Kyle Shanahan: ‘Guys are Excited to be Back’ after Bye Week

The 49ers head coach discussed getting back to football after the team’s Week 11 bye week and assessed Jameis Winston.

Opening comments:

“Today for practice, [G Joshua] Garnett will be out with his thumb, [T Joe] Staley will be out, vet day and then we’ve got [WR] Pierre [Garçon] and [LB] Reuben [Foster] both will be limited.”

Garnett isn’t done for the season?

“No. He had a tendon repaired over the break. Just need to give it a couple more days to heal up.”

Is WR Marquise Goodwin back with the team?

“Yes. Marquise is here today.”

You sent your guys into the Bye with a stern message about what you wanted to see from the last six weeks. Have you been able to kind of see that focus on Monday and today when they’ve come back?

“Yeah. Generally, over my career the first practice back from Bye week is usually the worst of the year. Guys are just rusty and have been away for a while. That wasn’t the case this year. Guys came back, it wasn’t the perfect practice, but they came back and seemed a little rejuvenated from the break. Always a little rusty when you take four or five days off, but they practiced hard, were upbeat and they came in today locked in, too. I was excited about the aura they had.”

FB Kyle Juszczyk said the other day that the message you gave to the team was kind of what the emotions you went through during your Bye week. Can you kind of take us through what your week was like in terms of how you self-scouted and reflected on what happened in the first half?

“You get on a Bye week and you’ve got time. The first thing you think about is the last game you played in. That’s why Bye weeks and Thursday night games can be great when you win because it’s kind of the only time you can enjoy it more than one day. But, it also is a lot worse if you lose because you’ve got to think about it for a while. Took a couple days just thinking about the Giants game and how it ended. Then, you start to move on and enjoy your family a little bit. But, then you get to see football over the weekend, which is sometimes fun to watch. But, then you end up getting worked up because you’re pissed you’re not in that right now. I know we’re not totally eliminated mathematically, but it definitely gets you worked up when you’re watching other teams and stuff knowing that you’re going to go back. You want to be a part of that. But, you go through that, kind of through the whole day, just watching other people on Sundays. Then, really when I came in on Monday, saw the guys, talked to the coaches, very excited to be back, and not just to say that. We’ve got six games here. It’s just all about football. It’s nothing else. There’s a lot on the line. That’s stuff I talked about last week. That’s stuff that is obvious. Everyone knows that, but to state it to guys and just make people aware because you never assume that everyone knows what you’re talking about. There’s always guys you’ve got to let them know what the deal is in this league. You come back and people might think you don’t have much to play for. You have everything to play for. You have your career, you have your livelihood, you have the guys next to you and you have showing people that you want to be in this building. When you start to think of that, you think of all the challenges ahead. I’m excited to do it.”

How in-depth did you spend time with QB Nick Mullens over the break and over the last few days to get him ready for his first road start?

“None. You let him get away. He’s heard enough of me for the time being. He got four days away, I’m sure with his wife. We saw him Monday, which gave us some extra time there and he’ll be with us all week.”

He’s the kind of guy, though, that’s probably not taking time off. I imagine he was watching film. Did he come in this week at all?

“I’m sure he did. It’s different now. You’ve got everything we want on an iPad, so you don’t have to come in to a building to work. You usually work with other guys and stuff, but the whole point was to rest and get away. So, I know Nick is watching film, studying, doing all that stuff. But, I want those guys to get away because you put a lot of work in in a week and you get very exhausted when you do too much.”

Just given his uncertain future beyond this season, what do you think DB Jimmie Ward is going to put himself through these last six weeks?

“Same thing. Same thing as every other player. It’s not just guys in contract situations. It’s every single person on our team, every coach on our team, everybody in this building. It’s not just a few people. Jimmie’s got a lot on the line and so does everyone else. Jimmie’s been playing like it all year. Jimmie did a good job first at corner. We made the move to safety and been real excited about how he’s been playing so far. But, it’s how you finish.”

Did you get a chance to watch that game on Monday? What do you make of a game that’s one of the highest-scoring games in NFL history?

