Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Press Conference – September 29, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Can you walk us through the decision at the end of the game to kick out of the end zone rather than kick short and try to eat up clock?

“Yeah. At the end of the game, we have a lot of respect for [Green Bay Packers RB Kylin] Hill. He had a 41-yard, big return, explosive return the week before where he got those guys to like the 50-yard line or something like that, or somewhere it was half a field [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron [Rodgers] had to work with and they went down there and scored. So thought process on that is basically we’ve got a lot of respect for the guy and make them go longer than they have to there.”

Is that a decision, like how much of a discussion is there about that?

“Yeah, that’s a discussion we have during the week. So we have it way before we get to that actual play and you try to do as many of those scenarios and situations that you can when you come down to it. And at the end of the day, that kid has broken so many tackles and done such a good job. In our personal opinion, we didn’t want to give him an opportunity to give our defense a short field there.”

That’s a week-to-week decision? There are situations theoretically where you would want to pop it up there and make the guy return it?

“There’s weekly decisions on everything, game situations on everything in terms of where you kick the ball, in terms of how you receive the ball, in terms of when you rush a punt, when you don’t rush a punt. All of that stuff is stuff we do throughout the week. And you try to plan for every scenario that you can plan for. But a lot of the times they don’t come up and then sometimes they do. So you want to try to have all your ducks in a row as much as you can and try to put your best foot forward so that we can help the team in any situation that comes up. And our staff does a great job with that. Our players are locked in with that. They’ve done a great job with that. They were fired up in the meetings today and they’re ready to get back after it. And we all are.”

The RB Trenton Cannon kick return gave you a jumpstart when you really needed it that game. Other than his running, what else went into that return as far as why he was able to break it?

“Yeah, basically we had a couple of double teams on that return, specifically [WR] Trent Sherfield and [TE] Charlie Woerner did an outstanding job along with [DL] Samson [Ebukam] and [LB Demetrius] Flannigan-Fowles. They did a really good job on their double teams. On the backside of that, [CB Deommodore] D-Mo [Lenoir] did a heck of a job cutting off what we call the backside wall along with [LB] Marcell Harris and [S] Tavon Wilson. And then the two kick-out blocks on the backend with [TE] Ross Dwelley and [RB Kerryon Johnson] K.J. were really good there and he didn’t get touched. So usually when you run through there and you don’t get touched, you got some pretty good blocking. So the guys were fired up for Trent and the whole kickoff return team was really happy that we could help spark the team in that way. I mean, that’s our job and that’s what we want to do. We just want to help in any way we can and we were very happy that we had a chance to deliver on that play. A lot of great individual efforts there. Trenton gets the credit, but a lot of individual efforts there.”

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles seems to log the most or close to the most special teams snaps per week. How has he done so far and has he sort of moved into that special teams stalwart role that some other guys have had in previous years?

“Yeah. I think Flann, Flann always logs a lot of plays. He made a heck of a play obviously in the week prior when he made that tackle on [DT] Javon’s [Kinlaw] blocked field goal. So he’s done a good job for us and he’s continuing to grow like all our guys are. But been real happy with Flann’s progress so far. And we’re hoping that he makes more plays and does an even better job for us this week. We’ve got a tough challenge. Seattle’s good. They’re really good. We’re excited about a division opponent coming in here to play. It’s the first division game. The guys were excited in the meetings today. They’ve got fire in their eyes and are ready to go. But Seattle’s really good on special teams. They’ve always been and it’ll be a huge challenge for us.”

How close did CB Dontae Johnson come to blocking the field goal at the end? Has he showed the ability to do that in the past?

“Yeah, as you guys know, he blocked one in ‘15 when I was here as an assistant, we were here with the Niners. He blocked one in ‘15 at the end of the game. He’s shown the ability to do that. That’s why we had him in that particular situation. He came extremely close to blocking that field goal. You’ve got to tip your hat to Green Bay. They were perfect with their operation and on their time. And there wasn’t any room for error there, and they did a nice job there, but Dontae came extremely close and those guys on the field goal block team did a great job getting push. They gave us their best effort on that play. We just happened to come up short on it.”