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Coaching Staff Hosts 49ers 101

Posted by Taylor Price on May 27, 2010 – 5:15 PM

The 49ers team meeting room in Santa Clara featured a collection of people looking to acquire more knowledge on how the Xs and Os are used by the team.

But it wasn’t a room full of rookies participating, rather a room full of reporters in attendance for 49ers 101, an informative teaching session run by head coach Mike Singletary, special teams coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

For over two hours, each speaker addressed the group on how they teach their respective players and offered up tons of insight in the process.

Coach Singletary batted lead-off, speaking first to the group on where the 49ers are headed. He did caution the media members that presentation wasn’t set up to win reporters over, rather to inform them on some of the finer details of the 49ers three phases of football.

Singletary began my examining the conclusion of the 49ers 2009 season saying, “We were able to compete against good teams… great teams we had issues with.”

Singletary was firm in his beliefs in how the team can improve in 2010 and beat those great teams he spoke of. “It comes down to who’s executing it the best,” he noted.

Schottenheimer took the podium next, and began his presentation by expressing his fundamental beliefs for special teams. Some of the fascinating notes offered by Schottenheimer were focused on field position data. According to his research, 12.4 percent of possessions that start from your own 10-yard line result in touchdowns, while 24.1 percent of possessions that start from the 50-yard line result in touchdowns. As Schottenheimer’s chart demonstrated, the chances of scoring touchdowns and field goals went up with better field position.

Schottenheimer also showed some of the key objectives he stresses to his players. On top of the list was written this motivation message: “Set the bar high, set a standard for perfection.”

Jimmy Raye took the floor next and let the room know what he expects from his players, point blank.

“The number one criteria to play here is you have to have a degree of physicality. You have to be a physical player.”

Raye pointed out that physicality comes in both an aggressive run game as well as in pass protection. Raye pointed out how the team finished as the league’s fifth-best red zone offense. Raye credited much of that success to Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis, who “creates matchup problems” for the defense. Raye also had several memorable quotes from his briefing.

-What’s the most important thing for a quarterback to do? “Exercise the value of choice,” he said.

-According to Raye, stance, steps and angles are “the starting point of how we play… offensively, you have to have the ability to keep your poise in the noise.”

-The audibles in Raye’s offensive system are referred as a “workable toolkit” which allows the quarterback to adjust at the line to whatever the defense shows him before the snap.

Never shy of dropping a memorable quote or two himself, Manusky concluded the presentation by covering several aspects of his 3-4 defense. “We got tools too,” he said with a smile while looking in Raye’s direction.

Manusky unveiled pages out of his defensive playbook which contained this passage in the opening pages: “The trademark of the San Francisco 49ers defense is aggressiveness and physical play.”

Manusky went over some of his most basic philosophies, “I don’t care where they get the ball – we have to stop them!” to breaking down the reason he values holding teams to field goals and not touchdowns, “How many points if you give up five touchdowns? 35. How many points if you give up five field goals? 15… Five field goals, we’re still in the game!”

The coaches finished up by answering questions and thanking the media members for their participation.

After the event wrapped up, TV49 caught up with some of the key figures from the event to get their impressions.

“The whole point was to bring the media in and see our coaches in a teaching setting. If you look at most coaches, at the core, they’re teachers,” said 49ers Director of Public Relations Bob Lange.

It demonstrated that fact and much more.

“I think it gave them a little more insight into the particulars of an offense or a defense, and what goes into producing a game plan every week,” Lange explained. “I think they saw the passion that these coaches have and that they take it very seriously. Things don’t always go right on Sundays, but there is a lot thought that goes into those play calls.”

Walter Smith, 49ers.com’s Football 101 contest winner, told us it was the coolest prize he had ever won in his life. The San Jose native brought along one of his close friends as his guest to witness the once in a lifetime event.

“That was pretty amazing,” Smith said after he finished lunch in the 49ers Café. “It’s also interesting to see how the coaches interact with one another. That was probably one of the more interesting points of the day.”

