NaVorro Bowman implies Gerald Hodges needs to play team defense

SANTA CLARA – NaVorro Bowman answered questions in the 49ers’ locker room Wednesday afternoon. Here are selected quotes.

Q: What was cleaned up between the first defensive series and every series after that during Saturday’s game in Denver?

BOWMAN: It was just guys not understanding that in the NFL, it’s team defense. You have a job to do, and then you go make that play. Some of the plays aren’t meant for you to make. You become good when everyone understands that. It was something minor, something small, but it caused a huge void in our defense. You learn from it and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

ME: During the long touchdown run you gave up on the first series of the Broncos game…

BOWMAN: I gave it up?? (Smiling).

ME: Sorry, the defense. You were talking about players needing to learn to play team defense. Was that touchdown run an example of a player missing an assignment and trying to make a play?

BOWMAN: Yeah. The guy (Gerald Hodges) just not understanding that it’s team defense. That’s defense. Unless it’s man to man, when the ball is ran, us eight guys in the box we’re playing as a team. Everyone is supposed to do a specific thing. Usually when a guy doesn’t do what he is supposed to do, something like that happens.

This article has 88 Comments

    1. Scooter, I agree. The other day I ran that TD slow motion. Hodges picked the wrong hole, the running back went right through Hodges vacated spot.

      1. Why Brodie, he didn’t name anyone and just emphasized that its team defense and everyone has to do their job.

        1. Listened to the Bowman interview again. It sounds like a soft call-out of Hodges because he didn’t mention him by name. Hodges assignment whiff was pretty bad, everyone knows it was him.

          Did Bowman violate decorum? I don’t think so. He’s the veteran quarterback of the defense (or at least the linebackers). QBs can say “we need to be on our routes better”, so why not Bowman?

    2. Right or not, he is a grown man. He has no business putting that out to the media in regards to a preseason game. This is something that should have stayed behind closed doors.
      Do you think that comment brings a locker room closer together or is divisive? This comment speaks volumes for the lack of locker room leadership the 49ers have.
      I am sure this has something to do with Bowman being picked on last season in coverage and I expect it to continue again this season. He has lost a step from that injury no fault of his own. Maybe he is feeling defensive about his own performances. Regardless it is an indictment on the team.

      1. Disagree. This is the sort of comment a respected veteran like Bowman can make. Hold the players accountable.

        As I said below in response to Bro T, this isn’t Bowman having a dig at Hodges. This is Bowman laying down his expectations for the entire team. When asked about a specific play he outlined the mistake Hodges made.

        1. Nah. You’re wrong. Been around alot of NFLers, as maybe you have, and these men all hate airing that type of criticism in the media. This is something that Bowman should address in a meeting room and leave it there. If he has a problem with Hodges he needs to say it to his face in a meeting room and not try to hold someone accountable through a 3rd party that’s paid to write stories. Love Bowman, but he was wrong here.

          1. Houston,
            You are absolutely correct, There is an unwritten law in all pro sports you don’t criticize a team mate in the media. Hell that doesn’t just go for the pros the same stands in college, high school and Pop Warner.

            1. I won’t belabor it because I said it below, but Bow didn’t call out anybody by name. Grant plugged in the name, and in fact was correct WRT the TD play, and then doubled down with the headline. If asked “which guy?” I bet he would have declined to say. Grant wasn’t being vicious,,but he did put words (Hodges name) in Bow’s statement. I think since then Bow has had to go to Hodges and explain himself, and maybe point out to,the tea how careful you have to be with your words.
              In the players’ situation I’m sure I’d be considered a bad interview because I’d typically answer “uh, I dunno…”

              1. I responded to your other comment below. A man as experienced in dealing with the media as Bowman should know everyone is going to know exactly who he’s talking about even if Bowman doesn’t say the name out loud. I bet if Bowman had it to do over, he’d make a general statement about playing team defense instead of laying the blame on 1 guy.

