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Quotes: DC Wink Martindale, OC Mike Kafka, STC Thomas McGaughey, OG Ben Bredeson

Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale

Alright, what has it been (since we last talked)? Two weeks? Alright, Arizona, the second half, really excited with the way we closed that game out. I thought we played with passion and energy that we needed to play and that was a lot fun winning that game. We weren't really pleased with the first half of it, but the second half we were.

The San Francisco game, I thought that these guys played as hard as I have seen them play since I've been here, with the effort that they had. It was a great challenge for us. We had a bunch of guys out there playing their tail off all the way until the end.

Don't like where we are at, as far as 1-2. We got to start faster as a defense, but I like where we are going. I told the defense today, one of the things about having a guy that's had experience, we still control the narrative. I can remember, for an example, and there is many more than this, but for example in '19 when we were in Baltimore. We just lost to Cleveland, we were 2-2 and the world was coming to an end. I don't think we had to build an arc like we do now out there, but we went off and ran 14 straight games off. Not saying that's going to happen, but I'm just saying that to the players of, you control the narrative, we control the narrative of our careers, of life and everything else, individually. I've gone down this with you guys before, but we are going to be ready to go Monday night and we've got another tough challenge with the Seahawks. Their offense is playing really well and scoring a lot of points, but when it comes time to kickoff, we are going to show up. I love the fact that our fans are so passionate, it gives us an advantage at home and that's going to help us.

With that, I'll open it up to questions.

Q: I understand edge is a much more complicated job than pass rusher, but is there any argument to be made for as good as he is at setting the edge and dropping in coverage that you should increase (outside linebacker) Kayvon's (Thibodeaux) pass rushing snaps and just turn him loose on the quarterback?

A: He gets turned loose as many times as we need to turn him loose. I think that if you just want to rush four and play coverage the entire game and have me come up here and say this guy didn't play well, this guy didn't play well, that's not me. We are a defense that keeps offenses guessing. They won't admit it to you before you play the game, but when you see them at the combine and everything else, I'm talking about offensive coordinators, we know how to attack protections and we are going to it the best way we can do it to affect the quarterback. That involves Kayvon, but it involves him sometimes dropping, sometimes rushing. There's guys that have more sacks than Kayvon right now and their team's record is worse than ours. It's three games. What's the old country saying? Don't throw out the baby with the water, or whatever it is. But, I think we are going to be just fine with Kayvon, alright?

Q: Is it a concern that you haven't forced any turnovers yet?

A: Of course, it is, it's a concern. You always want to get the ball turned over. You know, in different types of situations in the game, but if I keep saying, hey let's rip the ball off of them, then all the sudden they start slipping through some tackles, you know what I mean? I think that turnovers, interceptions, fumble recoveries, I think they come in bunches. And how they come in bunches is getting back to what I said before, on how you affect the quarterback and how you go tackle the running back with pursuit and all 11 guys there. I think they'll come.

Q: Sacks the same way too?

A: Sacks the same way, of course. It's complementary football.

Q: Have you noticed any frustration from your guys because the numbers haven't maybe been there already?

A: If there is frustration, they haven't said it to me. I mean there is frustration when we are not playing well. You know what I mean? When there is lapses and plays and things like that, but there's been no frustration about 'I'm not doing this', 'I'm not doing that', you know, 'I need to do this.' I mean everybody wants to play well, but I think that's the only frustration there.

Q: Circling back on Kayvon real quick, on the amount of times you guys have rushed him in this pass rush, how would you describe his production, are you looking for more there, are you pleased with it?

A: Always. Always. And he would be the first one to tell you that. And just finishing at the quarterback, using his hands better. I think that each week, each day, he and (outside linebackers coach) Drew (Wilkins) work on that. We'll do some different things that's going to help him, but there is three other guys rushing the quarterback when you go to a four-man rush as well and I think that helps that individual that's rushing the quarterback on how they do their job as well because he could beat a tackle and there is a big space where the quarterback could step up. Whose fault is that? Well, they are going to say, 'well Kayvon ran past the quarterback, why didn't he retrace?' You know there is all kinds of different things that go into it, but to me there is no panic. Is there concern? No. I just think he's a good football player and it's going to work out. You know, I really do.