The entire room left with more knowledge than before.

Comcast SportsNet Bay Area football insider Matt Maiocco was more than happy to be in attendance to pick up some of the finer details of the 49ers offensive, defensive and special teams units. He’s covered the team for over a decade and has seen the team change coaches, schemes and personnel over his career covering the team.

“It shows you that a young guy coming in from college, the stuff that they have to learn and the volume of information they have to attain to step on the field and not just run around like a chicken with his head cut off,” Maiocco said.

Really for the team’s beat writers, the afternoon was about understanding the process that goes into the big gameday decisions.

“It’s good every now and then to see what it is that we’re writing about. It’s so easy for the fans to say, ‘Why didn’t they throw the ball on third-and-one?’ or ‘Why don’t they use they plays?’ To take a step back behind the curtain and see it’s really not that simple, (you learn) there are a lot of complexities and coaches do spend hours breaking down the game planning.”

For longtime football writer Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle, hearing the coaches break down the nuances of their sport was certainly fascinating.

“A lot of it was new. I think that’s why covering football is such a fun thing to do,” Lynch explained. “There are all these trends that come along, and you can cover football for 50 years and in that 51st year, you’re going to learn something new. The game is so complex and you have those 11 different battles every play.”

Smith and Lynch both learned much more about the 49ers coordinators, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye in particular.

“I learned that he’s quite a funny character,” Smith said. “I learned he’s mellow from all the interviews, but once you get him outside of that, he’s actually a pretty entertaining guy. He had us all in stitches a little bit.”

“The biggest part was the Jimmy Raye part and how he broke down what a player has to go through to learn the offense, how complex it is,” Lynch noted. “It was really educational for us, especially what a quarterback has to go through to make a play.”


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Enter 49ers.com’s Football 101 Contest!

Posted by Taylor Price on May 25, 2010 – 9:37 AM

Have you ever wondered what its like for a rookie when they’re learning an NFL playbook for the first time? Well now you can, by entering 49ers.com’s Football 101 Contest! Sign up to a truly special experience that will allow you to listen to head coach Mike Singletary in person at the team’s Santa Clara headquarters!

THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! Congratulations to our winners, Waly Smith and Mark Ayao!

One lucky winner and a guest will get a chance to attend the 49ers Football 101 event, this Thursday, May 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Guests will experience what it’s like to be a rookie in your first team meeting. Sign up now for this once in a lifetime opportunity to hear from head coach Mike Singletary, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, special teams coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer and special assistant to the head coach/secondary coach Johnnie Lynn. The day will conclude with lunch on the patio of the 49ers Café.


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DB Coaches, Second-ary to None

Posted by Taylor Price on May 19, 2010 – 3:39 PM

In the short amount of time Karl Paymah has been a part of the 49ers this offseason, several things have impressed the free agent cornerback.

But in particular, the 49ers secondary coaches, Johnnie Lynn and Vance Joseph have really had a positive influence on Paymah already.

“To tell you the truth I think they are the best DB coaches I’ve had since I’ve been in the NFL,” said the five-year veteran, who is with his third team. “I’ve never pounded technique as much as I do here. They’ve instilled confidence in all of us. They believe in you, they trust you and they’re going to let you play the game. It’s a good situation.”

Lynn is entering his 17th NFL season, and sixth season with the 49ers. For his entire tenure in the Bay Area, Lynn has shared the position group with Joseph, who has coached all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers.

As a former defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, Lynn is one of the team’s most respected coaches, that’s why he’s also the team’s special assistant to the head coach. Although he’s mostly known by outsiders for his raspy voice which tends to give-way the first week of training camp, inside the building Lynn is one of the most respected coaches. The same goes for Joseph, who is not afraid to motivate players if he’s not satisfied with their effort.

Paymah showed early return on the wisdom he’s attained so far from both coaches, intercepting a pass from Alex Smith at Wednesday’s voluntary organized team activity.

