Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 8, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“The injuries today. [DL Maurice] Mo Hurst, calf, won’t practice. [RB] Trenton Cannon, concussion, won’t practice. [LB Dre] Greenlaw, groin, won’t practice. [WR] Deebo [Samuel], groin, won’t practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, concussion/knee won’t practice. [CB] Emmanuel [Moseley], ankle, won’t practice. [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.], knee, limited. [C] Alex Mack and [T] Trent [Williams] won’t practice, but not injury related. Go ahead.”

LB Fred Warner is a full go?

“Yeah, Warner is full go. [LB] Marcell [Harris]’s full go.”

You mentioned Elijah Mitchell’s knee. What’s the extent of that?

“I think they’re calling a knee irritation right now and we didn’t have the imagining back when I talked you guys last, but some stuff that makes him day-to-day.”

With Deebo, do you expect him to be able to practice his week or it still–?

“I’m hoping he’ll practice tomorrow.”

DL Dee Ford?

“Hoping tomorrow too.”

What do you see out of the Bengals when you look at their defense and how they’ve come along?

“I think it’s a real good defense. They’ve done a real good job stopping the run this year. They do a lot schematically that keeps teams off base with their fronts and coverages. And their 11 guys play very hard too.”

They’re missing their leading tackler, so how does that maybe change things up for them?

“He is a good player and stuff. I don’t think it’ll change much up though. I don’t think they’re going to reinvent the wheel over it and they probably expect the guy who comes in to make those tackles too.”

A couple weeks ago, when Emmanuel Moseley left in the Jaguars game, CB Ambry Thomas came in for him immediately. And then this time, obviously, it was DB Deommodore Lenoir who came in. What goes into that? Is it how those guys practiced, looked during the week that kind of determines the hierarchy there?

“Yeah, they’re all right there. They’re all real close on about the same level. And we obviously haven’t thought they’re there to just throw them in the starting position yet. So we’re trying to get one of those guys to separate himself.”

You mentioned Ambry’s special teams play on Sunday. Does that sort of suggest that he’s more confident, that he’s stronger? Is that what you’re kind of seeing when you see a guy kind of zone in like that and make all his tackles?

“Yeah, it shows you’re more ready to get out on the field to me. It’s tough if you don’t look ready on special teams to think that you’re ready on offense or defense too. I think that’s a spot that he did struggle in in preseason, which made it tougher for him to dress. Because if you aren’t one of those starting guys, that’s usually what makes our decision, who gives us the best chance on special teams. I think he’s come very far on special teams and I think it showed the most last week with his three tackles. And that’s how he’s been looking on defense too in practice.”

Is that just sort of a physical strength difference between him and in August and him right now?

“No, just speed of the game. Getting used to doing that stuff. I don’t know how many times he’s ran down on special teams. It’s great to get stronger, but just improving your bench press and squats over a three-month period is not going to help you run down there and hit a guy that’s just about form and not hesitating and trying to go through guys.”

Did you sign a running back from the tryouts yesterday?

“Yes. We signed [RB Brian] Hill. Brian, I believe is his first name.”

Is that someone you can get ready to go Sunday? Could that happen?

“Yeah, I think that was our main factor in it. He’s played in this league before and he’s been on some similar offenses, so we feel like he’d be the fastest to get ready.”

Where is [RB JaMycal] Hasty right now? Just in terms of he’s dealt with a lot of health things and maybe that’s limited his progress. Where do you evaluate him?

“I think Hasty came real far. I think he got a lot better this year to where he was at last year. I thought he had a hell of a training camp. When [RB] Raheem [Mostert] went down, he kind of solidified himself as our third down back. And then he got a, I believe it was a high ankle sprain, versus Philly, which set him back about a month. Came back in and was starting to ease back in there and do some pretty good things and then got another one, which has put him out the last month. So last week was his first practice back and I thought he did a good job and hopefully he’ll continue to get healthier and not have any setbacks.”

Just a quick clarification. Mitchell had an MRI and it came back?


There’s no major damage? It’s an irritation?

“Yeah, just irritation. Yeah.”

You said you didn’t think about putting QB Trey Lance in for that play that went weird that was supposed to be a zone read. Did you get any pushback at the start of the year when you used Trey on that touchdown play on the first drive, did players have any sort of weirdness about taking Jimmy out on a successful drive?


Has that been a consideration at all? Just the weirdness and the feel of taking Jimmy out?

“No, I don’t think players really notice or think it’s weird at all. So I don’t think that’s a big deal at all. Just people do that. People put in wild cats, people putting in a second quarterback. When you have guys who have different skill sets, I’d say you see it on about 20 out of the 32 teams. People use guys in those situations. So I think players are pretty used to it.”

How did CB Dontae Johnson do in the secondary?

“I thought he did a real good job. He came in, didn’t hesitate. He gets reps at safety, gets reps at corner. Doesn’t get enough at corner. And he was ready for the moment and went in and played like a pro.”

You probably evaluated WR Tee Higgins when he was coming out in the draft. What about that wide receiving core, the top three guys seem to be pretty prolific, where does group rank?

“As good as anyone. I think [WR Tyler] Boyd has been one of the more underrated receivers in this league over the last five years. They just got a, it looks like a pretty generational talent, in [WR Jamarr] Chase this year. And Higgins was one of the best receivers in the draft last year. So that’s three guys, a good quarterback, good tight and a good running back.”

