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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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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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Boone Embodies Offseason Work Ethic

Posted by Taylor Price on May 1, 2010 – 2:12 PM

At this time last year, Alex Boone was one of many undrafted free agents working to showcase his talents to the 49ers coaching staff at his first NFL minicamp. What made it even more difficult was the extra weight the former Ohio State tackle was carrying on his 6-foot-7 frame.

Oh, how things can change in a year, especially when you’ve been involved with a professional football team for 365 days.

The current Alex Boone is a lot lighter, thanks to dedicated eating and training habits. Boone’s new physique has also caught the eye of his offensive coordinator, who marveled over the second-year player’s transformation when speaking to the media Saturday afternoon.

“Tremendous,” Jimmy Raye said of Boone’s new-look on the practice fields. “Probably to the layman’s eye, it’s obvious he’s changed his body. His conditioning is better.”

Raye said the toned exterior has allowed Boone to play with more control from what he’s seen during the 49ers rookie minicamp, in which Boone is participating to help mentor the 49ers young linemen.

For Boone, the best part of being in better shape is being able to feel comfortable during practice.

“I’m not out of breath at all. I can run down the field and still joke about stuff. I really think everything has paid off.”

Raye also pointed out Boone as a model for how young players can improve with a year of experience in pro football.

“Look at him today after being a part of the program for a year and being in the (offseason) weight program. The people we’re working with have the same opportunity to flourish to that point, then you have something.”

Boone credited his change to the work he’s done with 49ers strength and conditioning coach Duane Carlisle in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

“I think I’ve done a great job of focusing on my conditioning this offseason and Coach Carlisle is putting through us through a great regiment. It’s definitely paying off right now.”

Boone’s constant offseason training has helped him tremendously so far, and will only help as he makes his case to stick on the 49ers 53-man roster and not just on the practice squad like he did in 2009.

“Everything has been paying off, doing cardio all day, and constantly working out,” he said. “You don’t really see the light of the tunnel when all you’re doing is working out. But when I got out on the field, everything was easier and I felt so much better.”


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Highlights From Singletary/Solari Interviews

Posted by Taylor Price on January 21, 2010 – 6:25 PM

Both head coach Mike Singletary and newly hired offensive line coach Mike Solari addressed the Bay Area media in separate conference calls on Thursday. Singletary went first to answer questions on Solari’s arrival and his previous relationship with the newest 49ers coach. Solari’s interview took place 45 minutes later and covered largely the same topics.

Check out some selected quotes from Singletary and Solari’s conference calls.

Head Coach Mike Singletary (Click here to listen to full audio of conference call)

On whether former offensive line coach Chris Foerster was one of Singletary’s assistants who was contacted by other teams:

“Yes.”

On whether he’s surprised that Foerster went to Washington:

“Yes, it was.”

On why he granted permission for the Redskins to interview Foerster if Singletary wished to retain him:

“I’ll tell you how it went. First of all, I was contacted by our office here that said that Washington wanted to [inaudible]. And I said, well, at what position? It would be a lateral move, and I said no. That was my initial response. So, I was done with it. I got a call from Chris Foerster later on that really expressed that his family is out there, out east. He loved it here, loved what we are doing, but if there was any way to be closer to his family, he’d really appreciate it if he could do the interview and go from there. I think, for me, his family is important. Family is very important. It’s something that I talk about. I could not not do that, give him the chance to be closer to his family. He’s got a kid in high school, senior last year – all that sort of thing. So, I granted it.”

On how he was able to get Mike Solari so quickly:

“It’s really interesting how it happened. Mike Solari is a guy who, when I was interviewing for head coaching jobs around the league, he was my No. 1 guy. The fact that I would be able to get him at this juncture and how this happened is really amazing. I think it’s a win-win situation. When I talked to Chris this morning, I just told him that I believe things work out for a reason. I told Chris this morning, best of luck to you, and I hope everything goes well. I had an interview set up with Mike Solari and my wife and I felt like that would be – everything would work itself out.”

