Head Coach Jim Tomsula
San Francisco 49ers
“Good morning. We had, obviously, our walk-thru yesterday and our installation day. And then, today, obviously, coming out with our first practice. Guys are in meetings right now and then we’ll have our walk-thru and then practice later on. What do you got?”
Fans seem concerned about your offensive line. Obviously, you guys haven’t, you know, the starting five hasn’t taken a ton of snaps in a game situation together. How concerned are you as far as cohesion and how ready they might be?
“Cohesion, I feel pretty good about it. I really do. I feel good about that. Again, we’re not standing in a position to defend anything nor will I. I feel very comfortable with the guys. I feel good about the guys. I feel good about the group. It’s a good group.”
When you talk about cohesion, I feel like you are going to do a little bit more zone blocking. Do you want guys who maybe aren’t as talented but can play more together to get that thing going?
“That’s an educated question. No. I mean, obviously we are looking for the most talented guys we can find. We feel good about our talent. But, there again with cohesion and when you are working in those schematics, it’s the fundamentals and the footwork. So, whether you are working with a guard and a center or you’re working with a center and a guard or a guard and a tackle, those combinations are very repetitive. So, when you come out of an individual period, and you’re making me go somewhere I really don’t want, but when you come out of an individual period, everybody’s working together. So, when you’re working different positions, your footwork, your center’s, obviously, you’ve got to snap a ball, so there’s something. But, the footwork, your targeting and all those things are the same across the board. So, I guess that when you talk about the cohesion side of things, that’s been worked quite a bit.”
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said this morning, he complimented LB NaVorro Bowman for the way he’s come back. He hopes Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson comes back in a similar way to what Bowman has done. What’s your take on Peterson and defending him and playing? There’s some anticipation for him coming back.
“Yeah. I’ve been on the other side of Adrian Peterson a few times. I’ve watched a ton of film on him, as has our staff. He’s a very talented football player. Extremely talented. Adrian Peterson does a great job, but he’s also in a schematic that emphasizes the things that he does and he’s got some other players around him that help him. So, that whole package there and obviously that’s a, [Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator] Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator, we’re all very familiar with Norv. We all have a tremendous amount of respect for Norv and what he does and the way he does things. It’s the full compliment of things. I mean, there’s no denying the skillset of Adrian Peterson.”
Sorry to ask again about RB Jarryd Hayne. You’ve obviously got training over the next few days. What do you want see out of him? What are you specifically looking for to ensure or to better his chances of getting a go on Monday night?
“Well, in Jarryd’s situation, just like everybody that is a first-year player here, you’re into game preparation now, so you’ve got that aspect of it. But, we’ve also got to stay on the development side of it. There has to be those techniques, those fundamentals, the developing that has to stay on course, has to stay on point. And we have got to stay on that road. And that first year for all rookie players is, that’s the line that you balance there. How much do you give them? How much don’t? When is it time? So, that’s just where that has to stay.”
And when you say those, for people in Australia who don’t understand the game, when you say those fundamentals, can explain what you mean by that?
“Just the technique. Obviously, Jarryd has got the body position, the balance, the leverage points and all those things that he has. That’s proven, he has those. But now, how to use them and when to use them. Blocking, pass protections, he’s done a great job. Where he was to where he is, is terrific. I guess that’s why I temper all this speculation because I don’t want to take anything away from what the man has achieved. But, all he’s achieved was an opportunity to be in the locker room. That has to continue. And he’s the kind of guy that will do that. I mean, you feel confident that he will continue to ascend with his approach and the way he does things. So, I guess that’s my temperament. I don’t want to be the guy downplaying his accomplishment or the excitement for the country but it’s in a place. So, that’s where I feel there.”
I assume you’ve got the game plan sort of in. How much have you thought about what the first offensive play call is going to be? And I’m curious about as the game goes on, obviously, that’s offensive coordinator Geep Chryst’s area. How much do you see yourself getting involved on a play-by-play basis?
“Play-by-play in the game?”
“No, I’ll know everything that’s going out there. So, if there’s anything out there you don’t like, I’m the guy. But, the plan and where it is right now to date, I’m very excited about. I think the guys are, we’ve got a really good group of coaches. We really do. And the way they, the thought process behind everything and the flow and yinging and yanging and being able to, you’ve got your jabs and your punches and your heavy-hitters and then you’ve got your change-ups. So, I really like where it is right now.”
As the game is progressing, how involved will you be in the play calls, offensively and defensively?
