SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s Week 8 Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
How do you go about preparing for a coordinator who has never called a play before?
“It’s a good question. Obviously, he’s going to have his wrinkle. They’ve got what they put on tape. Trying to see what he’s been influenced by in his past. We’ll see as the game goes on. Obviously, it’s going to be very important for in-game adjustments to see what they do in-game, but it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with.”
He’s such a neophyte when it comes to coaching. Do you look back at his playing career?
“Any time you have a chance, what he’s been influenced by, absolutely. As a quarterback, where he’s been. So, you look at all that. But, at the same time he might have a ton of knowledge, but again, it’s transferring it over to the player and all that stuff, too. Again, it’s going to come down to gameday and making as many in-game adjustments as we can as we see plays develop.”
Do you anticipate former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians to be a heavy influence? How do you approach that?
“I don’t know. It’ll be interesting, for sure. Obviously, that’s where he’s most attached to, but at the same time, it could be anything.”
What do you think is getting in the way of LB Reuben Foster playing like he did last year?
“Obviously, he missed the first couple of games of the year and it’s not going the way he wants and all that stuff. I do think he’s moving in the right direction. He did have his best practice of the year yesterday. He’s going to be fine. I get it, in this day and age, with everything needs to happen now. But, I promise you, Reuben is going to be just fine when this is all said and done. Second-year player, to push the panic button is way, way premature in my mind.”
He seems like a guy that is very hard on himself and really wants to be very good. Do you think that sometimes may lead to pressing for a guy like that?
“For a second-year player, and it goes throughout the league, it’s just my opinion, I think the second-year player is the hardest year for a player in general. When they come in as rookies, you have kids who come in and they don’t know anything. They’re just locked in on their coach, they’re trying as hard as they can, they want to make a great first impression, they’re out there balling, they know nothing about anything and they’re just running and hitting. When they get into their second year they’ve got social media, they’ve
got a bank full of money, they’ve got family, they’ve got entourage, they’ve got a whole bunch of stuff outside, along with what they perceive as more knowledge of football. So, they forget what made them great as rookies in the first place. Not that they forget, but it’s a balancing act. So, there is a little bit of another adjustment period that they have to go through in their second year. The exciting part, and I get it, when things aren’t going great people want to point out the negative and they struggle, people struggle to see the positives. [DB Adrian Colbert] A.C. had his best game before he got hurt. [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon] is showing a lot of promise. [DL] Solomon [Thomas] had a really nice game last week. So, guys are moving in the right direction. I know through all the stuff that’s been happening this year, it’s very hard to see. But, if you sit down in the film room and you truly study it, you could see them all improving.”
There are clips out there of Reuben running around with seemingly a dead right arm. What’s happening on those plays? Is that something that you’re aware of before it’s happening or do you see it?
“He’s going through some stuff, obviously. But, it’s not going to stop him from playing. He’s a fighter. He wants to be great. It’s very, very important to him. So, whatever ailment he may have it’s not going to stop him from being on the football field. It might trigger here and there, but he’s not coming off. It’s something he’s just going to have to deal with.”
Would you rather he take himself out of the game so that he’s not playing with one arm?
What did he do yesterday in practice that impressed you?
“His feet looked fast. He looked explosive out of his break. He looked faster than he’s been in practice. Great intent and focus. It was just an all-around package. The expectation now, he’s got to back it up. He’s got to stack days. When you practice at 50-percent, you play at 50-percent. You play at 100-percent, it’s like muscle memory. They always say when you get back in the weight room, it’s all muscle memory. It comes back to you. Well, it’s the same thing for a football player in practice. If you train your muscles to go 50-percent, you’ll be 50-percent. That’s why [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] is so great at stressing the importance of deliberate practice and stressing the importance of having a great day of practice and why it’s so important for us to play the guys who perform best in practice. As an organization, and especially Kyle, it’s important to know that you’re practicing at that high level because we trust that you will be able to play at that high level. Long answer, short, he was alive. Let’s just say that.”
When you guys played Arizona Cardinals QB Josh Rosen the first time, other than the first pass, he didn’t really do much against you. What have you seen from him in the past couple of weeks?
“You know, it’s the same for him. He’s got tremendous accuracy. You can tell he’s getting a little bit more comfortable in the pocket and all that stuff and getting comfortable with the concepts that were being asked. But, it really is the same thing. It’s the same thing. He’s a rookie. There’s a maturation process that he’s got to go through. But, I think he’s put on some really good tape. He’s definitely got a first-round talent arm and he is going to be a really good football player.”
Regarding Reuben’s shoulder, in the majority of the games he’s played, he’s either had a stinger or had to leave at some point due to one of his shoulders acting up. Is that a long-term concern or is it just something that maybe will be part of his career?
“I think because of the way he hits and the way he plays, it’s always going to be a part of his game. He’s always going to get dinged up. But, at the same time, he’s got such a great mindset that he will fight through all of that stuff. He does want to play and he’s got a tremendous mindset. So, there will be days when he’s fresh and he’s running and hitting, but there’s some days where he’s going to hit somebody so hard that he kind of hurts himself. I don’t think it’s going to stop him. But, at the same time, I’m really not concerned with Reuben and him being an injury guy. He plays the game so hard and so violently that sometimes accidents happen. But, he’ll stand up, he’ll play the next play.”
How is your competition at free safety shaping up?
“We’ll see. Today is a big day with pads on and all of that stuff. Guys are just working through, trying to figure out who’s going to replace A.C.”
How did you feel like your defense played?
“There’s always going to be stuff we can do better. You know, in that first half, I thought they fought their tails off. Went in the locker room at halftime excited. I’ll be honest with you, offense had just scored, it was 22-7, we were getting the ball. I really believed that we were going to get a big stop or takeaway to start the second half on defense which we had the opportunity when A.C. and Spoon went up to go get that go ball. I just felt like they had played on a short field and I just felt like [Los Angeles Rams head coach] Sean [McVay] was eventually going to really try to take a shot. It was going to be early when he had a normal field to play with. I thought they were going to make a mistake in doing it and they did. We just didn’t make them pay. But, in that first half, I thought we came out with a lot of energy, got the three-and-out, stood up on a short field to force a field goal. On the next drive we had a pick-six in our hands to force another third down conversion for us to force a punt. But, in that game, I just felt like in that first half, guys came out with great energy, they competed their tails off and we were getting a lot of wins from down to down. We had it, when it was 3-0 and we had that ball in our hands, we had a chance to swing that whole game open. Those are the ones that we’ve got to take advantage of.”
Is DB Tarvarius Moore close as far as the whole transition from safety to corner?
“Yeah, he’s gotten a lot better. His practice habits are fantastic. He’s gotten better every single day. He’s one play away now.”