Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Press Conference – January 12, 2022

San Francisco 49ers

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A quick K Robbie Gould question. How much punting does he get in during a week, during an offseason? It seemed like he kind of picked that up very, or it was easy for him almost in that game.

“You can ask Robbie about offseason punting, but Robbie’s an athlete and he can punt, he can throw, he can do all of those different things and he prides himself on being more than just a kicker. He prides himself on being a football player and knowing all facets of the game. So, it doesn’t surprise me that he was able to go in and help us win the football game there. And he did a very nice job and really proud that he was awarded NFC Special Teams Player of the Week as a team. All of the guys are fired up about that. So that’s definitely a good thing.”

Another part of that equation was FB Kyle Juszczyk coming in there and holding. That’s a lot of pressure on a guy in a game that’s so big. How did he approach it? Did he come up and talk to you? Did he seem nervous or was he fine about everything?

“Juice is always in tune with every situation. He knows if someone goes down like Mitch, that he has to hold and Juice is a consummate pro. There’s no nervousness in him at all because he’s ready for that situation. I mean, just to kind of highlight what type of pro he is, Juice has worked on that. Every week, every Thursday, when everybody goes in after practice, he never complains about it. He’s done it every Thursday for the last five years. So when he’s in that situation, he’s ready to go and he’s confident. And he did a phenomenal job getting Robbie laces and [LS] Taybor Pepper stepped his game up to another level as well, giving him all great balls to put down. But that is a tremendously difficult situation for Juice to be in, Robbie and Pep as well. And those guys did what they needed to do to help the football team. And we’re playing January ball is what we want to do.”

I’m sure one of the things you like about P Mitch Wishnowsky is his willingness to kind of stick his nose in there in certain situations. Obviously the flip side of that is it can lead to things like what happened on Sunday. What is the fine line there in terms of what you want Mitch to be willing and able to do in those situations?

“We never want any player to put their self in harm’s way by lowering their head. That’s what we just coach. I’m not saying Mitch did on that particular play, but you just want to turn it back to the help to the pursuit. And if he can get him down, great, he can get him down. But really I’m not upset with Mitch on that play. In terms of his willingness to try to make a play there. Would love for him to not have to make a play and us to cover the field and not get stacked. Which is what we’ve been really good at here on punt coverage. So the guys are really upset that they finished in the top-10, when they should have finished in the top-five. They had a goal that they were chasing to beat the record that was set here in year one when those guys were top in the league. And I think someone told me they finished seventh in the history of the National Football League as many years as football’s been played. So, they’re upset about that play and they’re upset that ball got to Mitch, but we’ve got it corrected and we are ready to move forward.”

You said Taybor Pepper took his game to a different level. Can you just elaborate on what that means to a layman from a long snapper?

“So on field goal snaps, which some people call short snaps in particular you would like the laces to be between 10 and two if you were looking at a clock. The closer you can get them to 12, the more they’re straight away facing the goal post, which is the way the kicker likes the ball, because if he can strike it there at the sweet spot of the ball then it has got a better chance of traveling and going through the uprights and Pep was right on, he was dead on for Juice. And he was between 10 and two, if not at 12 at near all five of those snaps. So just him taking it to that level, knowing the moment, feeling the moment and being excited for the moment. I’m so happy for Pepper and I’m happy for obviously Juice, Robbie and the whole rest of the field goal team.”

Did you sign one of the two punters to the practice squad that tried out this week?

“Yeah, we did. We signed [P] Ryan Winslow as a precautionary because you guys, as you know, like [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] said, Mitch is in the protocol, so we’ll see how that goes. But we did sign Ryan Winslow who’s punted and has some experience this year punting and he’s a good player.”