Q: (Inside linebacker) Bobby (Okereke) had mentioned that you guys did a tackling circuit drill yesterday. What did you see from them in that and why did you decide to bring it back?

A: Well, I think that whenever you have a game, I think Dallas we missed four tackles. That's what I was really pleased with when we came out of that first game, is usually the first game is when you miss the most and San Francisco was our worst tackling game that we've had, and we made it a focal point yesterday. It was different types of tackles. Breaking the stiff arm down, running him out of bounds, wrapping him up, running through a ball carrier and even to the point where you are hitting quarterbacks, gator rolling when you hit them, so you don't land with your body weight on the quarterback because we do have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. No matter what game it is. That's always been a strength of ours and right now, penalties is one of the biggest reasons why we are not getting off the field on third down. That was the three main (points of) emphasis in the tackling drill that we did.

Q: How do you do that during the season? Is it more drills, more physical drills, what can you do during the season to fix that?

A: I think it's a mindset. We all know the rules and how the rules have changed and everything else. Like what I'm saying, tackling, wrapping up. You know we used to, back in the day, take them down to the ground and you would do something like that, where today now I have the running back have a shield so they can get the thump, where they are wrapping and running their feet while they have the shield, with the guardian helmets on and all that. It's different. Okay and what it comes down to is they are professional athletes and they've got to have that mindset of taking the right angle, stepping toes on toes, and making tackles. Which they have and they are going to do it again. Like I said, the San Francisco game was the biggest game where that came out and then all of the sudden there is a wildfire that we can't tackle. Come out Monday night, chart them.

Q: With (safety/inside linebacker Isaiah) Simmons and (outside linebacker Boogie) Basham, who came in late, is there a bigger role for either of them?

A: I think it's a growing role, it's probably a BS answer I gave you, but it is. It's just a growing role, the more that they feel comfortable in the system.

Q: And the more they show you?

A: Yeah, the more I feel comfortable with them and what they can handle, the more plays they'll get.

Q: Who do you view as the leaders of the defense?

A: I think (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II), really Dex and (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams). Leo has come out, he's come out with a sense of urgency in these first three games. I know he got banged up in San Francisco, but I think those two are. I think Bobby is becoming a leader. You know, it's like I said, when you have new guys, you are gelling as a defense. The same thing like I told them going back in 2019, it all depends who you have and how long it takes to gel and obviously we are not there yet, but we are on our way. I guess, the biggest thing for me is I love a challenge. I don't think you should be in this profession if you don't, so we run to challenges and we've got a challenge. You know, you couldn't stay in this business for as long as we have if you don't like challenges. I know what the challenges is, I've been here before, and we'll go attack it.

Q: You've said all along that you like to keep your personality even keeled with the players. Is there a time, or has there been a time that you would see that it's time to light it up a little bit to get your guys going or is that artificial in your eyes?

A: No, I mean I don't think any human reaction you have is artificial, I think it's real. I think at times when you see, staying even keel, you are having a walk through and someone is not paying attention, the time that we put in it and I say we, the players and the coaches, that we put in this, and someone is not paying attention, you'll hear me, you know? I'm just not one of those guys that continually screams on game day or during practice because I think you can go up and just tell somebody, sometimes that hurts more. When you are calm and you tell somebody what they need to do, you know? You are not going to see me explode on the sidelines, hope not. If it is, there is something really wrong.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka

Q: You played a game (San Francisco) without (running back) Saquon (Barkley) for the first time. And you ran the ball as few times as you have in a long time. Does that speak to his value to your offense?

A: I think it's just for that game, that was that game. Every week's different so we're going to have a good approach this week and find a way to put or players in the best position to be successful.

Q: Do you think if he was active for the game, you would've run the ball that few times?

A: Don't want to get into kind of the guessing or anything like that. But he wasn't and we didn't, so this week's a new week.

Q: How did you land on (guard) Shane Lemieux starting that game and what was the thought process in doing that?

A: That was just a collective decision there between myself, (Head Coach Brian Daboll) Dabs, (General Manager) Joe (Schoen), (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) talking through all that and thought that was the best thing for the offense.

Q: You talked a lot this offseason about the offense starting fast, why do you think it has been such a struggle?