“The call to call, no, we’ll have that streamlined. That’s worked, in my opinion and my approach to it, that’s all done during the week. So, I’ll be fully aware of where everything is and we’ll all be on the same page. We had a coordinators meeting yesterday and we will continue to talk through that. But, as the game changes, obviously, we’ve got to be able to adapt and adjust as it goes. But, the game plan itself and where we are and what we’re doing, we’re all on the same page. But, I won’t be involved in calling the play. If that’s what you’re–?”
Well, what did you learn your previous time as a head coach? You’ve done this before. What’d you learn from that that will help you here in terms of that, the play-by-play?
“The players win games. The magic call, if you’re searching too hard for a call you probably have more problems than that call. That’s coming from a defensive coordinators perspective.”
In light of what you’ve just said about Hayne, how much confidence do you have in him right now that he can field punts efficiently?
“All the confidence.”
In a game on Monday night or even late in the game if it comes to that?
“Very much confidence. Very confident in his ability to field a punt. But again, you start talking about the 46. How much can you do? What can you do for the team? And then with the schematic that we’re installing, that we’re going through, that we’re talking about here. How are you practicing within that scheme? The things that we’re doing this week, do they fit your skillset? That’s where that all comes into in my head. Special teams, OK if you can catch a punt, but can you do other things? What else can you do in the special teams area?”
WR Bruce Ellington’s hamstrings are fully healthy?
“Yeah, I mean we had walk-thru yesterday, everybody was on and accounted for.”
You mentioned after the Chargers game you wanted to get back on the practice field those two days last week. What was the goal of those two practices? Was it more for game planning or was there still some fundamental things you wanted to work out?
“Both. Situational stuff, making sure we went back and hit some things. You saw us hit a lot of situational things throughout camp. There were a couple there that we circled, that we wanted to go back an revisit just to stay on those situations and make sure that we had another time to go, another opportunity to go through those and coach it up and get out on the field and actively get through it. So, I would say all of it.”
WR Torrey Smith talked about how he and QB Colin Kaepernick were practicing well these couple days. Can you just, looking at the league overall, it’s such a quarterback-driven league and a lot of eyes are on Colin. Does he need to play at a league MVP level for this offense to succeed?
“Colin just needs to be Colin. And I think Colin is really good.”
But, he seems driven to prove everybody.
“I don’t know that you’ll meet a more driven person. I don’t know that you’ll ever meet a more driven person than Colin Kaepernick. I mean, he is driven.”
What did you learn about the Vikings organization from that time you spent with them in Charlotte?
“Class. I mean, I felt like they were really good people. I felt like they were honest. I met with [Vikings General Manager] Mr. [Rick] Spielman and [Vikings Assistant General Manager] Mr. [George] Paton and I really enjoyed my time with them. I thought they were two really, really down to earth but sharp football guys, in my opinion if that matters or not. The interesting thing was the phone call I got from [Vikings Owner] Mr. Wilf, he called and just to thank me for, I thought that was just a really nice gesture.”
Was there, when you, I don’t know how much research you had done into their organization, but are there any things that now you can apply about how that roster was built and–?
“No, I don’t think so. No, I mean, I wouldn’t read a whole lot into that. Honestly, no. I know of those two gentlemen and the way they think over the years and what they’re looking for and the way they go about it. But, I wouldn’t say that few hours, there was nothing.”
How flattering was that, for them, for an outside organization, you’ve only been with one NFL organization, for someone from the outside to think enough of you to bring you in for that kind of opportunity?
“Obviously, those are huge honors. I mean, obviously, it’s very humbling for somebody to take a few hours of their day to talk to you. I mean, that was very humbling, I’m very appreciative to it.”
Are you guys using the virtual reality this week?
“Yeah, we’ve got a room. Well, I don’t have the exact time schedule, but we do have the virtual reality. I have put it on, our coaches have put it on, our players have put it on. It is, you have seen that pole out there. Have you ever looked at practice and you see that little pole? That’s what that is and you’ve seen it there every day.”
Is it just from a quarterback perspective or do you have other–?
“We’ve found a few things here and there that we can use it for, that’s about all I’ll go. Not that it’s a secret, but yeah it’s a pretty neat deal. If you grew up playing video games, it’s a real cool deal for you.”
That was the one developed by Stanford, correct?
“I’m not sure who developed. Is it?”
What’s your assessment of Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater?
“I think Teddy’s a good quarterback, a well-coached quarterback. You saw him improve dramatically and again, that’s no, that’s not a surprise to any of us on who’s coaching him. But, he’s done a really good job. Obviously, mobile, he can throw the ball, he’s got all the, he can move the pocket and he can make you pay with his feet.”
