Roman on Alex Smith: “He’s just gotten better incrementally in everything we ask him to do.”

Greg Roman’s Thursday press conference transcript, courtesy of the 49ers.


Opening Statement:

“Good afternoon. Didn’t take our players long watching the film of cleaning up the Detroit game, moving on to Minnesota and seeing that these guys are a very, very good defense. They’re well coached. They’ve got a diverse scheme. They’ve got [Vikings DE] Jared Allen, who some regard as the best pass rusher in the National Football League and if you look at the film and the stats, I think they make a pretty good case. Multi-time defensive tackle in the Pro Bowl, [Vikings DT] Kevin Williams. Secondary is led by one of the toughest corners in the National Football League, [Vikings CB] Antoine Winfield. And [Vikings LB Chad] Greenway and the linebacking crew are extremely good blitzers and sideline to sideline, hitting the gaps. So, we’ve got our hands full getting ready for them. Any questions?”


You mentioned Jared Allen. What kind of game did T Joe Staley have going from Week 1 to Week 2?

“Joe played a really good game, really good game. We just look forward to that kind of improvement, really from all of our players as the season goes on. I think Joe experienced that last year throughout the season, just got better as it went. We certainly expect that out of all our players.”


That was obviously an emotional game, especially it seems for your offensive line. Is that a worry for you, coming off a game like that when you’re facing another talented team like the Vikings?

“What do you mean?”

There was a lot of emotion in that Lions game, especially from your offensive linemen. Do you worry about a drop-off in emotion, in energy after a game like that?

“I see. I think we’re always trying to keep our edge and I think if you let it slip for a second, then you need to get a grip. I think our guys, having watched the film of this team we’re about to play, understand immediately that it’s going to take their best effort. That’s week-in and week-out. These guys, especially when they’re in that dome, it definitely plays to their strengths. We’re having a good week of practice and I think our players are dialed in.”


Yesterday QB Alex Smith talked about how taking a sack isn’t always the end of the world. How do you –what’s the line you draw for a quarterback to just get rid of the ball and avoid the sack or stay on your feet and try to make something happen?

“That’s a good question and I think a lot of people probably have different opinions on it. I think one thing you’ve got to consider is, what’s your ultimate goal? If your ultimate goal is too keep your stats low, in sacks, then he needs to get rid of the ball. Our ultimate goal is to win games and you don’t lose games getting sacks. You’re generally going to have a hard time, statistics show and just real life experience show, of ending that drive in points. But you don’t lose games because you get sacked, generally. You lose games by turning the ball over and not scoring enough points. I think each play is a lifetime unto itself and I think you’ve got to evaluate each play within the context of that play. There’s sometimes where you quantify a sack as a smart sack for a quarterback, at least I would, we would. And sometimes he needs to get rid of the ball. It’s case-by-case, point-by-point.”


And that’s part of the quarterback decision making process on every snap?

“I think as it’s happening, yes. No question. There’s times when a quarterback might hold the ball too long, simply just doesn’t read the play correctly and he holds the ball and the protection was pretty darn good and we get a sack. That’s not what we’re looking for. But if somebody’s loose in protection, it really wasn’t that clean of a read, well, I can’t get the ball out because I have somebody here. He might knock it if I raise the ball to get rid of it, the ball might get knocked out of my hand and might become a potential fumble. Which would you rather have? It’s case-by-case.”


At this point in the year, how closely are you monitoring the teams in your division and how aware are you of them?

“From our perspective, we’re really not monitoring them at all. It’s Week 3 of the season. I think everybody, all of us coaches at least, we’re all fans of the game too. We’re going to follow how other teams are doing, but certainly not going to emotionally invest in it at all. We’ve got our hands full taking care of our own jobs.”


This might be a silly question but I’ll try it. Do you guys teach your quarterbacks how to take a sack? When they know it’s coming, no matter blind side shot.

“I think that gets covered, in terms of how to handle the ball and how to protect yourself as best you can. Now a lot of that is in the heat of the battle, guys are going to react naturally. Sometimes things are happening so fast, you can’t. I’ve been around people that have tried to do that. We really emphasize ball security at every position, and that includes the quarterback.”


There was the play in that Packers game where a blitz was coming off the open side. How did Alex hold on to that ball?

