SANTA CLARA – Greg Roman spoke Tuesday about Colin Kaepernick, Kendall Hunter and the team’s approach to the preseason, among other things. Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the 49ers.
“How’s everybody doing today? Getting ready for our first preseason game. Obviously for a lot of the young guys, it’s a really exciting week for them. They got their first game plan book handed to them today. Kind of going through the process of game week preparation. There’s no 20 hour rule in the pros, so for these guys, this is their profession. So really from now until game time, we’re going to try to get them to represent themselves the best they can against the Vikings. We’ve got a lot of respect for the Vikings and their organization. Look forward to getting out there and hitting somebody else besides ourselves. I know our guys are looking forward to that. Any questions?”
Last preseason, obviously QB Colin Kaepernick was not just a rookie, but a rookie coming out of the lockout. Was he in some ways a little bit overwhelmed by all that was thrown at him?
“I don’t think he was overwhelmed. I think he was grinding through it, might be a better way to put it. It was a completely different offense, playing under center for the first time with a new group of players who you really haven’t played with before. Definitely, there’s a curve there. I think there’s a little bit better opportunity for Colin having had a season under his belt, approaching this preseason to go in and play with confidence, know what he’s doing, know what he’s seeing. A lot of the stuff, thankfully, he won’t be seeing for the first time. I think it’ll be a really good opportunity for him to show us what he can do.”
In what ways in the past year has he made improvements?
“I’d say across the board really. Really just starting with taking the center snap. Understating defenses, which are completely different in the National Football League. Understanding protections, which are completely different in the National Football League. I don’t want to turn this into a football clinic, but the offense he came from; there wasn’t a lot of pro style mechanisms to it. That’s a big curve to overcome in a short period of time. He’s grinding through it every day. He’s doing really well. I really like his attitude. I really like how he’s maturing as a player. He’s a unique guy. He’s a lot of fun to work with, looking forward to seeing him out there.”
Last preseason the coaching staff had different needs. You hadn’t seen your players at all. What is the overall philosophy on how you’re taking these four games that is different than last season?
“I think it’s the same, I really do. I think we have a little bit more knowledge about who we have, what they can do. I know we have a lot more knowledge. We’re trying to ready, specifically our offense for the season. Not so much the preseason, a game. We’re trying to get ready for the season in its entirety. A lot goes into that, a lot of forethought, a lot of hard work by our players. Part of that is really the process of going through a game week, going through our base game plan on the first day of the week, moving onto situational stuff from there. Just getting into that process and seeing how guys study and prepare. Really for the young guys, you’re teaching them how to prepare. So, we’ve got a lot more understanding of the guys that have been here and beyond that though, it’s still a matter of preparing for the season.”
How much in a Week 1 preseason game do you prepare specifically for the opposition, compared to just getting your own stuff ready?
“I don’t think there’s a lot of game planning per se that goes into it. We’re going to be pretty basic. We’re going to ask our players to do basic tasks that aren’t necessarily opponent specific. I think there’s a big difference between the preseason and regular season. From an evaluation standpoint it’s a great tool, just watching players adapt to maybe different formations you might put in for that week. The plays are pretty much basic plays, and not a lot of real game planning that goes into it.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh singled out RB Kendall Hunter as one of his top performers in camp, in what ways have you seen Kendall develop going into year two?
“Great question. Kendall, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear Kendall Hunter’s name is football player. He loves football. He loves to get out there and compete, he enjoys it. He always gives his maximum effort. I’ve never seen Kendall Hunter have a bad day, or a bad snap where he wasn’t totally tuned into football. I just think a lot like Kap [Colin Kaepernick], we were talking about earlier, Kendall came from a spread option type of offense at Okie State [Oklahoma State]. Now, he had a very nice year last year for us. He’s really starting to understand all the different things that go into playing running back in this league, which is more than just carrying the ball. It’s pass protection, route running, catching the ball, ball security, which he’s been very good at, and the special teams aspect of things as well. Kendall’s just becoming a more well-rounded football player. We’re really glad we have him. Kendall is a heck of a football player who gets better every day.”
Do you guys have any expectations for WR Michael Crabtree’s availability on Friday?
“Not going to comment on that. Talk to coach. He’ll probably say the same thing. He’s working through something and we’ll have to wait and see and evaluate it. It’ll probably be a last minute decision.”
What’s the plan for Friday now that you have your ones, twos and threes? What’s the rotation?
“We haven’t set that in stone yet. I think we have a general idea of that. We’ve got a couple of big practices here today and tomorrow and then we’ll kind of hone in on that type of stuff. But we’ve got a lot of ground to cover the next couple days. We know those discussions are looming, but we’re really focused on having a great practice today.”
How have RBs Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James done in blitz pickup? Have you seen a willingness in terms of the physical side of the game?
“Yeah, Kendall’s a little bit ahead of LaMichael. But LaMichael’s gotten a lot better, really in the past three days. Kendall, that’s another area he’s really matured, understanding protections. Defenses nowadays are so complicated, so complex. There’s a bunch of guys moving around. It’s not like the old days where they’d line up three guys or four guys and then one or two guys might blitz. It’s hard to even tell the structure of the defense sometimes with guys milling around. You might have two defensive linemen lined up at linebacker and two linebackers standing out on the edges. So, there’s a lot of different components for the running backs to identify week-to-week. So, knowing who to block is very important in this league even before how to block. He’s gotten much better in both though.”
What do you remember from last year’s preseason opener?
[Laughing] “You had to bring that up didn’t you? I remember walking out of the locker room and talking to [T] Joe Staley. I felt pretty good about how the guys handled the situation, didn’t see anybody panic, didn’t see anybody start to withdraw from the situation. Everybody just dealt with it. So, felt good about that. But the execution was obviously not where we needed it. I vividly remember though walking out of the locker room talking to Joe.”
What was Joe saying that gave you that confidence?
“No, he didn’t say very much, just how they handled themselves during the game. Nobody panicked. It was definitely not our brightest moment, and we certainly hope to perform better this week.”