’ve had some places that aren’t so good. So, not to get that confused with really good, but you guys are respectful, so I try to be respectful in answering your guys’ questions. Sometimes I might draw a blank and not be able to answer it the right way, but I always try to answer the question and never going to try to throw someone under the bus while doing it at the same time.”
With the short week, do you think about possibly having to use someone who’s on your roster currently as a backup quarterback, an emergency quarterback, let’s say Kyle or Richie James?
“Yeah, I mean, you definitely think about it and it possibly an option. I mean, if someone doesn’t come off someone’s practice squad and come to our team, there’s no other option. You can’t get a guy off the street. It takes six days to do that, so if we can’t get someone off someone’s practice squad, that’s exactly what we’ll have to do. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep C.J. healthy, so it doesn’t get to that, but if it does, you can’t just go home. You’ve got to play the game, so we’ll have to be prepared for that. We’re not going to spend our whole week practicing that or anything, but it’s something you’ve got to do on the side and make sure you’ve got a couple of guys in case of emergency who can function.”