After the first few days of pads, can you give us an early assessment on CB Richard Sherman and how you think he’s doing?
“I thought Richard has been great. He got his first time out with two days of no pads, then he got the day off on our first day. Today was his second day after a day off, which helped him recover a little bit from his one day of pads. We’ll see when we watch the film, but I was happy with him out there.”
Did you get a chance to watch him today going against WR Pierre Garçon in one-on-one drills?
“A little of it. I stay in the middle and I go back and forth between DBs and linebackers, but I saw some of them.”
On Sunday, he was tested by WR Marquise Goodwin deep and then his first two against Pierre were deep. Is that something where you guys want to see what he’s got or is that him wanting to challenge himself?
“No. I think it was right after we started with a go-route on Richard and then we do one on [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon], also. You have to call go-routes like 10 times in a row in the one-one-ones to get those guys to back up. You keep doing it until they do and then you have a chance to run the other routes. That’s something you go through everywhere from college football to NFL. It’s everywhere I’ve been. Those guys are going to squat. They know there’s no pass rush. That’s just part of one-on-ones. “
What’s your assessment on Ahkello Witherspoon? It looked like he had a pretty good day today. Grasp of the defense, it looks like he’s on it. What’s your assessment on him going into year two and what are your expectations of him heading into year two?
“We have high expectations for Ahkello. Obviously, taking him in the third round when we had that coming out of college, throwing him in last year and the way he improved throughout the year. He wasn’t even dressing for a while and then he got thrown in there. The way he ended up this season, he started playing close to his full ability. I know we have high expectations for him and I know Ahkello does. He’s trying to take his game to a next level and he’s working through that right now. I think he has some periods better than others, but I’ve been very pleased with how Ahkello has been battling and going after it. He keeps doing that every single day, I don’t see how he won’t continue to get better.”
Philosophically, how many times does something need to happen to where you feel good about it and how many times does something need to happen to where you’re saying alright, it’s a concern, we’ve got to figure it out?
“It depends what it is, but you’re either confident in something or you’re not. Confidence is when you believe it’s going to happen every time. It becomes automatic. Usually that’s from repetition and stuff and you see it. Once you start to believe something, that’s when you feel good about it. Sometimes you only need to see it once. Sometimes you’ve got to see it 10 times. It depends on the play. it depends on the person. I think players and coaches all work through that throughout practice, throughout games. You’re confident in practice, you think it’s automatic and it’s still not automatic until you see it in the games. So, there’s lots of things that go through that.”
DL Solomon Thomas looked like he left early. Do you have any update on that?
“I think he left for a little bit. I think he banged ankles or something. He did finish practice. Yeah, I was told he came back in and finished so I don’t think it was too big of a deal. But, I’ll see when I get in with [vice president of medical services & head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson] Ferg.”
How about DB Jimmie Ward and LB Brock Coyle?
“Jimmie Ward and Brock, Brock we took him out in individual. He had some tightness. We watched him in individual and didn’t want him to go. We thought it’d be risky. Then, Jimmie had some tightness in one-one-one so right after one-on-ones we pulled him out.”
DL Arik Armstead has a hammy? Is it serious?
“Yeah, I think it is somewhat. We found out about Arik and [TE] Cole [Hikutini] yesterday. Cole, it was his groin and I think he’s going to be week-to-week. We’ll see it. I think Arik might be a little bit longer since it’s his hamstring.”
You had DL Jullian Taylor going in his place, a seventh-round guy. What have you seen out of him through five practices now?
“He’s got size. He’s got power and he’s been playing real well. So, we were going to do that anyways and give him a chance because he’s earned it by of some of the reps he’s been doing. Then, it made it pretty easy because of what happened to Arik two days ago. Seemed pretty good out there, but we’ll see again when I watch the tape.”
You got a few guys back today, too. Is there an overarching plan for all of those guys or are they in kind of different phases coming back?
“I think they’re all a little bit different. I think all of our PUP guys we activated today. I think [LB] Malcolm [Smith] was the only guy that really got in there. Everyone else was individual. Got to see a little bit of all of them. For the most part, it looked good. But, that was just the starting point for some of them. We’ll keep doing individual every day for them and once we think they’re looking good in that then we’ll start easing them into team stuff.”
With the quarterbacks, do you have to find a way to tailor how you want to challenge them from day-to-day, every quarterback a little bit different that way? Do you feel like you’ve kind of figured out how you want to challenge QB Jimmy Garoppolo?
“Yeah, they’re all at different spots in their experience of reps in certain things. Not everyone excels at the same thing or struggles at the same thing. It changes a little bit each day. Whatever someone has trouble with one day, you try to set it up so he gets reps of those the next day. If he continues to do it, you keep pushing it. Guys that get stuff down, you try to pull them to other stuff. That’s why we script things and kind of anticipate what coverages are coming. You don’t tell the payers and stuff, but as coaches you make sure to get certain offensive plays versus certain defensive coverages because not only are you trying to do it to certain to quarterbacks, sometimes it’s an O-Lineman, sometimes it’s a receiver, but you’re always trying to set these guys up so they and us can find out what they can do.”
Jimmy specifically, is there something that you’ve really honed in on to try to challenge him on it every single day?