On what he likes about Solari as an offensive line coach:

“Well, first of all, I like him as a person, first of all. From there, I like the fact that where he’s been, the experience that he’s had, and I guess he’s really done a great job when I look at his track record. I think he knows what I’m talking about, in terms of the physicality that I’m talking about bringing, in terms of the mental make-up that I would like to have as an offensive line because everything starts with the offensive line. I think he understands that very well and I talked to him a few times, and there’s a lot to like about him.”

On whether physicality is a part of Solari’s background:

“Yes it is, particularly when he was at Kansas City. He had a very physical offensive line there, very mentally tough, dominating-type of an offensive line. The fact that he has experience as a coordinator, the fact that [offensive coordinator] Jimmy Raye is familiar with him, I think it’s an ideal situation.”

On whether he will be accompanying the rest of the staff to the Senior Bowl:

“Yes sir, he will.”

On whether he will get to have a say on who the team picks in April should it target an offensive lineman:

“He will get to have an opinion, yes.”

On how much input offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye had on Mike Solari from their three years together in Kansas City:

“Well, first of all, I had already contacted Mike Solari, and Jimmy was calling after I had talked to Mike, initially made contact with him, and Jimmy was calling to make me more familiar with him. I just told Jimmy that I knew about him, and he was my No. 1 guy when I was interviewing for o-line guys. So, I just kind of helped Jimmy understand that I had a good idea of who he was and what he was about.”

Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari (Click here to listen to full audio of conference call)

On whether he had made contact prior to this with Coach Singletary at any point about joining his staff if Coach Singletary were hired as a head coach:

“Yes, we had. When I was in Kansas City, we spoke and I always really admired Mike from afar and I always looked forward to the opportunity to work with him. I was excited about the possibility when he was up for some different head coaching jobs in the NFL.” 

On how their styles and philosophies mesh:

“I think in the sense that we understand that the most important part of the game are the big people up front on the offensive line being able to be physical and come off the line of scrimmage together and being able to orchestrate as one. I think we are very similar in the sense of understanding, in the sense of fundamentals and techniques win championships. It’s a matter of those five guys coming together and orchestrating as one.” 

Photo courtesy of Rod Mar, Seahawks.comOn how familiar he is with what the 49ers have on the offensive line:

“I know that the offensive line – the San Francisco 49ers have some young offensive linemen and it is exciting for an offensive line coach to have those men to be able to coach and get them to play at a level they want to play at. I’m really looking forward to coming in and working with them with their techniques and fundamentals.”

On working with former 49ers offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick in the mid-90s and what he takes from him and whether what he did then is still applicable today:

“The key thing about Bobb, he was a great line coach. It was great to work with him. I learned quite a bit from Bobb. The thing about Bobb was the details and how no stone was unturned. It was the little things and the blueprint of building a championship and the blueprint of building an offensive line unit in the sense of technique, fundamentals, crowd their sled, development of offensive linemen into very good football players. I learned a lot from Bobb and I still use those fundamentals today, in working with the offensive line, no matter where I’ve been, whether it be Kansas City or my time in Seattle, Bobb was a tremendous coach and person.”

On whether there are similarities between what the Chiefs ran with Jimmy Raye and what the 49ers do here:

“I believe so. Jimmy Raye is an outstanding football coach and he has tremendous knowledge in the game. I was really fortunate to work with Jimmy those many years and learned a lot from him. Again, he loves the power running game very much, like Coach Singletary. Being physical at the point of attack, coming off the line of scrimmage and again, Jimmy is the same, in the sense that he understands you win with technique and fundamentals.”

On whether the personnel matches up with what the Chiefs had a decade ago:

“I think it’s a little bit different. I think the San Francisco 49ers line has a little bit more youth that needs to be further developed. When I was at Kansas City, we had [T] Willie Roaf at the end of his career and we had a little bit more of an offensive line with a [G] Will Shields and a [C] Casey Wiegmann, [G] Brian Waters was the young player then. Here, there’s more youth on this offensive line and like I said, it’s kind of exciting to come in and being able to coach some of these young guys, like a [T] Joe Staley and [G] Chilo [Rachal] at the right guard position. I’m looking forward to working with them.”