“It was fun to watch. Two good offenses. I think everyone expected it to be high scoring with all that speed out there and the quarterbacks that are playing. But, yeah, it was fun to watch. I enjoyed it like everyone else.”

Do you have fond football on Thanksgiving memories? Did you play a turkey bowl growing up with your friends? Have you coached on Thanksgiving before?

“Yeah, I coached on our most fun game. I think I’ve only done it once. Maybe twice. But, the one I remember was the fun one. It was when we were Washington at Dallas. I think we were 4-6 at the time and we ended up beating them pretty good and ended up winning out to finish 10-6 and go to the playoffs that year. So, that was my best memory. But, no, football my whole life. I mean, Thanksgiving my whole life, not just coaching. Coaching, I’m working the day and my family is mad at me when I come home because of how hungry they are and how long they’ve waited for the meal just for me to get there. But, that used to be me pissed at my dad all day. Me and my mom, we’d watch football all day and then my dad gets home, we usually have Thanksgiving dinner, so it hasn’t changed for me.”

You guys have two interceptions. The Buccaneers have one. There are a handful of teams that have four. The numbers are low there. Do you have any explanation for why that might be this year?

“It would take too long for me to talk about. There’d be way too many variables. But, I think that’s one of the reasons for both teams not having much success. You look, they’ve struggled on defense definitely. Yards and points, and then when you don’t get turnovers, it’s hard to capitalize on how good their offense has done. There’s a lot of good offenses in the league this year and they’re moving the ball better than anyone. But, they also don’t have many wins because of it because they’re turning it over and not getting them back. We’ve been a little more middle of the pack in both and it’s gotten us a chance in every game. But, our offense has got to score more. The defense has got to get more picks to get more wins.”

Do you think quarterback play is better this year, or has been better in recent years, than maybe at various points in time?

“I don’t think so. There’s a number of good guys in this league. The same ones, for the most part, are still playing at a high level. There’s a couple new ones coming up. But, no, I don’t see much of a difference.”

Since they’ve been going back and forth between Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, obviously you watch both when you’re preparing.

“Yeah. You watch both. I’ve seen it a number of times over my career, when Fitz has been on different teams and Jameis, I feel like played every year of his career, except last year. Both of them can play at a very high level. I know they’re going with Jameis this week. Jameis, some of the plays he’s made over his career are unbelievable. I know he’s been rusty at times this year, which all guys are when they can’t practice or are out of the building for I think about a month was what it was. He always lets it rip. He always tries to make plays. But, he’s been a little off in some games, which have led to some picks. But, he’s come back in and given them a chance to win some games. Jameis is a guy that also, when nothing is there, he’s made some plays that I didn’t think people could make. He can be as good as anyone in this league and that’s why we’ve got to play very well.”

With TE George Kittle, obviously he produced with QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Then, Jimmy goes out and he continues to produce with QB C.J. Beathard and then does it with Mullens. Do you learn anything about him, or maybe confirm anything in your mind about the type of player and his future, that he can continue to do that no matter who is at quarterback?

“Yeah. I never think of who is at quarterback to decide on the player. I know that affects stats and what they can do out there. But, I watch the guys every day. I watch how they run routes. I watch how they block. Then, I watch how they play with injuries, how they try to get through it and how they take care of themselves. Kittle has been very similar since the day he got here. His production has gone up and down to me based off of health, based off of situations, how good we’re doing around him. But, no, I think Kittle has been very good since we got here. He’s gradually gotten better because he works the right way and I think that’ll continue throughout his career.”

As dominant as he’s been this year, he hasn’t scored much. Only a couple touchdowns. What do you think goes into that?

“Lots of things. I mean, thousands of things. Where did he get the ball? What does he have in the red zone? There’s lots of good players who some years they’ll score. I think [Atlanta Falcons WR] Julio [Jones] went a year and a half without one and then he just went a month in a row. I don’t think they just found out some secret deal. I know one thing, usually the better guys on your team are harder to get the ball to because it’s much easier to double guys down there and stuff like that. I’m not saying that’s been Kittle’s case all the time, but it is a lot of times.”

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