              2. Houston I’ll agree on two points:
                – Bow would probably take a do-over if he could, because
                – if he was trying to be obtuse about a mystery player, he wasn’t successful

              3. Lol. Bow doesn’t have to apologize to anyone in that locker room. Whether he said Hodges name or not who cares? It was a meaningless play in the preseason. Well not meaningless for Hodges. Airing dirty laundry??? What dirty laundry! It’s not like he called him out for wearing the wrong shoes. We need real games to start so we have something meaningful to talk about. Navarro is the best player on D and probably on the team if he wants to call someone out for J walking he’s allowed.

              4. For me the do-over is only because of how it spun up and the name came out in public. I assume he wanted to send a not-too-veiled message. Seems like frustration that goes beyond the one play; ergo the message. Bow is trying to take responsibility for the D.
                So we’re each due $.05 for our psychoanalysis.

              5. Well I don’t think Bowman’s criticism is a huge deal but I also don’t think it’s meaningless either. After the Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, Jed York fiasco the 49ers should be well aware of the locker room divisions and infighting that can occur when you litigate differences in the media.

              6. Grant, When I was coaching I dealt with writers regularly and there were plenty of times where I knew exactly what I was saying and later came to regret saying it or wished I had said it a little differently. I believe that it is likely that Bowman if given a second chance would have worded his comment just a little differently.imho

              7. Maybe Hodges should have filled the proper hole, stopped the TD run, and we would not be even talking about it. I bet he heard about it on the side line.

                By deductive reasoning, Grant figured out who it was, even though Bow did not name him. Bow did not throw him under the bus, but keeping the name of the player who allowed that TD is no big deal. Hodges himself, if interviewed, should have conceded that it was his fault, and vow to try and never let that happen again. This is a teachable moment, and luckily, happened during preseason where the mistakes can be corrected.

              8. “Teachable Moments” shouldn’t be taught through the media. It’s just bad any way you want to slice it. Now some reporter is going to go to Hodges and ask, “Hey, was that you that Bowman was talking about needing to play team defense?” Or Hodges might be asked, “How do you feel about a team leader like Navarro Bowman implying you need to learn to play team defense?” Or Hodges might be asked, “Do you feel like Bowman’s criticism of you might hurt your chances to make the club?” There is absolutely nothing good that can come from what Bowman said to a member of the media.

              9. Well, I bet Hodges has that teachable moment burned into his psyche, and will not forget it. If he learns and corrects his mistakes, this is truly no big deal.

                If he keeps making the same mistakes, Houston, we have a problem…..

          2. Haven’t been around any NFL’ers, but been around plenty of other professional sportsmen. It is the unwritten rule in any team sport. But venerated leaders are the exception. I’ve seen this tactic used by other stars of the game when on young teams and it can work. Basically, who the heck on this defense is going to mess with Bow? Who wants to be the guy disappointing him, not living up to his standards?

            I am sure these conversations have already been had internally previously, without the desired effect.

        2. You are absolutely correct Scooter. And good for Bow!

          Bowman realizes Hodges is an important gog in this defense, and Navorro is the defacto leader of this young group, and when Bowman speaks, his teammates listen. I know for a fact that Bowman sees a lot talent in Gerald (as do many other scouts / analysts), and really this entire young defensive group, and that’s one reason he made his point, because he knows how well Hodges, and the rest of this defense is capable of playing this season as long as everyone is playing as a cohesive unit.

          NINERS NATION columnist David Fucillo had an interesting tidbit in regards to Hodges last season. The 49ers faced Hodges in Week 4 of last season (a 17-3 drubbing that was worse than the final score would indicate), however the Packers barely played Gerald, who had been “nursing a minor injury”, because they had scouted NICK EASTON (Green Bay was desperate for help at Center and easton had just come off of a monster preseason, where he was the top ranked Center through the preseason, according to PFF) and were hoping to make a trade with the 49ers after week 4’s game.

          NN’s David Fucillo had spoken to the Vikings blog at that point about the game, and they actually mentioned Hodges in response to a question about under-the-radar players. “On defense watch out for new starting middle linebacker Gerald Hodges. He took everyone by surprise this preseason and truly earned the starting gig with his play. Like Kendricks, Hodges always seems to end up around the ball one way or another. Hodges has the potential to vastly improve a position that was largely a liability last season.”