“No. It’s always something different each day. There’s lots of things Jimmy needs to work on. There’s lots of things we’re all working on right now. But no, there’s a ton here. We’re five days into our install. We’ve got a few more left. Once we get through our entire install, it’ll be I think three more days, then we’ll start to re-evaluate and see where we want to go.”
WR Kendrick Bourne mentioned a meeting with you last year where you weren’t real thrilled with him. In retrospect, do you think that served as a wakeup call for him as far as figuring things out and how to be a pro?
“Yes. I think he was never late again after that. It worked for that case. He probably wouldn’t be here if he kept being late, so he definitely got better in that aspect. Sometimes people need to fail once or twice to really wake up and realize, ‘Alright, I know what everyone is talking about now. I won’t make that mistake again.’ Some people aren’t afforded that opportunity. He was fortunate of the situation we had on our team last year, gave him a couple of chances and then he proved us right in terms of how he responded. He was great. He responded to everything and really grew up a lot throughout the year and I think that’s why everyone saw his play improve as the year went.”
He said he doesn’t recall saying a word during that meeting with you. You seemed to dominate the conversation.
“I didn’t try to. I was very angry, so it was an easy conversation for me because it was very upsetting. He made us happier after that.”
Can you take us through that fourth-down interception? It looked like it might have been an RPO.
“Yeah, it was just a play action. It’s funny, our middle-third safeties never cut anything. We usually have someone just run through that guy on that play so we can throw underneath, but they never cut anything so we took Pierre and put him on a different route just in case Marquise wasn’t open. Of course, the one time we did it, [S Adrian] Colbert didn’t back up and made a great key. I think he was flat-footed because of the run fake and then shot his guns and made the catch and got a pick-six, so it was a hell of a play by him.”
As far as OL Mike Person, obviously you’ve had experience with him in Atlanta, why in May did you guys decide to reach out to him?
“We ended up letting [OL] Zane [Beadles] go. We knew we needed another guy to bring in and also the fact that he was out there. I hadn’t been with him in a few years, so we brought in a number of guys to work out. He looked the best in the workout. He’s a guy who played center for us. I think it was 14 games I had him as a center. He played a little bit of guard for us the next year in ’16. Made it about halfway throughout the year. So, he’s a guy who is familiar with the system, is versatile, similar to how Zane was and also definitely was the best of the bunch.”
How’s LB Reuben Foster doing right now? I saw him limping in the parking lot. I think he had a banged up right knee. Any comment on that?
“I think Ruben’s doing good. Today his quad was bothering him a little bit, charley horses and stuff. Some guys get banged in their quads a lot, but nothing too concerning. That’s why he was able to practice and do all of that. I think everyone is going a little bit through the wear and tear of camp.”
Was today the best that you think the pass rushers looked?
“It did feel like it and it felt like it two days ago also. We’ve had three days in pads. I thought our first day, I was disappointed with it. The next day I was extremely excited and today it felt the same or if no better than our last practice. So, I’ll see when I get in, but that was a step in the right direction.”
I know they’ve talked about pass rushing as a unit and maybe that means more games in different stunts and stuff like that. How do you assess the chemistry that that group has doing those things as a unit as opposed to just lining up and running around?
“I’ve been real happy with that group, with some of the new guys we’ve brought in. Bringing in [pass rush specialist Chris Kiffin] Kiff and adding him to that room and just watching him and [defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina] Z work together. I think the guys have really bought into what both of them are preaching and I can see our guys getting better each day. I think all of our guys, their technique and their craft, they have really honed in it and it’s shown to me and they’ve become harder to block.”
DL DeForest Buckner specifically looked like he was pretty dominant, has been that way for a long time. Has he gotten a lot better, in your eyes, at anything that he’s doing better?
“Yes. I believe Buck’s improving every day. I think everyone knows how talented Buck is. He is a big man. When you’re a big man, you don’t always need perfect technique which is an advantage he has. But, I think he is taking huge steps forward this year, just watching how he moves, some of his different pass rushes having more tools to use. He always has what he was born with, size and power. That’s where it starts.”
He seems comfortable coming in off the edge as well as inside. So, he’s basically becoming an edge rusher if you need too, also.
“We’re taking a look at him there and we’d like to move him all over. When we’re trying to rush the quarterback with our entire group, it gives you a lot of different options. We have some versatility there. We have some outside guys who can play inside, some inside guys who can play outside and hopefully we can continue to develop that depth so that every one of them who’s up on game day who’s rushing the quarterback is always 100-percent fresh and ready to go.”
You said everyone knows how talent Buckner is. He didn’t make the NFL’s top-100 list. Do you think he gets the respect he deserves from his peers?
“I don’t know. I don’t even know how that works. I’ve never seen players vote on that either so I’m curious on which players vote on it. Maybe there’s like 10 of them, it’s a small percentage. I don’t know. I didn’t know that he wasn’t and I haven’t seen that. But, he’s in my top 100.”
What have you seen from both DL Cassius Marsh and DL Jeremiah Attaochu on the outside?
“I see guys who have speed and they have athletic ability to make guys miss. Anytime you’ve got some speed to get off, that puts pressure on tackles and then you have the quickness to come back underneath. They also have power. They’re not the biggest guys, but they’re physical and they give all they can. We’re hoping with the group and adding those two guys and all the other guys that we’ve got, we’re going to generate some pass rush this year.”