San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed a variety of topics on the 49ers at his Wednesday press conference. Of course, Donald Trump's name was dropped and the elephant in the room question was asked. Shanahan previewed the game against the Arizona Cardinals and went over several more topics.
A lot has happened since you guys last played around the league and around the country. Have you guys talked as a team about how you, if you’re going to address racial inequality as a team on Sunday?
“Yeah, we talked about it Monday when we got back together. We all got a chance to watch everything over the weekend. So, we had a good discussion about it Monday as a team, had a little bit more. [General manager] John [Lynch] and I got one-on-one with our leadership council, spoke with them. The players are getting together, talking about the best way they want to do it and we’ll continue to talk about it as the week goes.”
Do you anticipate players and coaches all doing something similar or together?
“Yeah, I anticipate us doing something together. I think that’s really what it’s about. I’m not exactly sure what. The players are talking about that, but they’re going to think of the best thing that they want to do and whatever we decide, hopefully we decide to do it together.”
Who is on your leadership council?
“There’s like 12 guys. I’m not smart enough to go through them off the bat. It’s [LB] Elvis [Dumervil], [LB NaVorro] Bowman, [S Eric] E Reid, [TE Logan] Paulsen, [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice, [WR] Pierre [Garçon], I think, [QB Brian] Hoyer, [WR] Marquise [Goodwin]. I know I left out a couple guys.”
Is Eric Reid a guy you rely on in this situation? I mean, obviously, he has experience with this, he’s devoted a lot of his off time to social justice causes.
“I don’t know about rely on, it’s more, I just want information and you want information from people who know. I think Eric has paid more attention to it than the average person and knows more about it, so he’s a great guy for me to hear his side and opinions and stuff, which helps me have a broader perspective of what’s going on.”
What were your reactions to what President Trump had to say?
“I was pretty bothered by it. I think the same way most people were. I think I’ve got a lot of regard for that position. I have my whole life. It’s a very important, big position to be the leader of our country and when you hear something like that, it definitely bothered me, especially when he’s calling out people that you’re associated with. But, the most bothersome thing is how everyone sees that position in our country and you expect that position to be the best leader possible and when I think of being a leader, I think of bringing people together. All I know is the quotes I read and when I read those quotes, I think that’s the opposite of what you’re expecting.”
We’ll obviously ask your players, but do you have a sense that your team as a whole feels the same way?
“Yeah, I think so. I haven’t got to talk to every single person, but almost everyone I have talked to personally feels similar. I think it surprised everyone. I think you expect more out of that position and I think everyone knows when people have differences of opinion, the only time you get things fixed is bringing people together. That makes it a lot harder when rhetoric brings people apart.”
This is your first year as head coach. You’re dealing with these kinds of issues and a lot of people out there say that people in sports should stick to sports. Why do you think it’s the right thing to kind of bring the team together and talk about non-sports issues?
“I totally agree when people say that. You don’t want a bunch of politics in sports. It’s a way to get away from it. When it is effecting people and it is truly involving all of us, I know it’s bothered a lot of people. You’ve got to separate the stuff, too. The stuff that’s gone on in the country, going back to the last few years, has a bothered a lot of people for good reason. And then you go to the stuff with the flag, which some people associate with that, some people don’t. But, then after this weekend it kind of threw us all in the same spot that we all were associated. I think that’s kind of the time that you do need to address it with the whole team, because I think the whole NFL felt like we were all called out.”
Do you feel at all like watching it, having already played, and seeing all the stuff that happened, did it feel weird like we’re in a weird time? Did you get that kind of sense watching it all play out?
“I think Saturday felt a little weirder for me just because I expected that on Sunday. I think it was weirder to read quotes like that from a president. I think it was weird for me to read that just sitting on my couch with my family, whether I’m an NFL head coach or whether I’m just a normal citizen sitting on the couch anywhere. I think that was weird for everybody. But, once you do read something like that I definitely wasn’t weirded or surprised by what happened the next day. It was exactly what I expected. I kind of had a good idea of how the people in this league would react to it.”
The President was saying how often that viewership numbers are down and that these protests will further hurt those numbers. Is that a concern? Is that talked about--?
“No, we don’t talk about that stuff. You talk about stuff we can control, stuff that you can worry about. I don’t know how to think about any of that stuff, whether it’s talk, whether it’s facts. I don’t know and I don’t get how you can know. You let stuff play out over the years and after you get 10 years of data or whatever, you can maybe give a better answer. But, all that stuff is stuff I don’t think twice about.”
“Nothing at all. We had a bonus day on Monday, so we talked about it for five minutes as a team and spent about 20 minutes talking with the leadership council on a bonus day that we had extra time. It hasn’t affected us at all.”
I was wondering what are your thoughts and reflections about Eric Reid’s piece in the New York Times?
“I think it was good that he did it. I think there’s a lot of lack of understanding and people don’t know why people decide to do stuff and people want to jump to conclusions, which you can understand to a degree. I think it’s very hard to make, to have an opinion on anything unless you can understand people’s intentions, understand why they wanted to do stuff. I know talking to Eric personally, that’s what he really wants to do. He wants people to understand his intentions and his intentions are not to disrespect the flag and our country. His intentions are to help our country and it’s a way that he believes will. You can disagree with that all you want, but I can’t disagree with his intentions and I respect his intentions.”
