QB Sam Darnold Press Conference

QB Sam Darnold

­­Press Conference – May 23, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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What are the biggest obstacles you’ve faced coming to a new system?

“Yeah, I think it’s continuing to learn and watch yourself grow as a player, but I think before that it’s learning the system and then once you learn the system, being able to go out there and go through a walkthrough in phase one and phase two. Then phase three kind of put it all together and go through some seven-on-seven and some different team drills that we’re doing. I think it’s really making sure that I’m on it in terms of all the shifts, motions, checks, all those things and my reads and making sure that everything’s clear in my head to go out there and play confidently and play fast.”

We’ve talked about how having quarterbacks coach Brian Griese in the room having gone through the whole process is such a huge advantage for a quarterback. Can you discuss that?

“Yeah, for sure. Griese has been awesome so far, really throughout the whole process, right when I decided to sign here. Griese has been awesome for me just to be able to talk to about learning the system, about coming to a new team, certain expectations coming in and being the new guy on the block, but also having that mindset of, ‘Okay, when I step in that huddle, I am the leader,’ and guys are going to, if they have questions, they should feel confident in me that I know the answer in terms of scheme and what they got, so Griese has been great that way.”

Did you have the opportunity to sign for more money elsewhere?

“I’m not going to go into too many details about what I could have signed for and the different options that way, but I just know I’m excited to be here and excited to get things going here.”

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said they are going to balance out first team reps. We saw QB Trey Lance take them yesterday and today. Have they communicated to you and does that mean something to you that the first team reps will be split up with you and Trey?

“I think for me it’s cliche, but focusing one day at a time. I think that’s the biggest thing for me, whether it’s first team reps or second team reps, they’re reps and it’s just being able to be dialed in every single play and just compete. I think that’s the biggest thing is competing, whether it’s first team or second team reps, I’m ready to go.”

How do build rapport with your receivers? How have you done that over your career? Is it just practice or do you actually have conversations with a TE George Kittle or a WR Brandon Aiyuk? Sort of get inside their heads a little bit.

“I think every single time, for me, last year I had some of the same faces and so you kind of get used to the way guys run routes, but I think conversations just kind of come up naturally throughout routes on air, through phase two, even really phase one without coaches out there. Phase three, obviously when we go against the defense, you start talking about certain schemes and certain routes, the way you want to run them against a certain coverage, so it kind of comes up naturally, just talking football with the guys.”

Has RB Christian McCaffrey helped you ingrain yourself with this team and how do you see him fit with this offense?

“Christian, we all know how he is as a player. Christian’s a great player who can go out and make plays not only in the run game, but in the pass game as well. Then coming in here as well, it’s always nice when you have someone that you know and that you’re buddies with. When you’re coming to a new place, being able to have a familiar face coming in is always nice.”

Lots of times in OTAs with some teams, maybe not this one so much, prominent guys sometimes they come and don’t practice, maybe they stay away and work out on their own and it’s voluntary. McCaffrey is setting a pretty torrent pace out there. When one of your main guys is doing that on a daily basis in practices that he could skip, what does that do for the rest of the team?

“I’m used to it. It’s just his work ethic, that’s never going to change. It really stems from meeting his dad, meeting his mom, it kind of stems from that, from him growing up and being raised that way. He’s just got a great work ethic and I think guys respond to that really well and it kind of pushes the guys around him.”

How are you a better player now than you were coming out of USC a few years ago?

“I think just learning from certain experiences, good and bad, indifferent. It’s just the more ball you get to experience, as a quarterback especially, can only help you. For me, it’s continuing to experience football and I feel like last year, taking a step in the right direction in terms of protecting the football a little bit better. I just want to continue to make strides in that direction, staying patient in pocket, all those things. I feel like every year you continue to strive to get better. And for me, it’s just doing all the little things, but first and foremost it’s learning the offense, learning the scheme, and continuing to study that way.”

How can the competition in this quarterback room elevate your play and make you a better player?

“I think competition is great for everyone. Obviously, we’ve got some competition in the quarterback room, but other places as well. It’s always great to be able to go out there and compete and we’re going to do that.”

What kind of knowledge are you able to impart on QB Brock Purdy and QB Trey Lance in terms of dealing with the things they can’t control?

“I think the past five years of being in this league and being a starter and going through the ups, going through the downs of just being in this league and being a quarterback, you experience some things. I think Trey and Brock, even the young careers that they’ve had, have dealt with some adversity. Obviously, some ups, some downs as well. At the end of the day, playing quarterback is a special privilege and with that comes a little bit of adversity as well. I think it’s just really cool the conversations that we get to have in the quarterback room, especially like you mentioned with Coach Griese in there, just being able to talk about the position and talk about how to kind of deal with those things and deal with adversity and even deal with success at times, so it’s just great conversations that come up.”

You dealt with adversity in New York, which is not an easy place to deal with adversity. How did you, by all accounts, have emerged with your psyche and confidence still intact. How were you able to do that? A lot of the young quarterbacks in that situation kind of get shattered?

“I think it really just stems from never changing who you are. I need to continue to get better as a quarterback and all those things, but it’s really just having a good family, having those people to lean on and a really tight friend group circle that I have from back home, from college and people that I met in New York and Charlotte as well. It’s just keeping that tight circle really close, that friend group that you have and obviously a really close family and that’s kind of helped me along the way.” 

Kyle said you’ve been putting in a lot of work in phase one and two, almost like how a rookie would do it. Do you feel like that’s an accurate description of how you’re starting out your career here?

“Yeah, for sure. Learning a new system is always a challenge in itself, but at the same time it’s pretty fun to be honest, just learning football and kind of hearing the way Kyle talks about some things, Griese as well and just the other guys, Brock and Trey being in it, [QB] Brandon Allen as well, who’s in our quarterback room, who was in Cincy last year with [Bengals QB] Joe [Burrow]. It’s just a lot of good experiences to kind of bounce certain questions off of, or opinions off of as well. It’s going to be a fun year and I’m looking forward to it.”