How good were you at video games?
“I never did them. But, that thing really is a cool, it’s a cool tool.”
Mike Zimmer, obviously, is a defensive guy. As far as stunts and things he did when he was a defensive coordinator, is there anything you’ve noticed through the years that may be unique or special to him and will you be expecting some of that Monday?
“Yeah, I mean, schematically, yeah he’s a four down guy. He’s obviously creative. But, probably the one thing that’s always stood out about a Mike Zimmer coached defense or the Vikings is how hard they play. They play hard. They’re, nothing but respect for how hard they play.”
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr.
San Francisco 49ers
Who’s going to be your return man on Monday night?
“Great question. No, we’ll see. Guys have been working. We have a great group of guys to pick from, so we’ll see.”
Does that make the decision harder though, that you now have three guys who can do it?
“Absolutely. They’re being evaluated every day. We love who we’ve got and we’ll see who pops out.”
What are the primary factors that you’re considering right now when picking a candidate?
“Well, shoot there’s a ton of them. Obviously, on Monday Night Football you want to have guys that you feel confident in and that can do the job and they’ve all shown that.”
You realize Australians will declare a war if RB Jarryd Hayne doesn’t get in the game?
“You know what, I’m aware of that. No, Jarryd’s a heck-of-a player, very talented. A young player that needs to mature a little bit as far as just getting experience. But, he’s going to be fine.”
Speaking of experience, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula talked about you have to do more than just being a punt returner. What do you see Jarryd Hayne’s progress in terms of taking proper angles when he’s on kickoff units and punt returns and so forth?
“That’s one of those deals, that’s a learning situation for him. Every experience is a new experience for him covering kicks because he’s never done it before as far as being in the NFL. He’s going to get better at it. It’s my job, me and [assistant special team’s] coach [Richard] Hightower as a special teams staff to get him better at it and we will. That’s just something that he’s going to have to learn.”
He lined up in the middle on the kickoff coverage. This is maybe just a general question. How do you decide where to put somebody on kickoff coverage across that line?
“Body types, depending on the job. Jarryd can make people miss out in space so we put him inside. There’s a lot of stuff coming at you so he’s going to have to learn to read on the run. But, he has the ability to get to the ball, he has a nose for it just like a number of guys that we have. Putting him in the middle, be able to take on a wedge, be able to defeat a man block and get to the ball and kind of cover the whole field as opposed to just being on one side or the other.”
WR Bruce Ellington, I think, is the only guy who returned punts last year and maybe the only guy who, other than RB Reggie Bush who’s ever done it. When you look at Reggie who looked a little rusty in the game at Denver, WR DeAndrew White and Jarryd, how much do you have to really hone in on just decision making when you’re back there?
“Oh, it’s huge. I mean, obviously the ball is the most important thing and we want to make sure we take care of it. Decision making is huge and it’s something that all those guys, Reggie obviously has the most experience at it, but moving forward those guys got to know that making those decisions inside the 10, being able to fair catch a ball when a guy is barreling down on you, those are things that you normally really get only in the game. You get a little bit in practice, but not so much. So, you’ve got to be able to kind of go through those experiences as you get in the game. We try as coaches to try and put them in those situations as much as possible, but it’s kind of hard to simulate.”
I have a question along those lines. I believe it was the second preseason game where Jarryd made an over-the-shoulder fingertip catch. Is that something that you want to see or in that kind of situation is it best for the guy just to let it go?
“In that situation right there, for Jarryd in the preseason, that’s something that we wanted to see, him to be able to field the ball naturally and kind of make that kind of play. And that’s not an easy play to make, obviously and he made it, kind made it look routine. But, we wanted to see that and he made that play. Now, obviously, during the game, running back in a real game in that situation, yeah we want to make that catch. Because, if they’re out-kicking the coverage and that ball is going, it’s going to hit and travel and roll. So, if it rolls that’s another 15-20 yards of field position depending on where the ball is so we always want to save field position.”
So you need, he needs to prove to you that he can make that catch, which he’s done?
“Yeah, he’s shown that.”
Could we see different punt returners based on field position as the game progresses?
How much is, you know the three guys you’ve mentioned returning the kicks all did very well. How much is that to do with how well it was blocked up?