A: I think we evaluate that every week and those are things we're looking to improve on. I mean, we talk about it, schemes, the fundamentals, the techniques, the sequencing, and those things. So, we evaluate that and we're really critical of that as an offensive staff, as players, as coaches – collectively. So, we want to have an emphasis of that, and we obviously want to start a lot faster and that's what we're working this week to do.

Q: Dabs said earlier this week that (guard) Marcus McKethan was going to stay at right guard. What are you guys seeing from him? What do you like so far?

A: He's done a nice job for a young player. He come in and he's played physical. I think he has a nice calm demeanor about him, and he's got some poise and he's a big, strong physical kid. He has all the tools, so as a young player, learning, developing, and growing, I think you're seeing him getting better each and every week.

Q: If I can go back to Saquon, we didn't talk to you last week. Against the Cardinals, he played every single snap in the game before he got hurt. It seems pretty rare in today's NFL. How much of a luxury is that and why is he able to do it?

A: I think that's just the type of player he is. He never wants to come out of the game. He's a competitor, that's what we love about him. I think when you have guys like that, which we have a lot, those guys want to be in the mix, and they want to be involved and they want the ball. As an offensive coordinator, that's what you want. You want players like that and Saquon's definitely one of those.

Q: Did Brian Daboll get involved the play calling in the second half of Arizona?

A: No, our process has been the same.

Q: People suggested and from our observation that it look he was more involved.

A: You guys are doing your job. You guys are trying to ask questions, I don't resent that at all. Fair question but process has been the same.

Q: What would you say to the people that were looking at it, he was looking at the sheet more than he was at other points of other games? What does that mean?

A: I think he was just trying to talk into the microphone without anyone reading his lips, but I don't want to speak for Dabs. I mean, we communicate throughout every series, every drive, throughout the game, what we like, what we don't like. Again, the process hasn't changed from last year to this year.

Q: One of the things that seemed different in the last game was (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) did not run as much. I think it was only two carries. We're they spying him or just doing something to keep him in the pocket.

A: No, we had those plays in the game plan, just didn't end up getting to them based on the situations.

Q: Was he instructed not to run?

A: No. No, he wasn't instructed not to run.

Q: What can (wide receiver) Jalin Hyatt do to get on the field?

A: Jalin's doing everything we're asking him. He's doing a great job. Obviously, he's another one of those young players that are continuing to grow and develop and the role that he's in right now and continue to expand and grow and he's handled it like a pro, which has been great. Like I said, every week's kind of a new week to see where these guys fit based on the schemes that we're seeing and put together the best game plan.

Q: With his abilities to create mismatches, how does he not get targeted in a game?

A: That's a great question. On offense, there's an 11-man operation, there's one football and obviously you want to get players involved as much as you possibly can, but you have to make sure that you have certain things set up for certain plays, situations come up. So, I think we want to get everyone the ball, absolutely. There's one football, right? So, at the end of the day, you've got to understand that. We're working to improve in that area and get everyone involved in the offense.

Q: Were there situations the other night that you were designing plays for him, and they just fell through?

A: Yeah. I think whenever those guys are on the field and based on the scheme or concept, whether he's running a short route, a deep route, intermediate route. I mean, those are all kind of designed and has to build into what defense you're seeing, the progression, the protection, are you hot, are you not? So, there's a lot of aspects that kind of go into it on where the ball could go on a given play, whether it's versus man, versus zone. So, there's a lot of things that the quarterback and the offense has to work through to be able to make that happen. I think you saw the one big shot in Arizona where we took advantage of an opportunity and then there's other times where it doesn't go the way you anticipate.

Q: The 49ers pass rush, did that play a role? It seems like Jalin's specialty is the go down the field but the quarterback's got to hold the ball to let him get down the field so with how quick they get to the quarterback, does that play a role?

A: I don't want to keep on going too far back because we've been able to learn from that and move on to this week, so I think that's probably what the most important thing is that we just grow and learn from the wins, the losses and all that and build it for this week's practice.

Q: Not trying to go backwards again but is there anything that you can pinpoint that can lead to why the offense looked so different in those two quarters against Arizona than it has the other 10 quarters of the season?