On how much input he will have in devising the run game:

“Well, I have to sit down with Jimmy Raye and again, whatever Jimmy needs to be successful, I’ll do and again, the most important thing is we are all pieces of a puzzle put together as a staff and our job is to make sure that Jimmy has whatever he needs to be able to call the game that he needs to call up to win and that will be decided by Jimmy Raye and what he needs done by me on my part.”

On how much, percentage-wise, he incorporates zone and man blocking techniques:

“Well, what happened this year with Coach [Jim] Mora, we went with the theory that it was going to be -we were going to go with zone blocking, wide zone and tight zone, to answer your question. I guess what I should be saying is, you need a little bit of both, the wide zones, the tight zones, [inaudible], but also you need to be able to run a power scheme, have man blocking and variations. Now, with more teams going to the 3-4 front, you need some variation because the wide zone, what they are doing is taking away the wide zone and you are seeing that from the 34 front teams they are biting those outside linebackers and they are penetrating them up the field where your back can’t press the line of scrimmage and get a good cut off that first step which is very, very important in the wide zones. You need to change up the variations of your blocking scheme and you need to do what the strength of your personnel is with your runner and your offensive line.”

On what the 49ers strength is right now:

“Again, I need to do more work and look at the film. Again, the offensive line is a group of young men that are talented with some different things. But again, that’s something that Jimmy Raye is right on top of and he is an outstanding coach. He’s on top of that with what their strengths are and so forth. That’s where I need to get caught up to speed, watching some film on these guys and then also having some suggestions on what I think, what I believe that they can do, but Jimmy Raye has a great deal of that.”


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Monday’s Locker Room Talk

Posted by Taylor Price on December 28, 2009 – 3:42 PM

If Vernon Davis catches one more touchdown pass this week against the St. Louis Rams, he’ll tie Antonio Gates’ single-season record of 13 touchdown catches set back in 2004.

But the 49ers aren’t looking at it like it’s a one-man accomplishment for their starting tight end. It’s really more of a team feat.

“It’s a credit to the guys around him. We all depend on each other. But we’re happy for him, he’s worked really hard,” quarterback Alex Smith said.

In Davis’ first three seasons, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2005 draft had 103 catches for 1,132 yards (11 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns. To put his breakout year into further perspective, already this season Davis has 72 catches for 876 yards (12.2 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns.

With numbers like that, Davis has the support of all his teammates in being a strong candidate to make the 2010 Pro Bowl.

“I’d love to see him on that list,” Smith said. “I’d love to see as many guys as possible, but especially him. He’s worked hard and had a lot of the stats this year to back it up.”

Davis and the rest of the 49ers will have to wait until 4:15 PM PT on Tuesday when Pro Bowl rosters are announced.

And while Smith was unaware of what Davis needed to pass the league milestone, the 49ers signal caller said he wouldn’t press the issue in St. Louis.

“I don’t think we’re going to force anything. We’re just going to let it happen. We’re going to try and win the game,” Smith said. “I think there’s something to be said about him and the work he’s put in over the last few years as well as this season.”

According to Smith, Davis’ development has forced opposing defenses to game plan for the 49ers versatile tight end.

“Definitely his speed up the field is something that causes problems,” Smith said. “I think you can see in these last few weeks defenses have acknowledged [that] and are making adjustments too.  I think they’re more conscious of him.”

Smith was pretty aware of Davis on a 2-yard rollout touchdown pass in which the quarterback could have kept the ball for a touchdown run. Ultimately, Smith decided to throw his 17th touchdown pass of the season.

“It looked better on film than what it looked like in my head,” Smith said. “It definitely would have been a bang-bang play at the goal line. I don’t think it would have been a walk in like I kind of had in my mind. Either way, it turned out the way it did.”