“I was just out there playing,” Paymah said downplaying the turnover. “I knew the situation and I just reacted. I tried to get a good jam on (Ted Ginn Jr.) and I noticed him trying to cut back, I was surprised (Smith) threw the ball. I just tried to beat him to the ball and make a play.”

Paymah’s pretty interception on such a nice day weather-wise was fitting for the defensive back, considering how much he was looking forward to Bay Area weather when signing with the 49ers in March.

“It’s beautiful out there, sometimes I refer to it as Club Med,” Paymah said while cracking a grin. “I don’t really feel like I’m at work, except for when practice starts hurting. But really I’m just trying to have fun, play ball and not think too much. I’m just trying to make it happen.”

Likewise, rookie defensive backs are adjusting to their new surroundings. Fortunately, Lynn and Joseph have made the experience a challenging one.

Second-round pick Taylor Mays is just like Paymah, loving his new position coaches.

“They’re good coaches because they coach you, the individual player. I think that’s important. They’re coaching me up on everything I do,” the rookie safety said.

Mays knows he won’t be perfect this week, but as long as he’s giving maximum effort, the former USC standout can live with that at the end of the day.

“It’s about giving full effort. That’s all I can really do right now. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, retain as much as I can and just go from there. I’m trying to get as much work in as I can. I’m not really worried about messing up or anything. I’m trying to get as many mistakes out the way and go forward,” Mays said.

Mays said he already understands what type of effort is needed just from watching two solid safeties like Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson.

“I know what to expect and know what the tempo should be,” Mays said. “It’s good to see guys at the highest level prepare and see what it takes to be great and successful. We have two successful safeties to watch and I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in.”

Notes and Quotes

Greg Manuksy wore a microphone for 49ers.com on Tuesday. On Wednesday, head coach Mike Singletary wore the wire and the defensive coordinator stepped up to a podium with a microphone to answer questions from the media. Many wondered about his initial impressions on the three defensive players selected by the 49ers in the 2010 Draft, but Manusky wasn’t quick to judge his new talent. “There are a lot of things thrown at them the first couple of weeks. They just got out of a scenario of a worldwide tour going to teams and stuff like that. It’s good to get them here, start sitting them down, understand the system and understand where their role is. They’ll eventually and hopefully move on and upward.”

Manusky was also questioned about his defensive philosophy of using defenders who mirror each other and Navorro Bowman’s name came up. The third-round pick out of Penn State, who played outside linebacker in a 4-3 college scheme, is now making the change to inside linebacker in a 3-4. But the change is not a problem according to Bowman who is relishing the opportunity. “I’m glad to be back inside, you get to each side faster,” Bowman noted. “Being an outside ‘backer you’re stuck to one side and you can’t really make plays on the other side of the field. I’m glad to be inside, but whatever the coaches need me to learn – I’ll do that.”

Speaking of linebackers, Takeo Spikes is a veteran in the truest sense of the word. Asked if he’s excited about the upcoming season, the 13-year veteran said he’ll curb his enthusiasm until late July. “When training camp comes around and we start playing games, I think that’s when it really gets all the way turned up.”

Mike Iupati has been off to a good start so far this week. During the team period, the rookie left guard did a nice job of pulling and kicking out the blitzing Bowman, to give running back Glen Coffee a huge running lane. “Nice job Mike!” offensive line coach Mike Solari belted out upon seeing the play develop.

Smith rebounded from the early interception and completed several passes in the 10 to 20-yard range, but none more impressive than the touch pass 25 yards or so down the middle of the field to wide receiver Dominique Zeigler, who got past the coverage of cornerback Tarell Brown and ran right under the perfectly thrown pass.

Although Patrick Willis is recovering a minor offseason knee surgery, he’s still very active at practice. Besides leading stretches with the rest of team captains, he’s been 50 yards behind the defense during team periods, mirroring the movements of both inside ‘backers. Willis might not be on the field with his teammates full-go, but he’s getting plenty of mental reps.