A: I'd say that those are things that we were building on, we were working on all week, and you finally get an opportunity, you make a play, we let it happen downfield and then that kind of sparks something, right? So, that happens all throughout the entire season, all throughout the game where you get a play, it sparks something then you kind of get on a roll and you're grooving. Then sometimes, something doesn't happen, and you've got to find a way to kind of get out of that rut. So, there's things that we're doing and that's why the guys had a great week of practice so far. We're going to keep on working on it, keep on bringing energy and enthusiasm, and I'm excited about the guys and how they approached it yesterday.

Q: Looking forward, if you look at the number,s they say, "throw the ball against Seattle." Is that what you think?

A: I think when you look at it you want to have a diverse gameplan, run and pass, and I think our players are prepared to do both. So, that's one thing we're excited about and looking forward to work on.

Q: (Wide receiver) Sterling Shepard doesn't seem content in his role. Would you have any answer to that --

A: I don't want to speak for (wide receiver Sterling Shepard) Shep but he's doing a great job, he's been a pro. He comes to practice every day and he works. He's a great teammate and every week everyone develops their role for the offense and how they're going to be used and that's what we're working on this week.

Q: Generally speaking, when a player talks to the media in those tones, do you approach the player for a dialogue at all?

A: Yeah, me and Shep have a great relationship. We talk. I think he understands where we're at and I think if you're a competitor, which is what we want, which is what we love, and you're not playing,  then it's the opposite side of it, then you want to play. Those are the kind of players I want to be around. Guys who want to play, who want to be out there and help their teammates, help their team win and Shep's one of those guys.

Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey

Q: What'd you think about the way (punter) Jamie (Gillan) punted the other night?

A: Jamie's doing a good job. He really is. He's kind of found a rhythm, and we just want to keep him on the same path. Just keep staying in the flow of the game, staying in the moment, and just making sure that he's just executing at a high level. So, we've just got to do our part as a cover unit and a protection unit to help him, and he's just got to do his job as a punter. So, he's done a really nice job.

Q: The thing for him was always consistency. What do you do to get that out of him? What's the progression angle of it?

A: As a coach, it's my job to help him with that, obviously. We just try to do some things that he feels comfortable with in practice and in the games, and then just getting confidence through the execution part of it, whether it be a warm-up session that we had in Arizona where he kicked the ball pretty well, whether it be just a session when we're in here by ourselves. Just feeling comfortable in the moment, and just being able to see the big picture. What's your big goal? What are we working towards? And just trying to get better every day. That's it. Just try and find one little thing to focus on every day, and work on it. And then okay, yeah, I got better at that today, let's just keep working in the progression. So, that's all we're doing, and he's done a really nice job.

Q: The one he really boomed when you guys were backed up, it seemed like that was a little bit of that rugby style. How do you or he determine when you're going to do that and when you're not?

A: I can't tell you that.

No, I'm kidding. I'm kidding. It's certain points in the game that we feel comfortable with him out there and certain situations and down and distance that we'll do it. But for him, he feels comfortable with that. He's been playing rugby since he was this big. So, he gets the ball out of his hands faster that way than it does the conventional way. It's amazing how that happens. But the muscle memory just kicks in and then it's the years and years of playing rugby. So, it's nothing for him. He can do it in his sleep.

Q: I kind of think about punting as you take the snap and kick it. How much more complicated is it than that?

A: It's a lot of things that go into it. The punt play, it's wind, the weather, the conditions, who you're playing, what kind of returner is back there, who's the rush, who are their highlighted rushers, who do you want to stay away from. There's a whole bunch of different things that play into that. But the nuts and bolts of it is the catch and mold, get the ball out of your hands as quickly as you can with really good technique in mechanics, and just hitting a nice, smooth ball, with good hang to distance and with good direction. That's all we ask for him to do.

Q: Does the night game change any of that?

A: Yeah. Most of the time when you're playing in outdoor stadiums, once the sun goes down, the wind kind of decreases a little bit. So, that helps, definitely. Obviously, anytime you don't have a lot of wind, it kind of helps you with the consistency of the punt and the drop and all that stuff. So yeah, it definitely makes a difference.

Q: I know you guys will go back and look at film of Seattle last year and that game in Seattle. I don't know how much their special teams units have changed, but when you have a couple of mistakes last year that kind of really hurt you guys, do you harp on that with these guys? Or just kind of let them watch the film and not worry about it?