Asked if he’d taken up Davis on his offer to pick up a dinner tab this week, Smith replied, “Not yet, I’ll hit him up on that.”

More Monday Notes

-Mike Singletary opened his press conference by announcing the 49ers injury report following the Lions game. Right guard Chilo Rachal will undergo an MRI later on Monday on his knee, left tackle Joe Staley is day-to-day with a knee contusion, Glen Coffee remains questionable with a hamstring injury and cornerback Shawntae Spencer has a wrist sprain. “Should be fine,” Singletary said of Spencer’s injury.

-Later, Singletary said kicker Joe Nedney and cornerback Nate Clements will not return to action this season. Ricky Schmitt will get another chance to kick for the 49ers. He made 2-of-3 field goals against Detroit.

-Singletary said the offense planned on getting the ball early and often to running back Frank Gore, but Detroit countered by stacking the box with eight defenders. Singletary said the 49ers played a “cat and mouse” game early on and that’s why Gore only had seven carries in the first half.

-Singletary wasn’t happy that his offense struggled to convert the Lions six turnovers into points of their own. “It’s not acceptable. It’s never acceptable,” he said.

-The head coach also has reservations about continuing to use starting wide receiver Josh Morgan as a kick returner. It’s not just offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye who feels that way. “That’s a priority for us this offseason, to find a return guy,” Singletary revealed.

-The 49ers are the only team in the league to force five or more turnovers in three games this season. Singletary said the credit goes to the team maturing on defense. In particular, he highlighted the growth of free safety Dashon Goldson and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. This season, both players are playing the most they ever had in any points of their career. Goldson leads the team with four interceptions while Brooks leads the team with 6.0 sacks.

-“Goldson has gotten more comfortable back there. He’s really doing a good job of reading the quarterback better,” Singletary said. “Ahmad has really stepped up in the second half of the season.”

-Singletary was asked if other linebacker had more range than 49ers two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, he responded, “No.”

-Singletary made a great point to close out his press conference when fielding a question on the importance of finishing the season 8-8. The head coach reminded the media that beating the Rams is not a foregone conclusion. “You have to go earn 8-8,” he stated.


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Monday’s Locker Room Talk

Posted by Taylor Price on November 30, 2009 – 6:19 PM

Moments after Mike Singletary thoroughly explained how several members of the offense met with him last week to express opinions about the offense’s direction – players in the locker room were also asked to comment.

But according to quarterback Alex Smith the matter was blown out of proportion.

“This is not something that is new. It’s always been there,” Smith explained. “I know a lot has been made of this – I just think with the more you play in an offense – the better you play in that system.”

Smith said that Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye’s office doors have always been open for players to express themselves. Those visits picked up, ever since the 49ers used more of a shotgun attack in the second half of the Green Bay game. From that point on, the offense grew increasingly excited about its potential in a spread attack.

With players communicating that with the coaching staff, Smith said it spoke volumes about the steps the team has taken recently.

“I think the more comfortable we get with things, you’re going to get a little more input to maybe what you like, maybe what you think you can do. I just think that comes with growth, with experience.”

Tight end Delanie Walker also felt those discussions were critical.  

“It says a lot. Our philosophy is that we’re a family. We’ve been a family since training camp. Now it’s just bringing us together even more. You tell a couple guys something. Then one of them goes up there for the offensive team. Then a change comes around and we have a great change and can win games in the spread offense. I think it brings us together closer.”

More Monday Notes

-Singletary announced the following injury report at the conclusion of his press conference, something he normally opens with. “[WR] Josh Morgan: Hip contusion, taking it day-to-day he should be fine.  [DT] Kentwan Balmer: Right shoulder sublex, his shoulder went out, went back in and that’s day-to-day. [LB] Parys Haralson: thumb contusion and [S] Curtis Taylor is having an MRI today: hip strain.

-Singletary again was pleased with the play of his quarterback. “Alex Smith, I thought, did a very nice job,” he explained. “I thought he took a big step yesterday. This is an offense that he talked about and envisioned and was able to step in and not just talk about it but produce, find receivers, have a blitzing linebacker or end coming right at him and still focus downfield and make a throw.”