          The Packers had spent a high pick on Kendricks, and with the type of preseason Easton had, combined with fact that GB had tons of depth at the ILB spot, and needed to find a way to get Kendricks onto the field, the 49ers had most of the leverage when negotiating the trade. On top of that, the 49ers and vikings felt like Hodges might even be a better fit in a base 3/4.

          So …… the 49ers acquired Hodges after Week 4, and after two weeks on the inactive list, he was active the remainder of the season. In Week 13, Wilhoite suffered a high ankle sprain that cost him the rest of the season. Hodges took over the starting ILB role next to Bowman, and finished the season with a very respectable 39 tackles over those four games, despite having to quickly adjust to a new system.

          From what I understand, Gerold Hadges is pencilied to start the season next to Bow when the 49ers line up in base defense. Ray Ray has really been improving on an incrimental basis since his move to Linebacker, but he’s not at Hodges level yet when it comes to stopping the run, even with Garald’s occasional misstep. And Bow knows as well as anyone in this league, no matter how much physical talent a kid like Hodges’ has, if he’s not one of eleven guys playing cohesively, talent alone isn’t going to get the job done.

          I expect to see Hodges named the starter in base week 1, with Ray Ray logging a lot of snaps in sub-packeges!

              1. Sorry, I was scouting GB before tommorows game and had a brain freeze. It was Vikings, not GB. Everything else is 100% correct.

      2. I would imagine Bow told Hodges the same thing in less delicate terms and for a longer length of time. I would also imagine the entire team heard him and expected it out of him. That’s what the captain of the defense does.

      3. Relax. Reading a bit to much into that comment. Maybe Hodges missed his assignment and Bow didn’t name anyone the writer did. Have you seen Bow’s first step this preseason? His found it.

  1. Good questions Grant. It doesn’t sound like Bowman is sold on Hodges and the coaching staff probably thinks Armstrong is too green. Your trade proposal from yesterday is starting to look better.

    1. Too many fans assume GMs are as dumb about these things as the typical fan is… We haven’t had a GM that dumb since Joe Thomas and Lou Spadia before him.

      At this point in time, we could trade for the equivalent of Devery. Is that what you want? Because their ain’t no ‘undiscovered Ray-Lewis’ or ‘next Jerry Rice’ ready to be fleeced off some team.

      BTW, Armstrong’s problems have been he’s one of the most selfish, self-absorbed, do it only for me’ players on the field. He was like that at Miami. He was like that with the Raiders. Maybe he’s turned a new leaf. Maybe not. But in the past it’s not been experience or talent that has kept him off the field. It’s his lack of discipline and me-first attitude.

  2. Maybe I’m touchy here, but even though Grant did use the word ‘implies’, the headline seems like Bow is calling Hodges out publicly, which he avoids doing by trying to make it a coachable moment. An anonymous coachable moment while still being somewhat candid with the Press. Grant inserted the parenthetical name. Bow was trying to show leadership in public. I’m pretty sure specifics were spoken to individuals on the sideline, as the problem began to be addressed as the game wore on. IMO.

    1. Yes, I think you are right BroT.

      To me, Bow is challenging the players on D to be more disciplined in their roles. I didn’t take this to be singling out Hodges. When pressed on a particular play he implied it was Hodges that made the error and needs to be less selfish, stop trying to be a hero. But his original comment was more team in general, and I’d be very surprised if the aim of Bow’s comments were to target Hodges specifically.

      Bow sets high standards for himself and the players around him. He is using the media to make his teammates accountable.

    2. I disagree with you guys. Bowman is calling out Hodges publicly. Bowman specifically said “The guy just not understanding that it’s team defense.” He’s talking about 1 single player – he’s not addressing the team. It’s not leadership to throw 1 guy under the bus publicly. If Bowman had a problem, it needed to be handled privately and directly with Hodges. Perhaps Bowman did speak to Hodges privately about playing good assignment based defense so there really is no reason to give a member of the media a juicy quote. It’s said and done. Why criticize a teammate publicly when you know it’s easy to figure out who screwed up. I don’t like this from Bowman at all.