“I can tell you from my vantage point as that play was happening, about two seconds before contact was made I said this is a sack-fumble. He just did a great job of getting two hands on the ball as I remember. We were pretty fortunate there. It was a great job by Alex, again, just being very strong with the ball in the pocket.”


It just seems like Alex Smith is more crisp and efficient this year. Does it look the same way to you too just up in the box?

“Yeah, there’s no question. We fully expect him to be, and always have, just to continue his progress of running our offense. He’s just gotten better incrementally in everything we ask him to do. That’s what we expect from all our players, is just constant improvement. The more you do something, the better you should get at it. That’s not how it always plays out.  And that’s what makes special players special is that they’re continuing to get better as they go.”


How unique is QB Colin Kaepernick’s running ability? We obviously saw that play against Green Bay, but you look around the league at quarterbacks. How different is he?

“I think it’s pretty unique because, I know you guys see it too, when he runs he’s covering some ground now. I mean, he’s not taking little typewriter steps. He is covering some ground, those stride lengths. When he builds that speed up, he gets rolling. I’d say it’s unique. Can you remember another quarterback that had the running style he had? I can’t off the top of my head. He can build up some pretty good speed and you saw it in the preseason game against the Vikes, where he outran the DB for the touchdown. Colin’s a unique athlete, got a lot of positives.”


What about former QB Randall Cunningham? Similar to him?

“I’m trying to picture Randall running. Randall might have been a little smoother, no offense Kap, but he might have been a little smoother running. He didn’t cover the ground that Kap did. But maybe a little bit more fluid.”


That might be a decent comparison just in height, size.

“Yeah, yeah.”


You guys are increasingly recognized for all your personnel packages that you tried out there. Was there a time in your career or some sort of influence you had when you realized how do different personnel packages to keep the defense off balance?

“I think we really started that at Stanford, where it really got multiple. When you’re coaching in college, you have more players at your disposal on game day. So, if guys earn the right to play and have a role during the game, you can get them out there. It definitely creates a lot more for the defense to prepare for, not only in what you might do out of that personnel group, but the individual skill set of each guy. We really took that to probably a new level there. But I’d say it comes from [head coach] Jim’s [Harbaugh] idea or just his mindset that if a guy can do something really well and he works hard at it day-in and day-out, he’s going to get an opportunity to do it on game day. It’s a self-perpetuating philosophy.”


What makes WR Kyle Williams a good fit for you guys in the slot?

“Kyle’s a really shifty receiver, has got great quickness, change of direction, really good short area player, has got good hands. I think Kyle continues to improve as a route runner. He’s got the quickness you look for inside. He can get separation from a defender in tight quarters. I’d say that pretty much sums it up. A lot of times in the slot you’re going to end up running routes on a defender and it’s either the first read or you’ve got to get open in a short area. He excels in that area.”


Is that the role you envision him maintaining throughout?

“Yeah, I think as he continues to improve. There’s a lot of competition at the receiver position. The receivers, I think, are playing pretty darn well and we look forward to diversify what we’re doing with them and expand on everybody’s role, practice as well.”


Going back to Stanford, what were your initial impressions of Vikings RB Toby Gerhart and what have you seen from an evolution in terms of his game?

“Toby was a very unique back. I thought he had really good patience and vision and then he could convert it to power pretty quickly. I thought he had a good understanding of the game and played that way with his decision making. Always happy to see somebody you coach go on to the NFL and do well. It’s obvious that that’s what’s happened with him. I certainly wish him all the best.”

As far as the multiple packages, is that harder to do in an opposing stadium, just in terms of noise and getting everybody knowing which play you called and in and out of the game, is that more difficult?

“I’d say, not necessarily but everything becomes more –the environment stresses everything. So, you’ve got to really prepare for that in practice. So, it’s not specifically your personnel packages. [running backs coach] Tom Rathman handles our sideline substitutions for the most part and does an extremely good job, so we’re very fortunate there. I think it stresses all communication, what personnel is in, what play you’re calling, what’s the snap count. It requires a higher level of focus.”


Did you have someone at Stanford similar to TE Delanie Walker in terms of versatility?

“Not off the top of my head, no. Delanie’s a really good player, had a great game the other night for the most part. Did a great job handling multiple roles and I was really proud of how he played. When [TE] Vernon [Davis] had to step out of the game, he just stepped into the Y tight end position, did a very good job. Delanie is a guy we count on.”

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