This is the transcript of Vic Fangio’s Tuesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ p.r. department.
So, you have a new linebacker. How do you expect to work with him over the next few days to get him ready for Saturday’s game?
“We just have to do our best to get him acclimated to the system. He’s going to have to do a great job of studying. Obviously, his work day is going to have to be a lot longer than everybody else’s. Not on the field, per say, but studying in the classroom and watching tape and learning what he needs to learn to go out there and play for us on Saturday, if needed.”
You say if needed. So, would LB Nick Moody still be the starter at Jack?
Why not promote LB Shayne Skov to the active roster?
“The front office looked at the possibilities and wanted to go this route right now.”
It seemed like LB Michael Wilhoite got at least banged up in the game as well, was off the field for maybe a play or two. What’s his status?
“I think he’s fine. I think he’s fine. He missed those couple plays and finished the game.”
Is LB Dan Skuta at all a factor inside?
“Yes. He’s an emergency guy. But at the time when Wilhoite had those couple plays where he had to be out, Skuta wasn’t available either. So, we were limited in what we could do there in that short time frame.”
Why was he not available?
“Yeah, he had a little ankle injury.”
How tested were you as a coordinator at that time? I know you try during practice to prepare for all different scenarios, but how unique was that game for you?
“Well, that one time in particular, it was pretty unique in that when you’re down to one inside linebacker and most everything we do on defense we have to have two of them. We did have a personnel group up for that game where we only had one of them. We played that while Wilhoite was getting cleaned up.”
Does LB Chris Borland have a chance to play again this season?
“It’d be a stretch right now.”
You’ve been, the last couple of years on defense, you’ve been relatively injury-free, almost remarkably so. This has obviously been a totally different deal. Obviously you’ve been doing this a long time, but has it challenged you as a coach? Sunday was extreme, but just to think of contingency plans, getting guys ready and all that?
“Well, it’s challenging, but you have to deal with the circumstances you’re dealt with whenever they’re dealt to you. You only have anywhere from 21 to 22 defensive players active in a game. You always know what you’re going to do next. If you totally run out, then it’s called [inaudible]. Great ones can adjust and we’ll try and adjust.”
Along those lines, you’ve lost two nose tackles. You’ve lost two star linebackers. Is it just one of those where it feels like you can’t catch a break, so to speak?
“It usually happens in droves that way sometimes. Like I said, I’ve been in the NFL a long time. There’s been other years like this. You can’t let it get your dobber down. You just have to keep your focus, keep the blinders on and do the best you can do. Our guys that have had to come in and play, we’ve been able to withhold and play pretty decently at times. In that game the other day, we were playing with two corners on several plays that had never been here until just a couple weeks ago. That’s just life in the NFL. Some years it happens more than others.”
What do you think just about how the team is set up for the future at the cornerback position? CB Chris Culliver and CB Perrish Cox are free agents, but with guys like the rookie CB Kenneth Acker, obviously you haven’t seen CB Keith Reaser yet, but CB Leon McFadden and CB Marcus Cromartie, what do you think about some of those guys who maybe haven’t played a whole lot this season and how they would fit in the NFL in the future?
“I don’t think we’ll really know. I can’t give you a great answer on that until after next season, after we have OTAs, training camp, some preseason games, where they actually have a feel and a better knowledge of our system, what we expect them to do and they can go out there and compete at full speed. I think we have to wait on that before I can give you a good answer.”
How would you assess Culliver’s comeback year?
“I think it’s been good. He started off good. Had that little injury that affected him in the middle of the season. Forget exactly what game it was number wise. But, he’s come back from that and had a nice run of games there, I think, and then had this latest setback. Hopefully, he’ll be able to play this Sunday and finish this season strong.”
Given, obviously, all that attrition, you only allowed 17 points. It could’ve been, maybe, 13. Were you particularly proud — ?
“Why? Did you think that was a bad call?”
I just go with whatever the NFL says. The NFL said it was a bad call.
“All three personal fouls were incorrect calls.”
Have you gotten – is that just you?
“I know the rules.”
It could have been 13 points. Were you particularly proud of that performance given your limitations?