      1. It was two q’s. First q he outlines it was a team thing on the first drive. Second q he was asked about a specific play, so Bow talked about how it was one guy not playing team D. It is our inference it was Hodges, because we all have eyes and saw Hodges was out of position.

    1. Bowman may not have wanted to call out Hodges by name, but Grants’ question got it out of him. Grant turned what would have been a typical canned interview into a headline. He is a professional.

    1. The Chargers version of Jed just threw lighter fluid on top of it with his comments.

      The Chargers are a complete joke of a franchise.

    2. Makes me wonder at what point the NFL will step in. If this is a precedent for the Chargers, and it really does impact on whether future draft picks will accept to play there, it’ll create a problem for the NFL.

      1. They should do it like the NHL where the 1st round picks are capped to what they can make the 1st 3 years in the league.

          1. Yes, the money they make is set by draft slot. What is happening in this instance is the Chargers are trying to change the terms of what previous players picked 3rd overall have received. They want Bosa to conform to their policies and so far he’s refusing to do it.

            They really made themselves look bad today.

              1. Methinks the Chargers are shooting themselves in the foot, and cutting off their nose to spite their face.

            1. The difference between what the Chargers offered and what Bosa wanted are minimal. In fact, the money they offered Bosa is more than any player got in the last two drafts.
              The Chargers offered 85% of his signing bonus up front with the balance payable in December. Bosa wants 94% up front.

              1. Hank,

                It’s team propaganda. There was an article on PFT that had a source give a rebuttal to every point the Chargers made and it is simply the team trying to manipulate their fans. The only reason Bosa is not in camp is because the Chargers don’t want to give him a contract with terms matching what other players drafted 3rd overall have received previously. This is on the Chargers and their refusal to deviate from their archaic way of doing business.

    3. Quoting PFT is like quoting what your drunk Uncle was yelling at the television. Not a single author on that site knows the meaning of objectivity especially, Florio.

      1. TOTALLY agree. It’s a disgrace to the NFL that a man as petty, thin skinned, and absolutely vile in his conjecture framed as fact stories makes money off the NFL and the men who play in the NFL. Florio is an absolute Delta Bravo of the highest order. If you want to have some fun, post a comment even mildly critical of Florio on PFT and watch how fast it’s deleted. The censorship is comical.

  3. Picked up on Rotoworld from the Sacramento Bee:

    “49ers WR DeAndre Smelter (hamstring) will miss the third preseason game.
    Last year’s fourth-round redshirt simply can’t get healthy. Multiple 49ers beat writers have suggested Smelter will spend another year on injured reserve. “

      1. I called it. Thought Dorsey, Redmond and Smelter would not make the 53 due to their injuries. ACLs are tricky, and need time to fully heal.

        1. This is no longer the ACL for Smelter. He’s just not getting it. He looked slow and disinterested at the Kezar open camp. He’s a slow-twitch guy like Anquan, but he can’t overcome it, like Q did with expertise and guile, because he’s so raw.

            1. Recovery’s okay, had a 90 minute massage that caused a little scare, but everything else–running, agility, plyometrics–are going pretty well. The massage caused a pop at the lower inside of the kneecap, which was likely scar tissue breaking free, or could be damage to the meniscus repair. I’m almost 7 months post surgery, running 6 miles, and have recently gotten the greenlight for 50% golf, tennis rally, solo soccer drills, but nothing competitive and no skiing or trail running until months 9-12.

          1. Ironically though often times the rehab makes the player better and less prone to injury while over-coming the damage because of proper strength training and muscle group balance within the leg.

              1. Or maybe Grabt, at least througout his athletic career. Dedicated athletes can always make up for the small percentage of “ligiment compromise”, by strengtheining all of the other muscles, ligiments, and tendons arouind the joint.