-Singletary said Smith’s two best throws were on a fourth-and-one pass to Vernon Davis for a 30-yard gain and an incomplete pass to Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone. “He made some really nice throws yesterday. The one throw to Vernon on the fourth-and-one was outstanding. He didn’t even break stride. Of course, the possible touchdown to Crabtree, that was an outstanding throw. So, he’s really doing some things that are very nice to see.”

-Singletary was asked again about his philosophy in using a spread attack, to which he replied, “I just feel like going forward, it’s just a matter of continuing to look at our offense and look at what helps us win. I think there are a lot of philosophies out there. I’m hearing a lot about, well, the philosophy should be to throw the ball more. Sometimes, it’s run the ball. The only thing I can say is this: My overall philosophy is to win.

“I think that’s the thing that I’ve said from the very beginning. I want to win. I think it’s one thing when you look at this is what I’d like to do, but I think you have to look at what you have and go with that, make the most of it, and be excited about having it. To me, that’s what I am. I talked many times about when we run the ball, I want to run the ball. I don’t want to tip-toe. I don’t want do any of those things. I want to hit people. I want to go forward and I want to run the ball. When we pass the ball, I want to do the same thing. I want to see our receivers going downfield and adding on, hitting somebody. Don’t just look at the guy. Run with the ball. Go hit somebody. To me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s football. So, that’s not going to change.”

-Singletary complimented the play of offensive line which gave up zero sacks against the Jaguars. In particular, he singled out the right side with guard Chilo Rachal and tackle Adam Snyder and left tackle Barry Sims.

-Lastly, Singletary said that starting left tackle Joe Staley will begin running and weight lifting this week. Singletary is hopeful that Staley will return for the 49ers home game against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football in two weeks. As for the status of cornerback Nate Clements, Singletary hopes to have the veteran defensive back healthy be the season finale at St. Louis.


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Raye Addresses Smith and Spread Offense

Posted by Scott Kegley on November 27, 2009 – 1:38 PM

Since Alex Smith took over as the 49ers starting quarterback, the offense has gone to more of a spread offense with up to four wide receivers while putting Smith, for the most part, in the shotgun.  While Smith and the 49ers seem to have had more success out of this formation, as evidenced by a three touchdown second half against Green Bay, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said the increased yardage from the spread can be attributed more to the situation rather than the scheme.

“The quantity of the yards and quality of the yards has to be measured by the score and the time in the game,” Raye said.  “I don’t think the formation per se had a whole lot to do with it. The fact that we were in a semi-rally mode because we were down by four scores had something to do with it. We converted third downs, which meant we got more plays.”

After the team’s first drive against Green Bay in which the offense got in position to tie the game at 3-3 following a field goal, Raye noted that “from that point on, it was downhill.”
The main reason for the inconsistency in the offense according to Raye is that the unit hasn’t had time to work together and establish cohesion.

“I think this offense has been in transition since I’ve been here,” Raye said.  “You name a week that we haven’t been in transition, from an injury standpoint, from a runner standpoint, a receiver standpoint, an offensive line standpoint. The thing we have been is in transition.”

Despite the inconsistency from the offense as a whole, Raye has been pleased with the progress he’s seen from Smith.

“I think Alex so far, his maturation in the 14 quarters, has been very good,” Raye said.  “I would anticipate going forward that as we improve in other areas of our play offensively, his growth will continue. He’s become a little more assertive.”

One of the things Raye has been pleased with is how Smith has inserted himself into the game planning going into each week.  Smith talks to Raye frequently about some of the things the offense does and does not do well.

“He has the opportunity to ‘red line’ his wish list,” Raye said.  “The quarterbacks get a wish list at the beginning of every week. They get to list in priority the things they like and the things they don’t like. They get to red line things they don’t want or don’t feel comfortable with, or they can suggest things they’d rather have. As I tell them and all of the players, it’s democratic, but it’s not 50-50 because they don’t spend as much time looking at it or preparing as we do.”

