This season keeps getting weirder.
The 49ers aren't allowed to play or practice in Santa Clara for the next three weeks. So they'll fly to Arizona on Wednesday and practice where the Arizona Cardinals had training camp -- at a Renaissance Hotel. And then, the 49ers will play their next two home games at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
Here's a full transcript of Shanahan's Tuesday conference call with Bay Area reporters, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
Can you share with us just the plans that you have going forward and then how players have reacted to that, whether any of them have wanted to opt out or if that's even possible?
"I didn't talk to them about opting out because I don't know what those choices are. I didn't hear much about that. So, there's not many choices. We've got to find a place to live and practice, so the guys have done an awesome job with just [director of team logistics Steve] Risser and [team logistics manager Mike] Slap and then [president] Al [Guido] and [general manager John] Lynch and everyone, just getting us set up in Arizona. So, we're going to take off tomorrow. I think we fly out around like 2:30. We'll get there Wednesday night and then we'll start Thursday. Since it's a Monday night game, our Thursday we'll just treat like a normal Wednesday. So, we should get a normal week of practice and stuff once we get there. Right now, we know the restrictions say until the 21st, so we've got to plan for about three weeks, at least. I'm just telling the guys and our team, just look at it one week at a time. We've traveled as a team for a week before, so I'm trying to get guys not to just make all their decisions yet, which is tough with the families and everything, but hopefully we can get down there for a week and kind of figure it out, what we can do, what we can't do, what the situation is. Then we'll spend the next two weeks trying to adjust to make it as good as we can for whatever problems we couldn't figure out."
So just to confirm, you will be there multiple weeks, three weeks, at least through December 21st? Where will you guys be practicing and is there any restrictions on whether family members can come since family members can go to the games, the Arizona Cardinals home games?
"We're practicing where the Cardinals had training camp. I believe it's the Renaissance hotel. I'm not sure, but wherever they did training camp, that's what our setup is. I know we're going to be able to use the stadium here and there for some things too. So, it's all close in proximity. That's about all the details I know on that. I'll figure that out when I get there, but I know we've got some guys out there, getting the hotels and everything mapped out for us. So, it shouldn't be an issue. And sorry, what were the other parts of the question?"
Because the Cardinals are allowing family members-
"Oh yeah, the rules with the families, it's just basically, we're moving out there and our hotel will be our new Levi's Stadium, which is where we go to work. Just like when we're here, you go to work every day, you get tested. When we're here, then we go straight home to our house and stay there until you come back the next day to work. Now, I look at it as our house happens to be where our work's at. So, when we're done with work, guys just go upstairs to their hotel room. We can't sit there. You don't want to hang out and stuff. That's how people get in trouble and that's how it spreads. That's what happened to us during our bye week at a hotel. So, we won't sit there and hang out at all. We'll work there and then the guys will go up to their hotel room. My understanding, that's why I want to take a week to get there and just figure it out, but that's going to be our home for a few weeks. So, if someone's family is down there, I don't get why they can't go home to their family. That will be their new house for three weeks. I don't know how many people are doing that. It's kind of up in limbo with how fast this has happened and stuff, so that's why we're going to go this week and figure out how it goes. I would be pumped if my family could end up coming down there a week or so from now and I know my kids and wife would love coming to a game. So, if that would work out, that'd be great, but you just go there and you figure out the rules. My biggest concern that I told the players is we're very comfortable where we're at, just the protocols we have and stuff. And we feel like we've gotten pretty good at being safe and how to avoid it, but now we're going to a new environment. It's still the same exact rules. I think COVID's a little bigger there than it is here from statistics some people have told me, so we've got to be smart. We're not trying to go anywhere, so I plan on guys staying in that hotel and being safe. If guys do end up getting a good setup or they have an apartment nearby where they put their family in or something, just like it is here, when you're done with work, you can go straight home, be with your family. You get tested every day. You'll come back the next morning and get tested at the hotel, but that's why it's kind of up in limbo. So, I want to take the week to figure out the parameters and then figure out what we'd recommend best for everybody who has some issues."
Were there any scenarios that were possible for you guys to practice here and then go back and forth? And if not, what were some of the things that maybe held you back from being able to do that?
"No, I mean, the county's rules. It's pretty simple. Unless we can figure out how to make football not close contact, I guess. So, that's why we can't do anything here. There's nothing to decide on that. Once we found that out on Saturday, I think that was pretty clear. So, we're just trying to adjust and figure out who will let us do that and where, which I think is everywhere but here."
Sorry, I meant in the Bay Area, generally, in like a different county in the Bay Area.