                The point is, whether the knees is ever the same or not, the player can, with hard work, absolutely get back to the level of play pre-injury and maintain it throught their football (or other sports) career!

          2. Baalke keeps right on drafting them, and York keeps right on payin Balke to draft ACL players……….

            You cant make this stuff up.

          3. Correct Grant, the ligiment can only become as close as “99.5% as good as new”, but anytime something is surgically repared it’s never quite the same perhaps. What that doesn’t necassarily wean is that the player involved in the injury cannot get back to playing aty the same level as before the injury (by making up for the 0.5% in other areas), which happens all the time thanks to modern medicine.

        2. No. It’s not a ACL. So, in fact, you’re just wrong while claiming credit for being right. .

          He has a hamstring problem. Happens a lot. Has nothing to do with previously suffered ACLs and is usually a problem with young players who over-develop their quads relative to their hamstrings. (It’s called Quad Dominance/Muscle Imbalance.)

          Weak hamstrings can also lead to a greater risk of ACL tears.

          1. It is the same leg that had surgery, so he may have over worked some muscles and tendons while favoring the former injured area. Maybe it is only another amazing coincidence, but I think it may all be related.

            Generally speaking, in the NFL, it takes a couple years to fully recover from an ACL. In Smelter’s case, it has been less than a year.

            1. The stats for athletes in general say that by the end of the second year only 1 in 4 fully recover to pre-injury status. Is there a study just for NFL players, Seb?

              1. Considering the rigors of NFL play, I expect the 1 in 4 number to be greater, but do not have the stats.

    1. It will be interesting to watch Hodges friday. Will he play for the niners or himself? If it’s the latter Wilhoite may start the season with Ray Ray in sub packages.

  4. That’s what I love about Bow. He reminds me so much of Ronnie, calling out players for not playing the right way. It’s better to come from a team leader than a coach.

  5. Ideal – Never criticize teammates in public. When I was a manager, “private criticism, public praise” was the norm.

    Customary – Certain veteran leaders like quarterbacks (or quarterbacks of the defense like Bow) give honest answers about poor play. Just don’t do it frequently, or unprompted.

    What Bowman said wasn’t ideal, but it happens from time to time. He didn’t mention any names, and was responding to specific question, which softens the situation to a degree.

  6. Poppy
    I followed Lott’s career closely from the beginning to the end and I don’t remember him ever calling out a team mate publicly. I have heard and read many stories about him calling out team mates in the locker room and on the field. Ronnie treated his fellow players like men and expected them to respond in kind.

  7. In other NFL news…anyone else finding Hard Knocks totally boring? Bet HBO wishes they’d followed the 49ers.

  8. What’s the dictum-criticize in private (castigate for the wordsmiths), praise in public?

    Hopefully this slight leadership misstep (entrapment) will be overlooked.

      1. NP EastCoast9er. I do that all the time, where I respond to the article without scanning the comments. When the comments get numerous its hard to avoid.

  9. CTE protocol dictated Chris Borland sit out a week. Borland ultimately researched what concussions can due to the human body, not just the brain. It’s the dd body’s nerve center controlling many other bodily functions and those unseen, such as appetitie and mental outlook–depression

    Other, more tangible effects of a concussion can be loss of control of bow movements, etc.

    Some on this site, name rhymes with -EB, made fun of me, as an ex athlete, and my CTE protocol, claiming I had brain damage.

    What I’m intimating, is that we’re not having this discussion if Baalke had done what the posters here; the NFL Network and other football draft sites suggested we would after Borland retired–draft an inside linebacker and receiver.

    1. Instead of fortifying the 49ers with offensive threats for new head coach, Chip Kelly, Baalke has become the 49ers offensive threat via his constant ACL WR draftees, or OL busts.

      Baalke likely saw the writing on the wall. Like Joe Thomas, Captain Queeg, Captain Bligh, history is littered with the paranoid captain, backed into a corner when his job is threatened.

      Consecquetly, he drafts poorly on offense so the HC becomes the scapegoat and he can say: “Well, I game coach the talent, he just can’t coach–my picks aren’t the problem.”

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