What are your thoughts in general about athletes speaking out for a cause?
“I really don’t have an absolute on it. I like people to be themselves and if people feel that that’s something they want to do and it’s important to them and their life and who they are, and when it’s all said and done and you’re on your deathbed, if that’s something that’s important to you and you feel you should have, then go for it. Be yourself. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to do that, then don’t. I don’t think people have responsibilities to be forced to do anything that they don’t want to do. I think people have a responsibility to be themselves and to do what they think is right. I think that’s different for every human in the world and I think that’s different for every athlete.”
Have you learned anything from Eric about these issues from talking to him that maybe you didn’t know?
“No, it’s just good to get perspective and to understand. To me, it’s really nice to be in a positon that I am to, it’s a lot easier for me to understand people’s intentions because I get to talk to someone one-on-one. I do think that’s very important with stuff like this. You just see people kneeling for the flag and you jump to, I get why everyone would think that’s disrespectful when they initially see it and stuff. You can always have that opinion, whether it is or whether it isn’t. When a guy explains to you why he’s doing it, then I can at least understand a person and understand where he’s coming form. Everyone has different circumstances on what has led them to make whatever opinions it is and I respect everyone’s opinion. I like to know the reasons for it. You can disagree, you can agree, but I feel fortunate to where at least I can talk to people firsthand. That gives me a much better understanding than watching it from a far.”
How are your guys doing that are in the concussion protocol?
“They’re doing better, better with time. I think all three of them have been cleared for football activity, but they still can’t go through any contact. I think the word is limited. But, they’re better than they were four days ago.”
Is there any chance LB Reuben Foster practices this week?
“I don’t think so.”
What about RB Carlos Hyde? Did the hip have any--?
“Carlos is limited. He’s going to be probably limited all week. I know he definitely is today. I know he’s still sore from it and still trying to recover, but right now he is limited.”
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is a guy who’s been in this league a long time. What kind of relationship, if any, do you have with him and just what do you think of his coaching style?
“I don’t know Bruce personally very well, but I’ve always been a huge fan of him. I really started getting to know him as far as him as a coach, not as a person, which is off watching silent tape, when he was at Pittsburgh. I’ve always loved what he’s done. A lot of things that I’ve incorporated back to when I started trying to put together an offense, I’ve included things he’s done over the years, back with [former Pittsburgh Steelers WR] Hines Ward and things like that. I’ve always followed him. He’s a great offensive mind and I like how he carries himself, too.”
He was talking this morning about how he doesn’t like to sugarcoat things with his players. That seems like something you’ve kind of adopted. How have you gotten to that point with your philosophy on dealing with players?
“I just try to be myself, and I think Bruce is himself also. I think that’s pretty obvious. People know when you’re not yourself. You’ve got to keep it real. If that’s how you are all the time, you’ve got to be that way with the players. Players, even though it’s tough on them sometimes, if you ask a player pretty consistently the thing they want the most from coaches is honesty. Then you give it to them and sometimes they don’t like it so much. Usually they respect you for it in the long run.”
He mentioned that there’s always a difference between making sure the guys know it’s not criticism versus it’s him just coaching. How do you kind of walk that line?
“You try to never embarrass someone. You’ve got to realize for the most part, I know it’s not 100-percent this way, those players want to do the job just as good as you want them to do the job. And that’s why usually with me, if you’re working your hardest and doing the best you can, very rarely am I going to have a problem with you. Where I start to get on guys or want to call them out or handle them different ways is when I feel like they are taking shortcuts, they are not doing it as hard as they can and now they’re letting everyone down. If you get the most out of someone, you just try to keep coaching them. If they can’t get it done, then you do your best to find someone who can.”
I know you’re not interested in the Cardinals offense necessarily, but with Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, he went bananas on Monday. I know you talked about how you loved former San Francisco 49ers WR Anquan Boldin. What are your thoughts on Fitzgerald and what he’s done throughout his career?
“He’s the man. He’s been great his whole career. He was great in college and he’s still great. Larry is, people talk about him losing speed and stuff, whether he has or hasn’t it doesn’t matter. When you can make cuts like he can, when you can play as violent as he can, when you have the hands that he does, everyone sees what he does for them in the pass game because you get the numbers and everything, but he doesn’t take a down off in this league. And to play that long that way where you’ll throw your body around as a blocker, you fight for yards after the catch when the ball is in your hand, he’s a fearless competitor. There’s no doubt he’s talented, but the competitor in him is what separates him from the rest.”
Some of the plays he makes when the ball is thrown to him regardless of whether he’s covered, regardless of what defense it is, the ball is going to him.
“Almost every time it’s one-on-one usually, because it’s hard for a guy to stop him even when he’s covered.”
With DL Tank Carradine on IR and DL Ronald Blair III on IR, who else is playing that big end spot behind DL Solomon Thomas?
“Really all of our ends. I don’t want to give you our exact answers and stuff, but all of our ends are capable of doing both. If you’re a defensive end, whether you’re a LEO or the big end, there are preferences we have for each, but you can play both. Just like anybody in the league, you can play both sides. There’s just different things and I think we’ve got some versatility in our D-Line. We have lots of guys who can play both sides of the end and most of those guys can also play inside. So, that is the one thing with our D-Line, even though we’ve had some injuries, we do have some guys that we can shuffle around and use all interchangeably.”