The former 49er cornerback and current Cincinnati Bengal, Nate Clements, spoke with Bay Area reporters this morning on a conference call, and here’s what he said.
Q: What’s it like having so many former 49ers in your locker room?
CLEMENTS: It’s one of those things where it’s just a coincidence. It happened to work out that way.
Q: When they brought in Taylor Mays, did they talk to you about him?
CLEMENTS: No. I really don’t have anything to do with front office decisions. Those guys up there are capable and they know what they’re doing when it comes to that. I just focus on playing football.
Q: How soon after things ended with the 49ers did the Bengals jump on board?
CLEMENTS: Actually, I didn’t even expect this to happen, but things happen for a reason and I was fortunate enough that I didn’t have to wait too long for a call.
Q: Did you expect to be back with the 49ers?
CLEMENTS: Well yeah, at the time my mindset was I’m a player that was still under contract. I knew that we would have to talk contract issues. I was fine with that and I didn’t think things would play out the way they did. Like I said, things happen for a reason and you’ve got to understand the nature of this game, and continue to move forward.
Q: Did you in fact talk contract? Did the 49ers offer you a smaller contract? Or did it ever get to that stage?
CLEMENTS: I don’t really want to get into details about that situation. All I know is I had to what was best for me and my family first and foremost.
Q: You came to the 49ers with a lot of fanfare. How do you look back at the years you spent here?
CLEMENTS: Great, great. I had great teammates. The fans are still good to me. They show me a lot of love out there. I feel blessed for the opportunity and fortunate enough to play for an organization with that much tradition.
Q: A lot of people here miss you. How much do you miss it here?
CLEMENTS: I miss my teammates. That was a big deal, but I’ve been in the league a while and I’ve seen things as I’ve been playing, so I think I’ve been prepared for that time. If anything had to transpire I was prepared for it.
Q: Are you playing the slot there on third downs?
CLEMENTS: I do a little bit of everything.
Q: When you start studying the 49ers receivers, after having practiced against a lot of these guys, what’s your impression of the kind of receivers the 49ers put out there on the field?
CLEMENTS: My impression hasn’t changed. A young, talented receiving corps that definitely has what it takes to have potential stars in this league. They definitely have speed, talent size. I had a chance to face those guys every day in practice, so my perception has not changed. It is what it is.
Q: Has the 49ers offensive philosophy changed since you were here?
CLEMENTS: It’s pretty much changed every year that I was there. Just looking on film you definitely can see a major difference. It’s nothing like last year. You can see a major difference in philosophy, in just formations, just how they approach the setup and run plays. You can see the difference.
Q: Can you give an example of how’s it different?
CLEMENTS: Just the one thing that I notice that they move guys around in different positions. It’s a very versatile type of offensive philosophy. You can stick different guys in and run the same thing.
Q: Does put pressure on you to try to keep pace with that?
CLEMENTS: I wouldn’t say pressure, I would say you really have to be focused and disciplined in your technique and with your defensive schemes when you’re facing an offense like that.
Q: Do you also notice in Alex? It seems like he’s sticking with plays a lot longer and not just throwing the ball out of bounds.
CLEMENTS: I think Jim Harbaugh is doing an excellent job of playing to Alex’s strengths. He has a higher completion percentage which is key for a quarterback.
Q: When you were here this defense was close to being really special, but you never quite got there. What do you think held you guys back from being a very top defense?
CLEMENTS: We definitely had the players, had the chemistry. I can’t really pinpoint on one thing. Things just didn’t pan out the way that we all wanted it to.
Q: How much has your game changed through the years?
CLEMENTS: I try to just play to my strengths. Be who I am.
Q: Has the coaching stuff come to you and asked you for tips on individual 49ers? What their strengths and weaknesses are?
CLEMENTS: I’ve definitely told my teammates thing to look out or what guys or good at and things of that nature.
Q: Is Vernon Davis one of those guys that you’ve talked about?
CLEMENTS: Vernon. I pretty much talked about all the skill players. What they can do, what they’re capable of.
Q: Did you see the Cowboys and maybe the Seahawks trying conscientiously to take away Vernon from the passing game?
CLEMENTS: I’m not sure what their game plan was. You’ve got to understand a guy like Vernon, who’s an explosive player – he’s going to get a lot of attempts. He’s going to get a lot of balls thrown at him. You’ve just got to minimize when you go up against a guy like that.
Q: Is there any resentment with the way the 49ers handled your situation?
CLEMENTS: None at all.
Q: When you signed with the Bengals did you look at the schedule and circle this one?
CLEMENTS: No, I didn’t circle. I’m anxious. I was excited just because this year was unique in the sense that we had the lockout. We missed a whole offseason. Just being able to play football and to get out there every week, especially the season opener was anxious and exciting. I’m excited every week.
Q: Can you talk about what the Bengals defense offers?
CLEMENTS: I’m excited about our defense. We have some talented players on that side of the ball. We have some real talented players. We’re young. Guys are hungry, and you can see that we’ve made plays. We try to be opportunistic in making plays and be conscious of stripping and deflecting balls and trying to get interceptions, so it’s very exciting to play with this group.
Q: Were you guys expecting Donte Whitner to sign there?
CLEMENTS: I’m not sure. I wouldn’t even be the one to talk to about that. You’d have to talk to management about that one.
Q: How’s Manny Lawson doing?
CLEMENTS: Manny’s doing great. Getting acclimated, getting adjusted to not only to the system but to being back on the east coast.
Q: How is his role different than it was in San Francisco?
CLEMENTS: It’s a different style of defense. It’s a 4-3 here and 3-4 there so it’s just a completely different style of defense.
Q: After having gone against Andy Dalton in training camp, how much has he improved from those days to what you’ve seen so far in the regular season?
CLEMENTS: The thing about him he’s getting better every day, and you can kind of see. I think the key with guys that are young in general in the NFL, the key is confidence. You continue to grow and get better and with that you gain more confidence. When you play with confidence, there’s no better feeling than going out there and playing with confidence and feeling like hey, I can make this throw. Hey, I’m going to make this play. It’s exciting to see him progress every day through every practice.