SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Chip Kelly’s Wednesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
How about we just start with DL Arik Armstead going on Injured Reserve. How seriously did he aggravate that shoulder and what’s next for him?
“To the extent, I don’t know. That’s a good question for him. I just know that his shoulder is different than it was before. He met with the doctors and our training staff on Monday. From what I understand, they went through an MRI and then Arik, [49ers vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg and doc decided that the best option for him at this point in time after that MRI was to get operated on.”
Is that going to happen this week?
“I think within the week. I don’t know what the operation days are. Somebody said it was a Tuesday–Thursday thing, but I don’t know. May have missed the window on it. If not, it’ll be done by next week from what I understand, what I gather.”
It’s your understanding that it was not at a point where it required surgery before Sunday’s game and then after Sunday’s game it did require surgery?
“That’s what my understanding was, yeah.”
Is part of the decision taking a long view given your guys’ record–?
“No, part of the decision is the health of the player. There’s not long view, short view. It was the decision of the health of the player and what’s the best thing for Arik moving forward. There wasn’t, ‘Hey, if we’ve got to do this, let’s get him to play longer.’ The health and safety of the player is first and foremost in everybody’s mind.”
In the offseason you guys are going to have 21 free agents and I know that’s obviously a long time away from now. At what point do you begin evaluating your players for next season?
“I think we evaluate our players every day. So, I don’t look at it that all of a sudden now let’s look at them and say where do they fit in the long-term future. They have every single day that they’re in the building that they interact with the coaches, that they interact with people in the building. Every day that we’re on the practice field with them, every day that we’re, every opportunity we have to see them play in games, that’s all an ongoing evaluation. It’s not like all of a sudden in December we’ll say, ‘Hey, let’s really take a good hard look at [RB] DuJuan [Harris] now.’ We take a good hard look at DuJuan every single day. We have a feeling and understanding of every player that’s on our roster, whether they’re on the practice squad, whether they’re on IR or whether they’re on the team. I can give my feedback right away. I know what it is. If [49ers general manager] Trent [Baalke] came down and said, ‘Hey, tell me what your future thoughts are on DuJuan.’ I wouldn’t say I’ve got to go back and look at tape and make my mind up on him. I’ve been with him every day. I have a feeling about all the players at that point in time.”
Did you get a feeling whether Arik will be available for the start of the offseason program in April?
“I have no idea on that at all. I don’t know the extent of, I think a lot of that will be determined after they go in from the way I understand. No matter what the surgery is, you can go in and say, ‘Hey, it was this,’ whatever they’re doing in there, we did this and it took this. So, I always wait until after they go in and take a look and see what it is.”
With Arik Armstead out, can you shed some light on DL Ronald Blair? He was a player that really shined in the preseason. He’s done a really good job on gap integrity, setting the edge and so forth. Since that’s been a weakness on your defense up to this point, do you see him kind of seeing an increased role?
“Yeah, I think any of those guys have to see an increased role. You’ll see [DT] Quinton Dial a little bit more at defensive end. We had tried to move Quinton in at the nose. I think you’ve got to kind of go with a [DL Glenn] Dorsey, [NT Mike] Purcell rotation at the nose guard spot. Then you’ve got [DL] DeForest [Buckner], Ronald, [DT] Tony Jerod-Eddie and Quinton will be your defensive ends as we move forward.”
What about DT Chris Jones, the guy that you brought in? It seems like he’s got some experience.
“We’ll see. I mean, I haven’t seen him and got our chance to get eyes on him. Obviously he’s played in this league. He played for the Patriots and he played for the Dolphins. When you’re picking up players at this point in time during the year, it’s really what’s available, not ‘Hey, I really like that guy.’ Well, that’s great. He’s under contract with another team. We were fortunate that he became available. Hopefully it’s good timing because we got a chance to get him, but until we get to see him run around and do some things before we can determine exactly how he’ll fit in terms of what we’re doing.”
When it comes to improving the defensive production, how do you balance the emphasis on making a tackle and creating a turnover?
“Well, the tackle is the most important thing. We always talk about second guy in is trying to look for the strip in terms of how we’re teaching gang tackling and things like that. But, you never want to sacrifice, ‘Hey I was going for the ball,’ and then all of a sudden you miss the tackle. So, first and foremost number one is the tackle, second becomes the turnover.”
You simplified the defense a little bit since the start. Does that factor into the takeaway numbers that you’re just not being as aggressive in some facets?
“I don’t think it’s they’re not being aggressive. I just think the multiplicity in terms of how many fronts, how many coverages, how many blitzes you carry into the game is more of the simplification of it. It doesn’t mean that when we’re playing our base defense and playing quarters coverage that we’re telling them not to go after the ball. It’s just instead of carrying, when you talk about simplifying, instead of carrying 10 coverages into the game you may carry six coverages into the game. It’s just you cut back on the number of whether it be fronts, pressures, twists and coverages that you run when you go to simplify it.”
But, do you think that has an impact tough just because the opponent doesn’t have as much to deal with complexity-wise with your defense?
“Yeah, it’s not complexity-wise, but it’s still, I mean maybe the most simply defense in the league is Seattle and they do an outstanding job of it. They really play really one front. They’ve got minimal amount of pressures, A, because they can generate a pass rush with their four down guys. They’ve got outstanding cover guys that can cover not only anybody in the league, but they can cover for a long time. There’s not an ‘X’ like, ‘Hey you’re not complex, you’re not going to get turnovers.’ There are teams that are very simple, very basic in terms of what they do but they execute. It really comes down to execution.”