"Yeah. We looked into all that. I know our guys looked hard because that was our first goal, if we could find somewhere outside of the county within like an hour where we could drive an hour to practice, but it ended up like some of the possibilities were a couple hours and stuff. Once you do that, you don't want to drive two hours each day. We'd be moving into a hotel and stuff two hours away and then flying to Arizona to play. So, to me it didn't make that much of a difference. I know that's stuff that our guys will continue looking at for these three weeks. We've got to get out there and get going right now because we've got to get ready for a game on Monday night. I know our guys aren't going to stop working at it. We're not trying to stay away from everybody for three weeks and if we can come up with something different and something works out, I know we would love to adjust that and come back and do that, but nothing's worked out yet. So, the best scenario for us and the most convenient for us right now with the situation presented is just getting out to Arizona. There's a good setup there and the Cardinals have been awesome with us. Everyone out there has been awesome with us and I do believe we have a really good set up there to make the best of it. That's where we'll play our games, too. So, I know the longer you're away, eventually the setup is the least important thing. I want to keep our guys right and not just our players and coaches, but it's not just players and coaches. This is a business. There's lots of people involved, lots of people involved. So, I know eventually people will want to come back. So, if we can figure that out, we'll be very for it."
You've done this, well, not this, but similar things as far as staying in Youngstown for a week or Florida for a week, but obviously, you had more than a couple of days preparation or advance notice, whatever. Are you expecting, I mean, who knows, right, but are you expecting maybe some bumps in the road maybe this first week, just because of the rush job?
"You never know. You always expect bumps in the road, no matter what you're doing. The biggest bump was just the shock of finding out how long it was the day before we played. That was the biggest thing. I think our guys are pretty good and once they hear the parameters of stuff and adjusting and just dealing with whatever, especially this year. And we're used to getting away for a week or so, but I can't tell you how sick of each other we are after a week in a hotel. Usually that week's good and we play better, but then after that week, guys need to get home. So, a week's not the daunting thing. It's the month of December that guys get a little overwhelmed with. So that's why I'm just trying to get guys to not think of it that way. Even though the dates say that, I'm just trying to take it one week at a time. We're used to a week. I know how it will feel by the end of that Monday night game and when we wake up there Tuesday, but I think guys will, each guy's in a little different boat. Some guys don't have family, some guys do. And I'm not just talking players and coaches, I'm talking everybody. So, there'll be different problems with guys. I mean, some guys have pregnant wives who are due this month. How does that stuff work with being out and trying to come home? Do you have to quarantine for 14 days once that happens? Can you not see the baby? So, there's lots of different levels of stuff that we've just got to figure out and I believe we will. It's not a whole answer for everybody, it's about 200 different, individual cases."
I apologize, this is a comprehensive question. A, I was wondering about the medical side of things, whether guys who are rehabbing can still stick around in Santa Clara or whether all of that now shifts to Arizona as well. And B, wondering about guys like OL Ben Garland, CB K'Waun Williams, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, whether they'll start to get back onto the field this week in preparation for them coming back full time?
"No, they won't be back on the field this week. I think everybody's going with us. I mean, our building is not going to be open for any aspects, so everybody's got to go. Those guys you just asked about, I think the only guy who's got a chance to get on the field this week is [LB Mark] Nzeocha, which isn't a hundred percent, but he's the guy I'm hoping to maybe start his window this week. I think the other guys, their rehabbing and stuff on the field, but they're not getting involved in practice at all."
Is there a timetable for Jimmy at all? And then also your assessment of QB Nick Mullens from the game after watching film?
"Yeah, I'm holding out hope for Jimmy for the last couple of weeks, same with [TE George] Kittle. I think they're in a similar boat with that and that's not guaranteed. It's how they react over here the next couple of weeks, but they're just starting to get into where they can get on the field and not with us, but on their own and do some stuff. That's hopefully going to be the last couple of weeks, whether it's two games or one game or none. That's why I was very happy with how we played last week and hopefully we can continue to do that. With Nick Mullens, I was very happy with his performance. It was a huge challenge going against that defense altogether. The whole scheme, the personnel, everyone knows the issue of [Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald] 99. I was very happy with him. I thought he protected the ball well. I know he had that unfortunate pick while off the tip, but he also made some plays for us, too. The play that he made at the end of the second quarter, scrambling and we didn't end up getting points there. He got us into field goal range and made a hell of a play there and was one of the reasons we were able to win."
Is it easier to get buy-in from guys given the fact that you guys are still in the playoff race here, as opposed to maybe in a different situation where there wasn't as much to play for in December?
"We'll see that as the week goes, I mean, as the year goes with these last five games, but I think we have real good buy-in from our guys. I think just the way that they play, regardless of the situation, I think you guys can see that, but I do think it's human nature. The season's tough and it is a grind in all aspects every year and especially with this year, as much as anything I've ever seen. So, you've got to go through it. It's always tough, but when there's more rewards and you're seeing there you are in the fight, human nature is a lot more excited to, I mean, it's easier to go through the grind when you have a chance to get into the tournament at the end. Once you don't, we're professionals, this is what we do, so I don't expect anything to fall off, but I know it's a hell of a lot more fun and a lot easier to go through that grind and go through some of the stuff when you've got a chance to extend your season at the end.”