“I think it has a lot to do with it. If you look at, everybody is flying the Hayne Plane right now, but if you look at who led our team in punt returns in the preseason, it wasn’t Jarryd Hayne. It was DeAndrew White. So, I think the guys up front and the vice outside, they’ve done a great job of blocking and understanding the concepts of what we’re trying to do executing the fundamentals of the techniques of the scheme. And, I think they’ve kind of found a home there so now we’re just trying to build upon that.”
What’s your assessment of DeAndrew White as a returner?
“I think he’s a heck-of-a returner. He’s a good young player that like Jarryd, he needs to mature a little bit as far as experience, get that experience. But, he’s going to be a heck-of-a player.”
Last time we talked, you said you needed to see more from WR Bruce Ellington, he hadn’t been on the field enough. Now that he’s been on the field, what’s your assessment of Bruce?
“Bruce is a heck-of-a player. He’s a good young player who’s ascending. He needs to stay healthy and Bruce knows that. We’ve had extensive conversations and he just needs to take care of his body so he can be on the field and show us more of what he’s shown that last preseason game and the things that, taking the ball 70 and hitting a good punt return up the sideline. Those are things that we see in practice that he has the ability to do, but he has to continue to do that and stay healthy at the same time.”
Coach Tomsula actually said he sat him down, maybe you were there, and talked to Bruce and said this is what you need to do before practice, after practice, healing, recovery. Have you seen a big difference in him since those two chatted and just taking more responsibility for that?
“Well, and I don’t mean to sound like a butt when I say this, but I don’t watch him that closely. I know that he knows that those are things that he has to do. He has guys that are around him that do those types of things like [WR] Anquan Boldin, like a [RB] Reggie Bush that stretches an hour before practice. And, a guy like Anquan Boldin who gets out there 30 minutes before anybody else does and goes through his whole routine. So, he has those guys to watch and to follow. He just has to make sure as a young pro, I take the steps to get to where I need to be because those guys are double digits in this league. So, he has that in front of him to follow.”
Since coming back from his foot injury or back into practice, how much has DB Jimmie Ward played on special teams and do you expect him to be an option on Monday?
“Oh, absolutely. Jimmie’s done a great job. He’s a heck-of-a player. Love his energy and his passion for the game. He wants to do everything right all the time and he’s a fun kid to coach.”
Has he been a gunner primarily?
“He’s been a gunner. He’s done a bunch of different things for us. I mean, we see him as being a core guy for us and doing a great job on defense and helping to contribute to this football team.”
And WR DeAndrew as a gunner? It looked like he did some stuff pretty early in camp. How has he progressed in that area?
“He’s done a good job. Again, he’s young and there’s some, there’s certain things that he needs to learn about that position. He needs to learn how to be a little bit more physical and be more efficient with his movement. But, he’s any other young player. He just needs to continue to develop.”
It seems like there’s a very real prospect that Jarryd might play on Monday night, would you say that? You guys seem to be downplaying it.
“It’s, well, when you get so much of this, it kind of gets, we have to keep everything in perspective. He’s a young player in this league. He’s new. He’s a rookie. Just because he’s from 3,000 miles away or wherever he’s from, he’s still a rookie in this league. Most rookies, unless you’re a top 10-15 pick in the draft, they don’t get that much hype. So, we’ve got to kind of keep everything in perspective and understand the preseason is the preseason and right now is right now. This is real bullets flying. That was kind of paintball. This is real bullets. So, we’ve just kind of got to temper it all and take it all with a grain of salt and move forward. And, as the weeks go on and things start to progress, then we’ll address it then. But, until then you just kind of, that’s just me.”
Just on that, on the flipside of that, even though he hasn’t played the game before, have you guys looked at what he does naturally and thought, “Hey maybe that could work in our game?”
“Oh, absolutely. That’s why he’s here. He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t look at him and kind of assess that and evaluate it. Obviously, he has natural skills. But, like anything else, you’re excited about him but he’s still a rookie and you’ve still got to prove it on the field in the regular season.”
But I mean, can you take some of his skills, what he has, and translate that and get your guys to look at what he’s doing? Have you seen that?
“Yeah. I mean, he has that natural make you miss. He has those types of things that you naturally can’t teach, the fearlessness, all of that stuff, absolutely. He has some great characteristics about him as a runner, as an open-field runner. But, there’s still some small little nuances of the game that he needs to get better at and he knows that.”
Are we going to see any lateral passes?
“Great question, I don’t know. I wish I could give you that answer.”
Your special teams guys have got to play a scrimmage position too. When you’re making a choice about who to be active or not, how much does that play into it and who makes the final call?
