Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Press Conference – August 26, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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You guys have to trim your roster to 53 on Tuesday. Can you walk us through what that process is like from your point of view, how you kind of contribute to figuring out who those last few players are?

“Yeah, of course. What I do is basically look at the tape and we all look at the tape together, evaluate the tape, and then we rank the guys. So, I’ll rank them at each position. And I’ll give that information to [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [general manager] John [Lynch] and they’ll go through the roster. Obviously, they meet with every different position group on that, as well as special teams on that. So, from my vantage point, I just answer the questions that they ask. If they got questions on any guys, I try to give them the best answer I can and try to help in any way I can and give an honest evaluation of the players. And really, it’s great because whatever they put on tape is really all you have to say. So, guys have done that and guys are continuing to do that and they’ll get a chance to do that this game as well. So, this is big game for some guys.”

Have you found that the guys that you had ranked highest in previous years end up making that roster?

“Yeah. If we do it right, if we rank them right. But, you always make mistakes at times, but for the most part, the guys that can play or the guys that are at the top and it usually pans out that way. So, the good thing is here we’ve got a lot of good guys to choose from. We’ve got a lot of competition on this team. It’s exciting to see. And it’s at not just one position, it’s at several different positions. So, that’s what makes those decisions. I know they’re tough for John and Kyle, but decisions are hard because they’ve put together a really good roster. There’s a lot of competition. So, that’s been the fun part see these guys compete.”

What kind of jealously does it create in a room when you have a kicker who has a rap song about him?

“I don’t think it creates any jealousy (laughter). I think it creates more support for him. The guys love [K] Robbie [Gould]. It is crazy. He has a song, he’s a rock star, he has a song and the guys love it. The guys love the song. I mean, they play it at times when he kicks field goals and I’ve seen [CB] Jason Verrett and [TE] George Kittle and those guys bob their head to it. They get into it. So, it’s pretty neat. It’s pretty neat to have your own song.”

Robbie, not to be negative, but he’s missed a couple of extra points in the preseason. They don’t count, but why did he miss the kicks and what are you seeing from him on film?

“Yeah, I have all the confidence in the world in Robbie. He’s one of the best kickers to ever play in this game. And obviously, he wants to make all his kicks. We want him to make all his kicks. But again, it’s not just Robbie out there. There’s protection involved. There’s three people that are involved in the operation. So, he’s done a phenomenal job. This week, he’s made every kick this week in practice. He’s had 12, he’s made all of those. He’s kicking with confidence. I have all the confidence in the world of him. We’re very fortunate to have him. He’s one of the best kickers in the game. So, we’ll just see it. We’ll see it translate. We’ll see what happens this week. And I’ve got all the confidence in the world that he’ll knock them in.”

Is LB Marcell Harris one of your top special teams guys?

“I think when you take a look at a guy like Marcell Harris, I think over the years Marcell has proven himself. Guys can see that on tape. So yeah for sure, he’s one of the top guys. He’s always been one of the good players here. He makes a lot of tackles. He commands a lot of double teams and he quite honestly breaks through those double teams and still makes tackles. So, Marcell has been a good contributor for us and that was a hell of a draft choice that they drafted Marcell because he’s come in and done everything that we expected him to do and more. So, I’ve been real pleased with Marcell.”

When it comes to cut down day, has there been a time where you’ve gotten on the table for a guy, really fought for him to be on the roster?

“Yeah, that happens at all positions, just not my position. It happens at O-Line. It happens at defensive back. It happens throughout, but I will get on table for any guys that lay it on the line for their teammates. So, if guys fight for their team and guys fight for one another and guys can help us win, I don’t have any problem getting on the table for anybody. I’ll stand two feet on it. I’m not very tall, but I’ll stand two feet on the table for anybody. And I think all the coaches will. And then as well, I’ll give an honest opinion if a guy can’t help us, I’ll give an honest opinion on that as well because all of us we want to win. The bottom line is winning. So, if a guy can help us, definitely we’ll get on the table for him.”

You have one of those positions where you have the opportunity to work with rookies that can really have a learning curve. What have you seen from your rookies this year and how has their development been in the last couple of weeks?

“That’s a great question. I’ve seen it from, especially, in particular [CB] Ambry Thomas and [DB Deommodore Lenoir] D-Mo. Those guys have grown from game one to game two at a rapid pace. The guys are picking up everything as they go. And it’s just like anything. It’s just like reporting. I bet the first time you guys did it, you got better the second time you did it and the third time you did it. It’s just repetition at everything. So, I’ve seen those guys grow. And a lot of those guys, what’s interesting is a lot of guys don’t play special teams. Some do, but a lot of guys don’t play special teams coming out of college because they’re all the superstars. So, you really have to teach them and mold them and train them and rekindle the fire for them to play special teams. Some places are different. Alabama they play a lot of special teams. LSU, those guys play special teams at times. But not every place, their stars don’t play special teams. So, you really have to teach them the fundamentals and you really have to make sure you grow them.”

D-Mo said that when he first got here, he was lost and had nowhere to go and you yelled at DB Jimmie Ward to make sure that he took them under his wing and kind of show them around. How important is it for you to have a guy like that that can lead them through there.?

“Yeah, I think it’s critically important. Guys like Jimmie Ward, guys like [RB] Raheem Mostert that done it for us. Guys that can go and put their arm around guys, even George Kittle, believe it or not. He’s one of the leaders that gets guys going and gets them around. And [LB] Fred Warner is the same way. So, we have a culture where guys embrace special teams and they grab the young guys and they get them and they teach them and they show him. So, it’s like having extra coaches on the field to be honest, it’s critically important.”