With the great dialog between quarterback and coordinator, Raye believes it’s only a matter of time before things start to click.

“Alex is a very bright individual. As he gains confidence, the more his intelligence plays to his physical ability. I hope that is what we’re witnessing. Only winning and time will tell that.”


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Monday’s Locker Room Talk

Posted by Taylor Price on November 2, 2009 – 4:14 PM

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A day after a frustrating 18-14 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers pointed the blame at themselves for not being able to snap their two-game losing streak, which now stands at three games.

“It was a tough game,” head coach Mike Singletary said at his day after the game press conference. “It was one of those things where we did more than they did. Yesterday was a classic case of an immature team shooting itself in the foot.”

Singletary spoke of penalties and missed assignments that caused the 49ers to come up short, and his players agreed.

“We have the tools, we have the people, we just have to learn how to finish,” running back Frank Gore said.

Although it wasn’t the outcome he was looking for, Singletary felt his team did improve on Sunday by nearly defeating the undefeated Colts.

“We didn’t win yesterday, but we did get better,” he said.

In Singletary’s eyes, his players improved, despite suffering injuries to two key players, one on each side of the ball.

On the game’s very first offensive play, left tackle Joe Staley went down with a sprained knee. Staley underwent an MRI earlier today and the time table for his return will be announced by the team later. Staley was in good spirits in the locker room and was noticeably limping, but able to put weight on his leg.

Staley said it was the first knee injury of football career and the first significant playing time he’s missed since spraining an ankle as a college freshman.

Staley added that he was able to watch the play of his replacement Barry Sims and right tackle Adam Snyder throughout the game and offered tips to them as well.

“I thought Barry did a good job,” Staley said.

Sims, an 11-year NFL veteran with 127 regular season starts, was ready to go when his number was called after the game’s first offensive snap.

“I always draw from my experience,” Sims said of what helped him be ready. “As a backup you prepare yourself as a starter and I started my whole career. I’m aware of what it takes to be the starter. It was unfortunate that Joe went down as early as he did, but at the same time, it was good to be able to get into a rhythm at the beginning and then go from there.”

The 49ers other major injury news on Monday involved cornerback Nate Clements’ fractured right scapula.

“We will not put him on IR,” Singletary said. “If we’re in the playoffs, he deserves to play.”

Clements becomes the third 49ers player to fracture his shoulder this season.

In training camp wide receiver Brandon Jones suffered a fractured scapula and was back in five weeks. Tackle Tony Pashos also suffered the same injury against the Texans, but was placed on IR after.

With this injury, the 49ers expect Clements to be back in time for the end of the season and a possible playoff run.

Clements only has his focus on rehabbing his shoulder to get back on the field.

“I’m just going to focus everything on rehabbing and still staying in on what’s going on with the defense,” he said. “Right now, I have to focus on rehabbing and getting my arm stronger.”

More Monday Notes

-Singletary said a sprained shoulder to defensive tackle Demetric Evans was the only injury to come out of the Colts game, besides the injuries to Staley and Clements.

-Singletary said Tarell Brown will be fine in stepping in for Clements. Asked if Brown can handle those duties, Singletary responded, “Oh yeah, he’s ready.”

-Players on offense were asked about the state of the team’s offense and if going to a spread attack from the shotgun formation would help the team move the ball. Quarterback Alex Smith said answered it best: “I think you want to retain balance. I think you want to be physical, run the ball, as well as at times change the tempo, and spread it out a little bit and then go back to the run. I think those are the things you need to do to be a successful offense.”

-Along those lines, Singletary was asked if he supported the play-calling from offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, to which he responded: “I 150-percent back what he’s doing, absolutely. There’s not one iota that I’m wavering here or there, whatever. Jimmy knows there are some things going forward that he has to learn about our players, what they can and cannot do.”

smith-colts-blog-Singletary was also pleased with Smith’s play.