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Rookies Lean On Each Other

Posted by Taylor Price on May 18, 2010 – 3:06 PM

What’s the best thing about being a rookie in the National Football League? The fact that there’s never just one on a team.

Fortunately for the 2010 class, each incoming 49ers rookie has a handful of teammates dealing with similar eye-opening experiences this week at the team’s four days of voluntary organized team activities. The rookies will have to adapt to their new surroundings and build bonds with one another quickly as they go through their first experiences in the game of professional football.

But after talking with some of the rookies on Tuesday, it sounds like they’re already leaning on each other just fine.

For 49ers first-round pick Anthony Davis, having a fellow first-round pick in guard Mike Iupati around has been extremely helpful as the two face similar challenges.

“Mike’s my boy,” Davis said when I asked him about spending time with Iupati off the field. “We would go over our plays and just talk about the daily things we go through just being a rookie, like getting the Gatorade for the guys and stuff like that.”

The two offensive linemen have their work cut out for them this week at OTAs as they try to learn an NFL playbook as quickly as possible. Davis said he already feels better with each workout amongst his new teammates.

“It’s going well, every day I’m getting a little better at it,” the No. 11 overall pick said. “Every day you have to give it all you got and then the next day you’ll be able to give it a little more.”

Davis instantly picked up on one of the major differences between the pro game and the college game – the concentration needed to be successful.

“Every play is like… if you’re not giving it everything than it won’t be enough,” he said.

Good thing for Davis is that he’s got a solid group of veteran linemen to learn from. He’s even picked up a training tip or two from right guard Chilo Rachal.

“Chilo has been helping me out a lot, just how to operate at this level basically. He’s always doing extra work (after practice) trying to be the best.”

Likewise, undrafted linebacker Mike Balogun is relishing the opportunity to work with the talented defensive players on the 49ers roster.

“I’m fortunate with this whole situation,” Balogun said. “I’m very grateful to come in and play with guys like Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis. Those are guys who you can definitely learn from. Takeo’s been in the game for years and Pat’s probably the best one in the league right now. It’s a pleasure and I’m grateful.”

And just like Davis and Iupati’s relationship has blossomed, so has Balogun’s bond with 49ers third-round pick Navorro Bowman. The two inside linebackers were roommates at the team’s first rookie minicamp and have continued to build on their friendship since.

“We’re constantly talking,” Balogun said. “After meetings, on the field, when we’re in the hotel, we’re constantly talking because we’re together. We’re always asking each other ‘What’s this?’ or ‘What did you have on that play?’ We have to communicate if we want to get better.”

Notes and Quotes

Greg Manusky wore a microphone at practice today for TV49. Check out 49ers.com next week to relive the practice through the eyes of the 49ers defensive coordinator. It’s guaranteed to have some quality sound bites as well.

Keith Smith came up with the first turnover of the day, intercepting a deep Alex Smith pass intended for Michael Crabtree 35 yards down the center of the field. The veteran cornerback timed his jump perfectly and beat the second-year wideout to the ball.

Vernon Davis always looks fast after the catch, but it seems like he’s running with even more of a purpose once the balls in his hands this year. After a nice deep drag over the middle for a 10-yard gain, Davis flashed his Pro Bowl-caliber explosiveness, darting past multiple defenders as he took off 50 yards down the field. I remember Gary Plummer once telling me how Jerry Rice would run to the opposite end zone after every catch in practice to replicate doing it in a game. It appears as if Davis is trying a similar approach this year. He’s already taken off down the field a couple of times this week, should be interesting to see if it continues.

Reggie Smith became the second player with his namesake to come up with a turnover on Tuesday. Smith was the was the lucky recipient of an overthrown pass from backup quarterback David Carr to wide receiver Josh Morgan during 7-on-7 work.

