This is the transcript of Vic Fangio’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
Do you have any info on the MRI that LB NaVorro Bowman had yesterday and whether that –?
“I do not. I’m not even sure he had it yesterday. May have happened today, but I’m not positive of that.”
He’s got to start practicing by Tuesday, if that’s going to happen. Is there any indication that that has been decided yet whether he’ll start practicing next week?
“I don’t think it has. I haven’t been kept up to date on that as far as, ‘Hey, it’s going to happen next week.’ Nobody’s said anything either way.”
What have your impressions been of LB Aldon Smith the last couple of days out there?
“Well, he’s a little rusty. He’s actually, I’ve heard people say that he’s in a better situation than he was last year. I don’t really see it that way because last year he played in three regular season games and was gone for five weeks. He hadn’t played in any regular season games and hadn’t played and missed the first nine games. It’s been a long time since he’s had action. He’s rusty, but he’s a young, good athlete, who I think will get the rust off pretty quickly. Haven’t really decided how I’m going to play him on Sunday, how much. I haven’t even told the players yet because in my own mind, I’m not sure yet how we’re going to use him and how much. I’d like to see the next two days of practice first.”
Does LB Dan Skuta factor into that at all? How is he? Is he capable of starting against the Giants?
“Right now, it doesn’t look that way, but we’ll see. He had a pretty good ankle injury and he’s still rehabbing it vigorously. We’ll see how he does the remainder of the week.”
Back to Bowman, I understand you’re not fully in the loop, but it sounds like the possibility, obviously, exists that he won’t play this season. Just exercising caution with him. Is that accurate?
“I think that’s a possibility. I don’t know that that’s been decided or been the verdict, but I’m sure it’s a possibility.”
What’s going on with DB Jimmie Ward and his foot?
“He sustained an injury in the game the other day with his foot. Probably don’t expect him to play this week. And we’ll go from there.”
He was obviously dealing with a broken foot or a Jones fracture in the offseason. Is it that serious or is it short term?
“I don’t know. Nobody’s told me that it’s a Jones fracture or anything. I know it’s in his foot, the same foot that he injured prior. I don’t know the exact particulars of it.”
Regarding LB Chris Borland, he obviously had shoulder issues at Wisconsin. Is that connected to those or is it –?
“You know, I don’t know if it’s connected to what he’s had in the past or this is a new injury. I really don’t know. He had the blue shirt on yesterday to avoid contact. I don’t think he’ll have it on today, but I’m not sure of that.”
Obviously, it looks like he’ll be able to play?
We talked to head coach Jim Harbaugh a little bit yesterday just about the rookie class and how many different contributions you guys have had on both sides of the ball. Will you speak to that a little bit, just Borland and so many others?
“Well, we have. Chris has played the last three-and-a-half games and has gotten progressively better and done a nice job since he’s been in there and played good against New Orleans, a very tough team to play against. [LB Aaron] Lynch has been playing all season, steadily getting more and more reps. Obviously, got the most he’s ever gotten last week. And he’s been steadily improving and making a good contribution. Ward has been playing, when he’s been healthy, in our nickel stuff and doing a good job and getting better and better. [CB] Dontae Johnson has had to play some as the fourth corner because of injuries. There’s a good chance he can play a fair amount this week, too. He’s gotten his opportunities. They were kind of unrehearsed opportunities, on the run. This week he may be able to get one where he’s really prepared for it.”
You had two rookie starters on Sunday with Jimmie Ward and Dontae Johnson getting snaps. Is that more than when you first came into the league, rookies were playing? Has that evolved over time?
“Well, it has. You got to remember when you’re talking to me you’re going back to 1986. Prior to free agency, when you drafted a player you had him forever. And there was less turnover on your team from year to year just because the mechanisms weren’t in place to be much turnover. Rookies usually had to wait their time. There wasn’t free agency. When I was at New Orleans, I had the same four starting linebackers for seven straight years. You don’t get much of that anymore. Yeah, it’s a lot different. When you have a salary cap and free agency and friendly rookie contracts, there’s more and more of them playing. And you got to remember, too, comparing it to way back when, there’s four more teams than there were all the way up to 1994. You times 60 times four, 65 times four, that’s 260 players that are now on rosters that wouldn’t have been on the rosters in 1994, which means more players have to play. It’s just a result of the expansion and the system that we now operate in.”
Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr., seems to be coming into his own a little bit. How do you try to defend him?
“He’s a great receiver. He’s one that would’ve played early, even in the old system. Very talented, runs really good routes. Really good quickness. Got good speed. Really good run-after-the-catch. This guy’s the real deal as a receiver.”
Saints WR Brandin Cooks obviously had a big game on Sunday. The deep passing with those young, fast receivers, is that an issue for the defense?
“Well, it is each and every week. Every team’s got somebody that can get down the field deep. If you’re going to play good defense in this league, you got to not give up big plays. Overall last week, I thought we did a good job of that. They had the ball for 14 or 15 series, 80 plays or more and they only got two over 20 yards. That was overall a good job, although you’re never happy when they happen at the time.”
There have been a lot of people, it sounds silly, but they look at Chris Borland’s tackle totals and they say well, obviously, it’s not good to lose LB Patrick Willis, but they got Borland. He has 35 tackles the last two games, so, away they go. Can you just speak to how difficult it is to fully replace Patrick Willis?
“Well, it’s extremely difficult. Patrick’s got tremendous talent in all phases of defensive football both versus the run and versus the pass. You don’t find many complete players like he is. We would always take advantage of that and put him in some tough cover situations because of his ability. You just don’t replace a guy like that. I know Chris has done well these last few weeks. I think it’s a product of number one, him playing well and being improved but it’s a product of everybody else around him, the defensive lineman that are playing in front of him, the linebackers that are outside of him. It’s a team effort that he is benefitting from besides his good play individually.”
S Eric Reid looked a little slow the last game with his ankle. Is he moving a little bit better?
“Yeah, I think he’s fine. He missed one play in the game, I think, and I think he’ll be fine.”
Is DL Glenn Dorsey close to coming back this week or is DT Quinton Dial your first nose tackle?
“I think Glenn’s close. I don’t know if he’s close enough yet. We’ll see how he does today and tomorrow. Hopefully, he’ll have a little bit more freedom and feel confident with his arm to go out there and play. He’ll play when he’s ready to play, I’m confident of that.”
When he does play, would he play with that brace on his arm?
“I’m guessing when I say probably, but I don’t know for sure.”
Saints RB Mark Ingram seemed to really get going once NT Ian Williams went out. Is there a direct a correlation there?
“No, not really. Some of those runs that went for nine or 10 or 11 yards were more inside-linebacker-play issues than the nose tackle issue.”
As far as Jimmie Ward in the slot position, I assume CB Perrish Cox would fill in there. He’s also helping filling in on punt returns. Is that a concern for you that one guy is doing so many things, including special teams?
“Not really. He’s capable. Perrish Cox has been a great story this year. I remember calling him into camp prior to the start of camp and talking to him and telling him what he needed to do to make this team, because at that point there was no guarantee he was going to make this team. And I figured I’d have to call him in in another couple weeks to remind him because he might slack off, but I never did. Never did have to. He did exactly what I told him he had to do. He had laser focus and got it done. And when camp was over and he made the team, I brought him in and I congratulated him for doing exactly what he had to do. There you go, the first game, the first 15 plays, he’s out there and hasn’t come out since. He’s done a tremendous job for us and really happy for him as an individual.”
Why would you think he would slack off?
“Been his history.”
Other than having laser focus, what else did you tell him that he had to do?
“I’ll just keep that between him and I.”
Where is he really improved? Is just maturing, you think?
“Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of everything. Players improve over time, OK, until they get older and then they have to maintain. He’s still in the improving stage. I think he matured emotionally and mentally. I think playing him at corner has helped him. I think it’s everything. I don’t think it’s one thing.”
You share a North Carolina connection with Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Do you have any sort of close relationship because of that or not really?
“No. I was never there with him.”