“Well, obviously, all the personnel decisions run through the front office and obviously special teams is something that you definitely consider. It has to be. When you start talking about the bottom part of the roster, all of those guys are going to play on special teams. So, they have to be able to contribute in that fashion.”
In terms of making a decision in a given game?
“Oh, absolutely, going in week-in and week-out.”
Does it sometimes have to do with the game plan?
“Absolutely, it sure does.”
QB Colin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers
You’ve obviously switched modes from the preseason to the regular season now, but in terms of your mindset, where are you at going into this?
“We’re just trying to prepare to make sure we’re ready to go out and get a win.”
You’ve had six months of preparation now. Where has this team gotten in the six months to convince you of that?
“We’re a lot farther along than where we started. So, I think this team has confidence in what we’re doing and we need to go out and execute.”
You guys obviously kept stuff in reserve, a lot of stuff in reserve during the preseason. Would you say you kept more hidden than in previous years or is this just typical as far as what you showed during the preseason?
“It’s not really hiding things. At the end of the day, you go out, you play football. It’s not really about what plays you’re running. It’s about the players running the plays and executing them and using their technique and getting the job done.”
In June, you talked about cleaning a lot of things up and you wanted to take on a greater load to carry this team. Where do you feel like you’ve come from, you know, in a matter of those three months since mini-camp?
“I think I’ve improved personally. I think this team’s improved. It’s something that everyone in here has worked everyday and tried to get better to make sure when we did get to Week 1 of this season that we’d be ready to go and ready to go out and compete.”
It’s a team game, obviously, but personally, you’re 4-0 on Monday Night Football. You’ve got nine touchdown passes, no interceptions. What is it about the lights of Monday Night Football that kind of makes you ramp up the game?
“Well, I really didn’t know that. But, I’ve loved playing under the lights since high school. Just kind of takes you back to the old days of being under the lights. It’s a different vibe then when you’re playing in a day game and I think everyone likes that feeling.”
And I know, also, you’re looking forward to a new start, new beginning. But also, looking back a little bit, what’s the biggest lesson you took from Jim Harbaugh?
“He taught me a lot. A lot about professional offenses. A lot about the defenses, how they can react, how they can change based on what you’re doing and what their game plan might be. So, I really can’t say one thing. He’s taught me a lot.”
How do you think the offense has adapted in camp and the preseason as far as the faster tempo that you guys are trying to implement?
“I think our players have adjusted phenomenal. It’s become second nature for us. It’s something that we don’t think about anymore. We just operate at that speed.”
You don’t seem like a guy that’s really worried about outside perception given everything that’s happened this offseason. As a team captain, how do you relay that message to block out all that outside noise to the rest of your teammates?
“I don’t think that’s something this team really needs to be talked to about. They come to work everyday and work their butts off. So, it’s something that this team kind of handles by itself. It just naturally comes about.”
How eager are you to see TE Vernon Davis turn the page? I’m sure all of you turned the page on last year, but he especially wants to get things started in a positive direction.
“I don’t really see it as turning the page. We just need Vernon to be Vernon. He’s a phenomenal player, a great talent and someone that can make great contributions to this team. So, when we step on that field, I think everyone will be excited to see what he does.”
Head coach Jim Tomsula was saying he wants ‘Colin to be Colin.’ How do you be yourself in this league? What do you want people to say about what kind of quarterback you are?
“To be honest, I’m really not worried about what people say about me as a quarterback. I’m worried about what my teammates think and what my coaches think about me as a quarterback. So, that’s ultimately who I give that ability to judge to.”
A couple years ago, you had the dual-threat. You took pride in being a dual-threat. Is that something you want people to take notice of again?
“Once again, I’m really not too concerned about peoples opinions of what they see or view me as. I mean, I was also the black quarterback with tattoos. So, once again, not something that really crosses my mind.”
What sticks out to you about Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense. What are you looking out for?
“They do a lot of different things and they do them well. They play fast, they play hard. Something we’re going to have to be ready for everything.”
Are any blitzes unusual or a lot or is that something you have to prepare for in particular, the blitzes?
“Every defense blitzes, they just do it different ways. So, we have to get ready for the way that they’re going to blitz us.”
Have you found the virtual reality to be valuable in preparing for opponents? How much are you using it this week, for example?
“A little bit here and there but really haven’t used it too much. Something that we have to kind of progress with as the technology progresses.”
Will it be special to see coach Tomsula? It’s his first real game as head coach and you know how far he’s come to do this.
“Yeah, it’d be great for his first game to be a win. So, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Press Conference Courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers Media Relations