Opening Statement:Good morning. Grinding through training camp right now. Its a great opportunity for us to look at guys and how they deal with the day in and day out, week after week. So much of the NFL season is how consistent guys can be day-to-day, week-to-week. So many players over the years Ive seen, just couldnt maintain a level of consistency mentally, physically, or emotionally. Thats the kind of stuff that affects a team as much as anything. Were getting a real good chance here to work with our players over the course of time. Were having physical practices and you get a real chance to see how they come to work day in and day out. Theres so much parity in the National Football League, as we all know. People that can come in day in and day out and you know what to expect from them as a coach, it makes planning that much easier. Very important component of what were evaluating is how a guy can come in and bring it every day. With that, Ill throw it out to you, any questions?How do you challenge a player mentally when he is exhausted? What are you looking for?I think as a coach, youre at all times seeing how a player is engaged in what youre doing. Some guys just jump off the screen at you, as guys that are fully engaged at all times with whats going on. Theyre not daydreaming. Theyre thinking strictly about whats happening to them at that time. Or theyre thinking about how what youre covering with them might affect them on game day. Guys that have a tendency to be a little less consistent, you definitely want to spend more time emphasizing how important it is to focus. So, its really player by player.Any guys that really jump out in that situation?Guys that to me and really to us as a staff we have a really good group of guys, number one. These guys are a really good group. I think that the guys that weve had here, are to a man, really good in that regard. The guys that weve acquired in free agency or the draft WR Randy Moss is a true professional, fully engaged at all times. WR Mario Manningham, I know RB Brandon Jacobs who is injured, the same way. I think were very fortunate that weve acquired some players that have that understanding of how important it is. As far as the young guys go, we talked last week about RB Kendall Hunter and FB Bruce Miller, how good they are. TE Delanie Walker is a guy, TE Vernon Davis has been phenomenal. Our quarterbacks are, and you have to be as a quarterback to have a chance. Really, to a man, the thing thats pleasing is that the players that we acquired are really 49er type of guys.Do you ever fear that you might -when youre grinding it out- that you might have a player who doesnt grind it out very well, but still is a really good player? Do you think, alright hes fading now, but once we get into the regular season where its not as arduous, he could be a great player for us? Do you have to have that in the back of your head at all?I think our approach is more, its one day at a time. You try to get that player to perform at his maximum every day and understand the importance of that. And then it will be what it is. I dont think we take a break on that at all, or assume too much. I dont think you can assume. The way we look at it, what you do today is what youre going to do the first week of the season. Thats just something thats just fundamental with what we do. Its truly one day at a time. We had a great day yesterday -well its over. We had a bad day yesterday -its over. What can we learn from it? How can it make us better? Now its all about the next day.Now that Moss and Manningham are on the team, can we expect more long passes in the games?It all depends on who were playing. If theyre playing way off, then I doubt it. If theyre playing up close, I would say yes.T Anthony Davis is going to be going against Broncos LB Von Miller early in the game. He is a quick, runs the arc well. Are you looking forward to seeing that matchup in terms of Davis against a smaller, quicker type of pass rusher?Thats a good question. I think Denver has two really good edge players in 58 and 92 there, Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil and Miller. Theyre really good, productive players. Like you said, they can run that hoop pretty well and trim the fat there on the edge good. With crowd noise behind them, it will be great work for us. It will really be good work for us. I think just the way their defense is built right now with those two players coming off the edges, its tremendous work for us. We have to be on our A game.Who are your starting wide receivers?All of them. Theyre all starters right now. If we got into five wide receivers grouped the first play of the game, then five receivers would be our starters. If we had one wide receiver the first play of the game, then one wide receiver would be our starter. Theyre all contributors and theyre all competing right now for a role. How they compete, what they show they can do well, that will kind of carve out a role whether it be small, large. Its definitely a very competitive situation. Weve got some good guys there. Real fortunate.Yesterday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told us he wants more of his reserve safeties to step up and take that backup role behind S Dashon Goldson and S Donte Whitner. Are there still some areas offensively, going into this third game you want to see more of that?Singling out a particular position, obviously early on there were a lot of questions about who the right guard was going to be. At this very moment all I can report to you is that GT Alex Boone has done a very good job and continues to get better. The wide receiver position- weve got a lot of good ones. Our mindset is, well how can we use all of them? Why should we just play two or three of them and let two of them sit there and gather dust? I think that will continue to avail itself there and how we can use them. The backup quarterback position is a battle, its ongoing. Well see how that unfolds. The way we look at it, football is a rough game and were trying to create depth as we go. You never know whats going to happen. Were trying to coach everybody, evaluate them every day. Youre trying to build contingency plans as you develop your starters. The way we look, at it, all scenarios are possible because you never know whats going to happen. We had a couple guys get nicked in the game the other night, right? So, you better have a contingency plan, you better be coaching the backups at really every position. Pretty pleased though with how our offense is approaching practice. Were getting a lot of stuff done, covering a lot of ground. Weve got a lot of work to do still.How did RB Anthony Dixon do in those short yardage scenarios that probably would have gone to Brandon Jacobs had he been healthy?I thought Anthony had a really good game. The first third and one, were not really game planning preseason games, but they kind of had us outnumbered there. Anthony basically was his own blocker to get us that first down. The second short yardage situation, which