“Proud is a strong word. You’re never happy in defeat. There were plays that we could’ve played better and maybe kept it down more besides the four-point play there that we talked about. And maybe, you know, you keep it to a one-score game to where anything can happen at the end of the game. We weren’t able to do that, so that’s disappointing. To go up there and play those guys that tough was, overall, was a good job.”
How would you grade LB Ahmad Brook’s performance before he was injured?
“Good. I think he responded to being held out of last week very well. And in many ways was playing his best up until he got injured.”
How about S Antoine Bethea and just looking back over the season he’s had and really what he’s meant for the defense overall and just his consistency and production?
“It’s meant a lot. He took over an important position, replacing a guy that had been an important player here for us. And it’s been seamless and he’s been professional and he’s earned the respect of all his teammates and his coaches and very glad we have him and it was a great pickup for us.”
That first penalty that S Eric Reid had out of bounds looked like that could have been a penalty. What did you see on that that maybe you think they should have kept the flag in the pocket?
“Well, the guy wasn’t out of bounds when he got hit.”
Do you expect maybe to rotate in a little more some of the reserve, younger guys just because you guys have been eliminated from the playoffs?
“We’re already doing that. That’s happened by necessity. I don’t know who you might be alluding to that hadn’t been playing some.”
Well, guys like DT Tank Carradine?
“Tank’s been playing.”
I know, but would he be playing more?
What about DT Quinton Dial? His last game, was that one of his better performances?
“He played well. Quinton’s another good story through this storm that we’ve had. He’s had to go in and play nose. Really wasn’t being trained to play nose very much in training camp, but because of the injuries there, we had to start doing that. He has stepped up like a man and played well in there for us.”
And what did you see from Tank on Sunday?
“He’s getting better. He’s definitely getting better. Like I said last week, the arrow is up on him. He got the two sacks, which is nice, but one was a screen play that really [DT] Tony Jerod-Eddie made that play because Tony felt the screen, he had nowhere to throw it, and by the time the quarterback saw the screen was covered, Tank’s guy had let him go and he clobbered the quarterback, which was nice. And the other one, he got flushed to him. Feel encouraged by Tank’s play and definitely the arrow’s up.”
Is that what he needs to do, is doing things like Tony did on that play? Kind of sense things?
“Yeah. That comes with experience.”
He was, I know the talk when you guys got him was that he was doing stuff in college that wasn’t really applicable to here as far as just getting up the field. How has he done as far as learning what you expect of him to do at that position?
“Much better. He’s made progress in that area. To me, you throw out last year. Last year was a total nonexistent year for Tank when it comes to learning and getting better playing football. It was a zero year for him. So, this was his rookie year. And he was struggling early, but he slowly was getting better and better. Then he hit another plateau. Struggled a little at that plateau, and now he’s taken off from that plateau. So, it’s a nice progress he’s got going and I think the arrow’s up is the best way to say it. I keep saying that.”
What can you do? You’re about to lose him for a number of months before he comes back for the offseason program, what can a guy like that do in those months to make up some ground on what you’re talking about?
“Well, I don’t think we’ll lose him. I think he’ll be around here and I think he’ll be working out voluntarily under our supervision. He’s got to play. He had meetings. He had every meeting possible when he wasn’t playing last year and he’s past that point. But, he’s got more knowledge of playing now. The film means a little bit more to him now because he’s been out there and he’s got some experience to draw on. So, he can get more out of film now than he could last year. So, I think he’ll get more before we hit the field than he would have gotten last year.”
You said Borland might not return. Could you speak to what he showed you in this rookie year and just what the future holds for this guy?
“Well, he’s done extremely well. He started off when he came in for [LB Patrick] Pat [Willis] late in the second quarter of that first game that he played, he kind of just played and did fine. But, then the next game, which was his first start, he didn’t play as well. And then from that point on, he has taken off and done well. He still makes some mistakes. Still doesn’t react well to certain plays and certain coverages the way he should consistently enough, but I think that will come. I think we got a player that nobody was so sure that if he could play at his collegiate level in the pros and with his work this year, he’s proven that he can, to some degree.”
Can Ahmad play with that thumb injury?
“I don’t know. We’ll find out. A thumb is an important part of your hand there and if he can’t take on, or if he’s hedging to take on, then we’ll have to play somebody else.”