Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Press Conference – January 5, 2022

San Francisco 49ers

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What are kind of the points of emphasis this week as you guys get ready to face the Rams?

“Yeah, I think the points of emphasis this week is really always the same week-in and week-out. Try to play fundamentally sound, smart, relentless and make sure we play fundamentally sound football. Going against a good unit in the Rams. They are playing good football here lately and really been playing good for most of the year, but they’ve come on here lately and they’re doing a nice job. So our guys are well aware of that and we need to make sure that we play fundamentally sound so we can help the offense and help the defense and put together a good product for this week. It’ll be exciting.”

You got kind of an old friend back with LB Mark Nzeocha last week. How much of a difference did he make in some of the coverage units last week and what’s it like just kind of having him back around?

“It’s been awesome having him back around. He’s a pros pro, familiar face, familiar with our system. Still a guy that’s got really good speed. A really smart, really physical player. He helped free up a lot of guys last week. So that’s kudos to the guys in the personnel department keeping an eye on Zeoch and they always do a good job of getting guys in and mixing all those different puzzle pieces. But he was definitely really helpful last week. He had two tackles and an assist and freed up a lot of other guys as well. So it’s good for him to be able to come off the street and make two tackles and an assist in the game. That’s pretty darn good. And he helped free up some other guys like [WR] River [Cracraft] and [TE] Charlie Woerner and [LB] Curtis [Robinson]. Those guys looked like they were having fun out there. So that was fun to see.”

Nzeocha has been such a stalwart for you. Why is it Week 17 that he’s being added? What kind of kept him from being on the team prior to that?

“Yeah, I think guys always have eyes on guys and we believe in the guys that we have here as well. And it was good to add him to the mix. I think when guys get a chance and get their opportunities, real pros take advantage of their opportunities. And Mark did a hell of a job taking advantage of his opportunity last week.”

I think WR Travis Benjamin returned a punt just before halftime. Obviously he has a history of returning punts for touchdowns. Was that just because of that? I mean, that was a situation where, hey, maybe he can break one?

“Yeah, situationally you always want to try to go with the best situation for the football team. It’s kind of what we’ve always tried to do week-in and week-out. And Travis did a really good job there, got an 11-yard return and I know he would want to break it a little bit more. [WR Brandon] Aiyuk had an 18-yard return in the game and also almost a nine or 10-yard return in the game. So those guys, when we catch it and get vertical, good stuff has happened and we’ve got to do more of that. Catch it first and then make the first guy miss and get vertical. And our guys are doing a great job blocking outside, and guys are doing a good job inside. So we need to keep doing that going forward if we want to try to string together some more good punt returns and help this football team try to get in the playoffs.”