was a fourth and short, Anthony got everything that was blocked for him. So, I thought Anthony had one of his best games since Ive been here. And was very pleased with his physicality, his preparation and how he played. He did a great job. He needs to have another great one this week.Why do you think the offense will be better on third downs this season compared to last season?Thats a good question. I think time on task. I think number one, a very wise man said this to me and I found it to be true, you can look at statistics and thats great, because anybody can look at statistics. But the thing you want to know is why are these statistics the way they are? Thats really what youre looking at. When you look at statistics, whether it be third down scoring, rushing yards, whatever, OK, why was your third down percentage what it was? Thats the real question. And as we studied it in the offseason and really throughout the season last year, it was really just a lack of execution, a lack of cohesion. I would attribute that to really just time on task. And I would fully expect our third down production to be much better due to the fact that weve got a lot more time invested in it, and I think its that simple. Now youve got to go out and do it. Just going out and practicing it doesnt guarantee you a thing. But I would fully expect our third down production to be better starting with time on task, guys knowing what to do, what spots theyre going to be in, all the multiple coverages, protection. Its a laundry list really. But, really the best third down teams are generally really efficient in the passing game on all downs and really good in short yardage situations. Thats just something I think will happen with our development, our evolution.Will your first team offense play more this game than they have the first two games? Do you expect them to?Thats possible. Not for sure right now. Thats possible, not for sure.What areas have you seen QB Alex Smith take his biggest strides in your second year working with him?Just knowing what words mean to start with. Everything. Everything. Totally understands the offense. Now he can recite things. He can fix things. Understands where people are. When we go back and look at our first early games last season, just getting through a straight progression was a work in progress relative to what it was late in the season, relative to what it is now. Hes getting through his reads quicker. Hes eliminating reads earlier and really just taking ownership of our offense. He understands all the different things that we do and hes really, really, really intelligent. Bright football player. Really intelligent. He is super smart. Savant-like at times and has great ideas. I suppose its like when youre married the first couple months, the first six months or whatever, youre kind of still getting to know where the toothpaste goes and whatnot. And then after a while you get to know somebody and thats kind of how Alex is with our offense.You mentioned savant-like, which is high praise. Anything caught your mind as far as what youve seen of Alex?You can have a play call thats 15 words long and if he sees it, he can just recite it. He doesnt need to look at anything to recite it. And then lets just say the person typing that play in made a mistake. Hell fix it right away without even blinking. Ive yet to see that from anybody. Thats just a quick snippet of his understanding of things and how quickly hell pick something up. If I sit there and study something for hours on end, Ill pick it up too. But the first time out, hes pretty sharp.Is there an area where you focus more on certain teachings with Alex Smith than head coach Jim Harbaugh does? Is there another thing that quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst does?Theres no real specific area, but we definitely all work together with him. It covers all areas. Its just a team effort all around.What about when Alex is in the pocket trying to elude with the pass rush? It seemed the sack numbers were high last year?Yeah, wed like to get those numbers down, bottom line. Some of the sacks he took, I thought were what I would call smart sacks. But far too many of them were unforced errors, lack of execution on our part. Thats something that has to improve. And thats not just the offensive line. Thats receivers getting open, tight ends getting open, tight ends blocking, backs blocking, receivers that have to make hot adjustments. The one thing that Alex did through all that, did a historically great job of protecting the football, historically great. We look for more of that as well.Has he had a straight incompletion yet? It seems like either someone was dropping it or hes throwing it away. It doesnt look like hes just all out.No, hes been pretty sharp. I think a couple of them have been six inches here or there. But hes been really sharp thus far. I think thats pretty accurate.There was a 2nd and 7 the last game against the Houston Texans, Alex threw an accurate pass to TE Vernon Davis and he dropped it. It looked like WR Randy Moss was breaking open deep. After looking at the film, did Alex make the right read and make the right throw?In case somebody from an opponent is reading this, I dont want to let them know about our quarterback reads. But I thought it was the appropriate decision. Theres times when a quarterback has to make a quick decision. And, let me put it to you this way, how open was Randy? How open was Vernon? Was Vernon that much open hand gestures, that much, that, that hand gestures? Its going to be different every time. Randy, leverage, whos the corner? Where is he? Leverage. Its going to be different every time. Hes got to make that decision quickly. And, generally speaking when you run somebody on a shorter route and one on a deeper, if its man-to-man coverage, youre generally going to look to the shorter route first because hell probably be open quicker. And thats not true of all plays, but I thought it was a good throw and I know Vernon was pretty upset that he didnt grab it.
SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.
“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”
The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.
“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”
Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.
“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.
“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”
Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.
“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”
Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.
Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.
“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.
Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).
The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.
Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.
In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.
Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.
After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.