A: No. It's a totally different team, different returner back there. It's totally different. They have a different set of guys. We have basically a different set of guys and it's a whole new opportunity, a whole new year. Obviously, you learn from those things, but you definitely don't harp on it because half the guys that're playing on your unit weren't even on the field last year. We just take that for what it is. You move on from it, you learn from it. The stuff that we can take from last year schematically, because (Seahawks Special Teams Coordinator) Larry Izzo was still there last year, we'll look at it and be ready for some of those same things that will come about, but you don't harp on it. You just move on.

Q: Did you ever cross paths with Larry Izzo? You were here and then I think he came right after you left to go to LSU, right?

A: I've known Larry Izzo since I was 16 years old. He went to McCullough High School. I went to Langham Creek High School. He went to Rice. I went to Houston. So, we played against each other all through high school, through college, and I've known Larry forever. He's good friend of mine, great dude, and hell of a coach.

Q: Did you have anything to do with him filling your spot when you left here?

A: No. Larry was trying to get into coaching. Super smart guy. Obviously, he was a great special teams player, probably one of the greatest of all time. He got into it on his own. Larry's a heck of a dude. Great coach, good man.

Q: I know it was kind of like a freak play when (tackle) Andrew (Thomas) got hurt on the blocked kick, but anytime an important offensive or defensive player gets hurt on special teams, do you take them off those units?

A: I don't. I don't have the power to take anybody off. But it's definitely something you look at. I mean, when you have a guy like AT (tackle Andrew Thomas) who is important to our team, and that's kind of a freak thing that happens. I just remember when we won the Super Bowl, it's (tackle) Kareem McKenzie, (guard) Richie Seubert, (tackle) David Deal, all those guys, (guard) Chris Snee. They're all on the field goal team. It's just what it is. Offensive linemen, that's kind of part of the job. You play on field goal protection. But trust me, you definitely think about it, because you damn sure don't want to lose a guy like him ever. On any play, whether it be offense, defense, or special teams.

Q: Was (running back Eric) Gray right to field that one?

A: Which one?

Q: That he got interfered with on.

A: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. A short punt, if you can come up to field it, absolutely. He's made great decisions all year, knock on wood. He'll continue to do that hopefully moving forward. But yeah, I think it was a great decision. You catch that ball, and if it hits the ground, it might roll for 20 yards, 15, 20- yards, especially with (49ers punter) Mitch Wishnowsky. I mean, he's Aussie, and those balls have a tendency to hit the ground anywhere from 15 to 20 yards on a roll, so I think he saved us a lot of field position plus the 15-yard penalty. So, he made a good decision.

Guard Ben Bredeson

Feel good. Feel back to normal. Went through the protocol and we made some good progress, being responsible, and making all the correct steps, but I feel ready.

Q: How hard is it sitting out?

A: Obviously, it's not an ideal situation. The protocol is there for a reason, to protect players and have a safe return, and I'm just happy we were able to go through with that.

Q: And your buddy next to you (tackle Andrew Thomas) is still, I guess, I don't know if you can talk about him—

A: No. I can't comment on anything with Drew. That's a Dabs (Head Coach Brian Daboll) question. 

Q: How about the idea that you guys have had three different offensive line combinations in three games? You can't comment on Drew, but Dabs did and said he didn't practice today, so that could be four. How difficult is that to maintain any continuity?

A: The more reps you have together, the better the gel and things like that. But that is the reason that we practice with so many offensive line combinations through OTAs and camp because injuries happen, people miss games for various reasons, and you always have to be able to adjust. So, yeah, we've had guys play in multiple spots as everybody saw all through camp, and these are the reasons for that.

Q: Concussions are different injuries than hamstrings on the spectrum of what we know in today's NFL. How was it for you? Was that your first concussion? How was going through that process?

A: Yeah, it was the first one for me and it was a different experience. It's something that, like you said, it's not like a hamstring or a broken bone or something like that. You just have to make sure that you're completely okay. We had great communication with the training staff, the doctors, and everybody. Credit to them. They took great care of me, and we went through all the proper steps in the protocol and got cleared, and I feel ready to go.

Q: Do you have to play on the left side? You did it all during training camp, right? Left, right, same deal?

A: Yeah, versatility has always been a big thing with us, and it always will be.

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