Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Press Conference – October 6, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening comments:

“Good afternoon. Excited to be here with you guys, excited about this week, this opportunity. Arizona has a hell of a special teams unit. We’re excited to go against them.”

What kind of a bind did it put you in on Sunday when you find out that K Robbie Gould can’t go that close to the game?

“Those are things that are always, it’s a tough situation to be in for any anyone, not me. And it’s not about me. It’s not about me being in a bind. It’s always about team. It’s always about we first. It’s a tough situation to be in. It’s a tough situation for Robbie. He wants to be there, and he’s done a great job for us. But [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice was prepared to hold. He’s done that before. He works on that all the time. He’s a consummate pro. He did a nice job in the game. He did a great job as best as he could in the game. [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] did a good job with his attitude and his willingness to kick and still punt and kickoff. And I can’t say enough good things about the way our guys handled that situation. Would we like the outcome to be a little bit different and make those? Sure. But the way they handled it, consummate pros. Wouldn’t expect anything less from them and proud of the way they handled that situation.”

With the touchback in the first half, it looked like and could have downed it inside the five and kept running. Was it not understanding the rule or was it–?

“No, I think that was just the ball just died on him so it was just a misjudgment of the football. He knows the rules. Trenton Cannon has done a hell of a job for us here. He’s made several plays for us. I couldn’t be more happy with the plays that Trenton has made since he’s been here. He’s been a spark for us. He’s been a really good player. We’ve still got confidence in Trenton. He’s got to get some things cleaned up. Obviously we’ve all got to get some things cleaned up. I’m not excluded from that. I am fired up to see Trenton Cannon play this week. I really am. He’s a good kid. He will come ready to play. Everything I’ve seen from him, he looks like he’s ready to play so far.”

Can you give us the lowdown on the new kicker and what you expect from him?

“Yeah. [K] Joey [Slye] is a really good kicker, like Joey a lot. Joey was obviously a guy that came in at Carolina in 2019. He was a rookie when Mitch was a rookie. He’s kicked in this stadium before. He’s kicked about 80-percent. He won that job as a rookie. It’s hard to do that, you know, especially when you’re not drafted and he has a very strong leg. He had a really good workout yesterday. He had a really good workout. And he’s been really good in the meetings. So we’re looking for him to come in and fill in there for us and help us win this game against Arizona.”

When you have the workouts, is it inside the stadium or do you go to the practice fields?

“We can have them either, or. That particular workout we had inside the stadium. So that was a good workout. Obviously you guys know [K Michael] Badgley was in here. [K] Brett Maher was in here and those guys did a nice job as well. But Joey ended up separating himself from the competition on that. And he earned it and we’re looking forward to having him on our team and kicking this Sunday.”

Can he handle kickoffs for you as well?

“I can’t answer that question for you because of a competitive advantage, but you guys know he’s kicked off in the past. He has the ability to kick off and Mitch has the ability to kick off. So we really had the same thing we have if Robbie was healthy. So we have two guys that can kick. So, sorry, I can’t answer that directly for you, but he’s in the mix to kick off just like Mitch is.”

Let me ask it this way, did the fact that he can do kickoffs and has a big leg, did that factor into your decision?

“Everything that every guy that came in to work out, everything that they can do always factors in. That was not the deciding factor for any for any reason, but he can do that. That’s something everybody knows across the league. He has a strength at that. And so does Mitch. So I think we’re fortunate there to be in that situation this week, especially going against a dangerous kid like [Arizona Cardinals WR] Rondale Moore. That kid has stop and start ability. He is one of the, I think he’s going to be one of the elite returners in this league. He’s outstanding. I mean, he hasn’t scored a touchdown yet, but he has a long punt return. And guys can see it on tape. We saw it in the meeting room today and we’re very aware of his ability. He has cat-like quickness and he has some really good guys blocking for him as well. Arizona, like I said, their special teams, they’re loaded with talent. They’re really good. [Arizona Cardinals LB] Ezekiel Turner’s a good player, 47 for them. Fifty-one, [Arizona Cardinals LB] Tanner Vallejo is a good player for them. [Arizona Cardinals LB Dennis] Gardeck is a really good player for them. So we’ve got our hands full. We’ve got a challenge, but what better week would you love to have than this week, second division game. Our guys are ready to go. So can’t wait to go to practice today. I’ll tell you that.”

 Will Cannon return kickoffs Sunday?

“Well, again, for competitive advantage I can’t tell you who the kick returner will be. But we still have confidence in Cannon. There will be some competition there for Cannon as well as he expects, and there should be competition there. But he’s done a great job for us. Before last game, obviously he had a couple hiccups there, but again, I’ve got to do a better job of helping him as well. We all do. I’m not going to sit here and pin everything on Cannon. But Cannon has been a darn good player for us. He got a huge kickoff return for us. So he has the ability in his body. We’ve just got to try to do that on Sunday.”

What’s the coaching point for him on the fumble there? Would you want him to just cover it on the first one and not try to pick it up and do more there? What do you tell him?

“Yeah, so a coaching point on that, obviously, is you want to catch the ball first. If that doesn’t happen and you don’t secure the football, not with just that play, with any play. If you’ve got a bad play, you never want to make a bad player a disaster. So in that particular situation, just secure it and we’ll live to fight another down and let the offense do what they do. When we put the defense in a bad situation there, which I still feel awful about, Cannon feels awful about, our whole kickoff return team does and we want to do everything in our power to help the defense. This week we put them in a bad situation right there, and I think everybody knows that. So there’s nothing I’m saying that you guys don’t know.”

Not to harp on it, but the one that he let bounce, he just misjudged it as well?

“Yeah, I think that was his question earlier.”

The other one would be the one that he tried to cover the punt and took it into the end zone. It looked like he got up expecting it to be downed at the two and it kind of looked like LS Taybor Pepper was like, no, you took it into the end zone.

“Yeah. I think on that one, and he’s down punts before for us as well. I mean, two really good punts downed for us in Philadelphia. That one, he just really didn’t realize that he rolled into the end zone there. But he knows the rules. He knows all of that stuff. And again, he feels worse about it than me, you, anybody here, and that kid gives us everything he’s got. So I’m looking forward to seeing that kid play. I love him. I really do.”