Arik Armstead, team nominate for Walter Payton Man of the Year again, what can you say about the kind of guy he is and the work he does off the field?

“It seems like Arik does a ton. I hear about it. I’ve seen him talk to our team about stuff. I think he’s very passionate what he does. I know he goes back to Sacramento, helps a lot where he is from, and I think he’s well deserving of that award.”

How much of a help is the 2019 game preparing for them? Obviously, a lot of new talent including the quarterback and wide receiver. Is it still the basic same principles on both sides of the ball?

“Yeah, they haven’t changed coordinators or their philosophies. Schematically, it’s very similar, some similar players and some different players. So there’s some carryovers, but stuff always is changing.”

DL D.J. Jones, I think whenever he has been on the field in this career, he’s been pretty good. He’s obviously been able to stay on the field and it seems like he’s better than ever. Is that accurate? And if so, how do you think he’s made that jump?

“I think D.J. played one of his best games versus Seattle. I think D.J.’s always played at a pretty high level, I think he’s stayed healthy this year. He’s gotten hurt and finished the year in IR back to ‘19. He was one of our biggest losses there. I think we lost him in the New Orleans week for the year. And I know we lost him last year, but when D.J.’s out there, he’s pretty much always the same guy.”

Armstead, do you think he’s a better player inside than at defensive end or is he just doing what you need him to do?

“I think it depends on the type of play, the type of things you’re doing. Offensively, just me going against him, I think he’s more of a problem inside. It’s just harder to avoid those guys and harder to gameplan, but I know the problems he causes when he is on the outside too. I think that’s one of the neat things about him that you can put him where you think helps schematically, with whatever switch you’re going against, and he could be a problem both places.”

When you’re dealing with a series of injuries, you mentioned this a bit on Monday, how tangibly does that affect the coverage units on special teams when you have to plug and play a guy that you just picked up off the street on Sunday?

“Just in general, that’s one of the biggest things with injuries, not just for us, but for the whole league. The more guys that go down, it hurts you in obvious spots that everyone gets to see, but special teams usually carries most of that.  You play with guys sometimes that definitely aren’t ready to be out there because you have to put them out there so fast and they haven’t been trained and usually if they’re available at that time they’re not totally ready to go out there either.”

What’s DL Nick Bosa’s temperament been like throughout this season, he seems to get a sack or two a game and kind of just cruising through, but do you see any highs and lows?

“I don’t think Bosa changes. You guys see the way he talks. He’s a pretty chill guy, I think he thinks a lot. I think he’s very intelligent, but he doesn’t just talk to talk and he’s not a big rah-rah guy. He loves football. He does everything he can to be prepared for those three and a half hours on Sunday. And he does that all-year round and when he gets to Sunday, he gives it everything he’s got.”

It looked to all the world like the hit that led to Elijah Mitchell’s head injury was a cheap shot, a dirty hit. I’m wondering what you saw on that play. And if you agree with me, what you guys can do and do you alert the league, just trust that they’re going see it too? How does the team respond when something like that happens?

“We turn everything in a written report and you send it to them with the clips and you get a written report back and they say whether they missed it or not, and that’s about it. Dirty to me usually intends that someone had intent to hurt someone on it. So that’s why I don’t really call it that way. I think it’s third-and-one and every inch matters and guys are going hard and a guy came around from the side and Elijah was in a vulnerable position and the guy hit him in a tough spot. That’s why I wouldn’t say that’s dirty on the guy because I don’t think he’s trying to do that. He’s just trying everything he can to stop the guy and you wish that stuff could get seen and you wish it could get called. I also know how fast it is to see things in the heat of battle too for everybody.”

On that play, Elijah immediately dropped to the ground, he dropped the ball, Trent and [TE] George [Kittle] immediately waved to the sideline for help. He wasn’t moving, obviously, it’s not your call to determine if the guy has a concussion, but is that an example of like the league’s protocol and getting cleared on the sideline isn’t fool proof because it did look like he in that moment that he had a concussion?

“Yeah, he got knocked down, got hit pretty hard. I don’t think there is any fool proof for that stuff. I think that’s what’s so tough about it. I think that’s why they go through three doctors to get back. They have to go through independent doctors and they didn’t think he had concussion symptoms at the time. I know the next day he did have a headache, which with that hit, combined with a headache, you definitely think a concussion. That’s what’s tough about this league and tough about it, but that’s what they’re trying to get better at. I think we’ve gotten a lot better at that each year, but I think everybody tries to get better and I don’t think we have players on our team, especially Elijah, who if they feel concussed at the time and feel bad, they’re not passing that test. Elijah felt alright, came in the next day and feel a little bit different, which happens. You come in the next day with a headache, anything like that, you’re going to go in that protocol, as you should, and take some time to get out of that.”

On the safety on Sunday, is there anything that Jimmy could have done differently or was that a play where the protection broke down?

“No, that was just too bad of protection right there.”

Earlier in year, you talked about one of the things you liked about a potential two-quarterback system was that it would make the upcoming opponent have to prepare for both quarterbacks. Is it just one of those things where like you found that the negatives outweigh that positive?

Yeah and also, I still continue like everybody preparing for a quarterback that we might use in situational stuff. But I also know when you put a guy in in situations, they’re preparing for what they expect and sometimes you want to get the unexpected.”

What happened on the fourth play that led to George Kittle not being on the field?

“Because we don’t want him for that play. It’s schematic stuff, but it has to do with what we think people are best at.”