-“I thought Alex did very well. I was very pleased to see him make some throws. I was very excited and anticipated this game for him because I knew the rush was going to be coming at him. I knew that it was just a situation where he wasn’t going to sit back there and be comfortable and he got outside of the pocket a few times and he made some good decisions, made some really nice throws. Outside throws, up the field throws, post throws, I thought he made all the throws that he needed to make and he just needed to be more consistent. I thought he handled himself very well in pressure situations and I thought he did a good job.”


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Crabtree Looks Ready

Posted by Taylor Price on October 22, 2009 – 5:25 PM

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After watching two hours of practice at 49ers team headquarters on Thursday, I didn’t see Michael Crabtree drop a pass, but that doesn’t mean the rookie wide receiver did not have an active practice.

He looked explosive and deceptively fast while running his routes. He also displayed strong hands and an innate ability to come back to the football.

But don’t take my words as proof of his impressive play.

Here’s what the man responsible for covering him in practice the last couple of days had to say about the 49ers 2009 first-round draft pick.

“He’s got real strong hands and he fights for the ball. I like that about him,” cornerback Tarell Brown said. “Great receivers have strong hands and they really fight for the ball, so I think he’s on the right path.”

Brown, a fellow Texas native like Crabtree, was pleased to add another “Dallas cat” to the 49ers locker room.

“I liked his game in college and I like him now,” Brown added. “He’s a good player.”

Initially offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said Crabtree would primarily play in a limited role against the Texans, but after an impressive first couple of weeks with the team, Crabtree is now being considered as a possible starter as the team’s “X” receiver.

And while Raye has been pleased with what he’s seen on the practice fields from his young receiver, the veteran coach knows that game day is an entirely different animal.

“I think, at this point, he hasn’t flinched on anything, but I’m going to gauge that based on the game, the speed of the game and how it starts,” Raye said.

Pressed to give an estimation of Crabtree’s playing time, Raye answered, “I think he would play half of the time.”

Considering that he missed training camp, four preseason games and five regular season contests, Crabtree has fresher legs than his new teammates. The same can be said for his opposition, the Houston Texans defense.

Physically, Crabtree looks the part, standing at 6-1, 214-pounds. He stayed in great shape despite being away from the team and that dedication has paid off in practice. Mentally, Crabtree has shown that he has his head focused on the right things.

While he was away from the game he loved, Crabtree would run routes against friends who would line up in a Cover 2 defense to give him a scenario he would see on a football field.

“I was just reading defenses [in my head] and trying to run routes against [them],” Crabtree explained.

Although he won’t be responsible for learning the entire 49ers playbook by Sunday, Crabtree will have to have the game plan for the Texans down.

“The whole process has been big on me so, I’m just taking it one step at a time and just trying to get better every day,” he said. “I don’t think that anything is easy. I just think that you’ve got to watch a lot of film and hopefully I can get it by the time it is game time. “

Instead of going away for the bye week, Crabtree spent most of his time off at the team facility working with teammates and coaches to prepare for his NFL debut.

“I was really trying to get as much as I could get in,” Crabtree detailed. “I was trying to get that step over everybody. I was just trying to work hard.”

Crabtree said being surrounded by “good players and good teammates” has significantly helped his transition to the NFL. Crabtree added, “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Typical rookie nerves combined with the timing of Crabtree’s debut and the location of his first game – should make this Sunday a stressful experience – but not so according to Crabtree.

“When you’re out on that field, it’s just football,” he said. “I’m not really too worried about where I’m at or who I’m playing. It’s just football.”

Crabtree, a Dallas native, expects to have 20-30 friends and relatives in attendance.

“I’m very excited to see those guys. I haven’t seen them in months,” he said.

Now that he’s put in a heavy amount of work to prepare himself for his NFL debut, Crabtree is pleased with the groundwork he’s put in so far.

“Preparation is a big part of football and what I do as a receiver; I feel that by going hard on Wednesdays and Thursdays, it’ll be easier on Sundays.”


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