Later in skelly (7-on-7) work, Morgan made an impressive catch on a flag route thrown by third-string quarterback Nate Davis. The second-year signal caller showed nice pocket presence, stepping up and to his left to make the deep sideline throw to Morgan, who used his big body to shield safety Curtis Taylor away from the ball.

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye spoke with the media after practice on the state of the 49ers offense. Asked what are some of the things the unit can do this year that they couldn’t do 365 days before, Raye responded: “We’ve come almost 180 degrees from a year ago in terms of the basic, fundamental understanding of the words and the nomenclature of the system and trying to get passed that point. We’ve expedited that part of it so we don’t have to spend as much time on the rudiments of what we are doing, that we can review that and get onto the basic things. This is the first time that they would have had an opportunity to see cut-ups going into the next year. The work they did a year ago, we use that as teaching tools to advance and go forward as we install. So, we have some things that we identify that they are doing good and bad, and so it helps us tremendously where we are starting point-wise from when we walked in here February a year ago.” (Watch Raye’s press conference by clicking HERE).

The 49ers received a special visit on Tuesday from 15-year-old Brandon Dale of Santa Clara, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer. Brandon and his family spent the day watching practice, touring the facility and even met with players and coaches after practice. Brandon also spent time with his favorite player, linebacker Patrick Willis. TV49 caught up with the Dale’s after their visit and we’ll have much more on their experience.


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Sopoaga Gets Manusky Fired Up

Posted by Taylor Price on August 3, 2009 – 12:44 PM

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It’s not like he needs much energy on the practice field to get him fired up for practice. But 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky had extra juices flowing at the start of practice early Monday morning when he realized his sunglasses had disappeared.

Manusky had put his shades on top of a water cooler for a quick second and then turned away to have a conversation. Upon seeing it, defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga snagged Manusky’s shades and put them on for the entire team stretch period.

Without recognizing Sopoaga’s prank, Manusky scrambled to find his glasses, asking everyone on the sideline where they had gone.

“It was something I wanted to do just to get coach Manusky fired up for today,” Sopoaga said with a huge smile after practice.

Manusky continued to rant about how he had just put them down five minutes ago and then they suddenly disappeared.

“Coaches, players, trainers and the equipment guys they were so worried trying to look for his shades, but I had them the whole time during warm-ups,” Sopoaga said. “I just wanted to see how he was going to react. He got really mad!”

When the team huddled up to break for individual drills, Sopoaga ran over to Manusky while wearing the glasses.

At that moment everyone on the sideline began laughing. Manusky cracked a smile and Sopoaga handed back the glasses. His plan clearly worked as Manusky was steaming for awhile before he realized what happened.

The two shared a laugh after the exchange and it was time for practice to begin.

Morning Practice Notes

Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis sat out of Monday’s morning practice with a mild ankle strain. He’s day-to-day. Same goes for Parys Haralson (hip flexor) and Tarell Brown (toe sprain).

Allen Rossum came up with the only interception of the day during 1-on-1 wide receiver defensive back drills. Rossum was matched up on Michael Spurlock, but was able to read Spurlock’s comeback route. The veteran cut inside of Spurlock and intercepted the pass along the right sideline.

During team drills Shaun Hill completed his first four passes. Josh Morgan, Branon Jones, Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis were on the receiving end of Hill’s four throws.

Coach Singletary had the players take part in another round of “The Nutcracker.” The highlight of the drill was when undrafted rookie guard Kyle Howard moved back Sopoaga, much to the approval of the rest of the offensive linemen.

Jones made the play of the day later in practice, by out-leaping Marcus Hudson down the right sideline for an impressive reception.

Alex Smith threw a rocket of a pass to Delanie Walker along the left sideline also during 11-on-11 work.

The team will eat lunch, go through meetings and hit the field for another practice a little after 4pm. Stay tuned to 49ers.com throughout the day for more updates, including press conferences with Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Both spoke with the media after the morning session. Also, stay up to date with on the field updates by following us on our Twitter page.


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