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Shanahan reveals 49ers' muzzled media strategy for 2020

NBC Sports
San Francisco 49ers

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan is sporting a mask during 49ers practice sessions this summer.

And he plans to begin wearing an imaginary muzzle when he speaks with reporters afterward.

Throughout his coaching career, Shanahan would hear coaches be so guarded with their answers about strategy and personnel that it sounded as if the topics were matters of national security. He always thought it was ridiculously paranoid.

That is why during Shanahan’s three seasons as 49ers coach, his expansive explanations and insights into personnel and strategy drew praise from fans and media alike.

But Shanahan said Thursday that the new rules by which everyone is playing this summer are forcing him to change. He does not plan to be so forthright this season as the 49ers lead up to their regular-season opener on Sept. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals.

“This year is a little bit different from talking about who we’re playing at what position and why because there is no preseason game,” Shanahan said.

“No one gets any tape, so we’re not going to see anything on Arizona until we get out there for the first play in the first quarter. And the same thing with us.”

Shanahan felt he never was giving out any important secrets in the past because he figured any competent opposing coach already knew the answers to those questions from watching the available game video.

However, there are few ways for organizations to gain information about the other 31 teams around the league with no preseason games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Pro personnel scouts, once assigned to travel to preseason games around the country, are stuck in their offices. Many – if not all -- NFL teams have assigned staff members to peruse the social media accounts of local beat reporters to glean useful information.

Shanahan shared his new media strategy after he begrudgingly acknowledged that veteran defensive back Jamar Taylor has “done a good job” while filling in for the injured K’Waun Williams, San Francisco's top nickel back.

That is the kind of information Shanahan now is reluctant to reveal because it could be used as a competitive advantage.

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Shanahan said he will not so openly talk this summer about which players are playing which spots and where they might rank on the team’s depth chart.

“That’s what all the other coaches are always trying to study,” he said. “That’s why I’m usually more open with that stuff because they were going to find out in the (preseason) game anyways.

“That’s something we’re realizing now – it’s a big difference as we start to think about the teams we’re playing when you don’t have those depth charts you can see yourself. So everyone is going so much off media reports. I might not be as open as I’ve been in the past training camps.”

The 49ers on Thursday concluded their fifth of 12 practices that are required to be open for the media.

After that, everyone -- including the Cardinals -- will just have to wait until Week 1 to find out more.