The decision to not put CB Will Redmond on the 53-man, was that a reflection on his health or just–?
“He’s just not ready to go. When you talk to him, he feels like he’s about 75, 80-percent right now. Doesn’t have the explosion that he has. His injury has healed, but he doesn’t feel like he can, and you’ve seen it when we had him out there on the practice field, he didn’t feel like he could turn it on and go and if he’s not going to be at 100-percent, it’s not fair to him to have to put him out there at not 100-percent. But, could he play and is he medically cleared to play? Yeah. He’s cleared and he’s medically cleared to play.”
What is it about how the building is set up that you guys feel comfortable as an organization to have Trent Baalke scouting as much as he does during the week?
“I’m confused. That’s his job.”
I don’t think every general manager spends as much time on the road as he does, but–?
“That’s his choice. It’s just, the guys who aren’t on the road are watching tape in their office. So, it’s just, do you want to watch it live or do you want to watch it, you know, and I think what Trent does a good job of is when you’re not watching the tape in your office, you’re actually out there at the colleges, you’re getting more background information on the individual player that you’re looking at. So, say it’s the quarterback at Cal. You can watch 11 games on the quarterback at Cal in your office or you can also watch him in person and then talk to [University of California head coach] Sonny Dykes about him. So, there’s plus or minuses, but if anything occurs here, as [Sacramento Bee reporter] Matt [Barrows] alluded to last week, he’s only a phone call away. So, if something were to happy, right, we could have a conversation.”
Did you find the phone?
“I did find the phone. So, that was a good thing. We met on it after last week when Matt said you could actually call him. I was like, ‘I did not know that but now I do know that.’ So, with him being on the road, the fact that he is just a phone call away, if something, but on a day-to-day basis here, there’s not really unless there was an explosion in the kitchen or something, I don’t what Trent being here, he’s here Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I talk to him when he leaves. Usually he leaves after practice on Wednesday to go somewhere to watch a Thursday game. He may stay out on Friday and then he’s back on Saturday or meets us at the game site on Saturday. So, I think the flow of it’s pretty good and the unique combination of, whenever Trent is not here, [assistant general manager] Tommy Gamble is here and whenever Tommy Gamble’s not here, Trent is here. So, I think they’ve worked out a really good schedule from that standpoint.”
At this point in the season, do you guys talk about this is what we need in the future or are those talks about the future?
“Yeah, we’ve had conversations like that. We talk daily. Whether it be the first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. It’s, before we leave, we’ll get together or the first thing in the morning where maybe our third-down meeting went really long and Trent left and it was 10-o’clock or 10:15 or 10:30 when our meeting ended on Tuesday night. Then, the first thing I do when I get in here at 5:45 is I’ll get a run by Trent’s office and we’ll get a chance to catch up if we didn’t meet the night before. We meet daily.”
ME: ESPN posted a stat this morning that on third downs your quarterbacks combined are completing less than 55-percent of their passes and averaging less than four yards per attempt. What’s going into those numbers? What are the issues on third down?
“Well, we’re not completing the ball the way we should be and I think part of being a really good situational football team, and we’ve talked about that, is those situations. You look at the prime example, in the one game that really it stuck out for you was in the Seattle game and in the Seattle game, I want to say it was nine or 10 times we were third-and-six or less and didn’t convert. When you’re playing a good football team, the first thing you have to do is get into manageable third down situations. In that game, we got into manageable third down situations but then we didn’t convert in those manageable third down situations. So, it’s about us doing a good job of putting a plan together and giving them an opportunity to convert on third down. The one thing about our quarterbacks though that I will give them credit in our conversion in third down, if people are doing a good job of covering you is that, I don’t know the exact number, but you look it up, is how many times have our quarterbacks run for the first down on third down because they have done a good job. So, our completion percentage is down, but I think our quarterbacks have really done a good job with their legs on third down of converting third downs from that standpoint. But, we have to be better than 55-percent to be a really good football team in this league on completion percentage on third down.”
RB Carlos Hyde update, anything new with him?
“He’ll go through just like he did last week. He’s in a blue jersey. He won’t get hit. He’ll go through. It’s really range of motion and Carlos’ comfort level and that decision will be made after Saturday going through training with him sitting down with [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg and doc [team physician Tim] McAdams in terms of where he feels he is at that point in time.”
The Cardinals RB David Johnson, I think he’s fourth in the league in terms of rushing. What did you see from him last month and just what kind of presence does he have on their offense?
“I think he’s got a unique presence. A, you don’t see a guy with that size that has that athletic ability. Usually, if you’re going to get a bigger back like that, he’s kind of a plugger that’s going to hit it up in there. I think he has the ability to run inside the tackles because of his size, but he also has the ability, speed and athleticism to get to the perimeter and then the other thing with him that was really unique and you knew it coming out and I know when we scouted him when I was in Philadelphia at the time when he was coming out is what a great pass receiver he is. He actually entered Northern Iowa as a receiver. I think he was more of a receiver coming out of high school and went to Northern Iowa as a receiver/running back and then really morphed into the running back that he is. But, he’s your true three-down back. There are some three-down backs that are great in pass-pro and can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, but when you split him out of the backfield and get into empty looks, he’s kind of like a fish out of water out there. He’s not. He can run a route tree as a receiver out there. So, I think that’s what makes him such a unique guy to defend and probably one of the most versatile backs that we’ll face.”