Now that some of the shock has worn off, what's the chatter been like in between people in the organization? Is there a reframing that maybe you guys can get something positive out of this as far as a galvanizing experience, like training camp? I guess it's often said that guys can bond when they're kind of in that same spot.
"Honestly, no. None at all. We're not allowed to bond in those spots. That's what guys did for 30 minutes after dinner after the New Orleans game and that's what got us a couple positive tests during our bye week. We don't have tables out where they can eat, so people don't hang out. The place that we bond is really on the field or in Zoom meetings. Just because we're in a hotel together, doesn't mean we're together. We're quarantined, just like we're self-quarantined, to me, like all businesses are right now. I'm watching all you guys work from your home. That's really what we do and when we go to work. The guys are sitting in their hotel rooms and everything, we just meet out on the practice field. I don't think you're going to get any extra bonding. I think guys got to pull together. I think we need each other through this and it's going to be about five more weeks and hopefully if we do it right, we can make it longer, but I don't see it like training camp."
I have two questions. One, and I don't know if you can answer this, but do you have any idea of the size of your traveling party that is going to be going in addition to obviously the team and the coaches, how much staff is going? My other question is since that three-week window ends in the middle of between two away games and the second one is in Arizona, I know you're taking it one week at a time, but do you think it's likely you guys, if allowed, would come back here and then go back to Arizona or do you think you might be in Arizona for the duration?
"I really can't predict and I don't try to predict any decisions on what or how the county's going to go, whether the 21st is going to be the end date that we're okay or whether it's not. So, I try not to worry about that at all. I just try to tell our guys that I don't care what happens, we're not going to spend Christmas without our families. We'll figure it out. That's really what I try to give to everyone just so they can say that to their families, because I think that is a concern. We had our game on the 27th, it got moved to the 26th, so we were going to be traveling to Arizona Christmas afternoon anyways. So, if we are able to come back and then go right back out, I don't know what that deal is, but I know our organization, they'll do whatever they can to figure out whether we're here with our families for that week or whether we have to get all of them to us and go through whatever we have to do to do that. I know that'll be worth it. I know [chief executive officer] Jed [York] will help us out with that. So, that helps us a little bit, but after that, I'm not trying to make any plans because as you've got to do with everything, we've got to wait to see the rules and then we'll figure it out."
The size of the traveling party, do you have any idea?
"No, I don't know. I'm not sure of that. You go to all the trainers to our cooks to everyone. What you've got to do at this time of the year, it's very tough to get a player through a season. So, just the stuff they do, the people that they work with, it's been a challenge just Monday and Tuesday, all the stuff they go through because the whole NFL shut down. So, now Wednesday, we'll get up there a little bit before we go to see some of their guys, but whether we have guys here we consistently work with, we're going to have to take them into a protocol out there and get them out there to go through some stuff. The guys that can't do that, we're going to have to get some recommendations from people in Arizona, locally, people their players and teams use, guys that our guys talk to and hear good things about that. If we want to get those guys in to work with our players and everything, they'll go through a process where we can get them tested and everything and see if it's safe to get them in but those are the adjustments that just make it a little uncomfortable for some of the guys. But, that's why I know with our travel party, I don't have a number for you, but that's why we try to bring everybody that we can because it's a huge business to make it work and we've got to get all those people out there."
Do you have any further understanding on the status of WR Brandon Aiyuk and the two other guys on the COVID list?
"Yeah, my understanding is they'll all be off it today. Tomorrow the players are having a little bit of a workout, just because they've been away from each other since the game, and then we're going to get on the plane. And my understanding is that he should be good to go and all those guys totally normal for practice on Thursday."
What challenges do you see from the Bills ahead?
"They've got a real good team. You can see from their record, they've been doing it a number of years. I've gone against [Buffalo Bills head coach] Sean [McDermott] a lot in the past, just being in his division as a coordinator and stuff like that when he was at Carolina. They're very well coached, very sound. They have a lot of talent there on defense and on offense, starting with their quarterback to some of the players they have on defense. It's not a surprise at all why they have such a good record and it's why they're going to probably be a contender here throughout the rest of the season. So, we've got a huge challenge ahead of us."
Do you have an update on DL Dee Ford? Is there a chance for him to play in this season?
"It's not looking like it. I'm not going to say no for sure. We're holding out hope, but it's not looking like it."
With what happened with the Broncos last week, has there been any further thought on doing a quarantine quarterback and also if you found yourself in a situation like that, who is your emergency quarterback?
"We've got a couple of choices. They fight over it, but it's been [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice. He takes a lot of pride in that, but now that [RB Jerick McKinnon] Jet's back and no offense Juice, but Jet played quarterback in college. So, I'm probably going to go with Jet. Hopefully it never comes down to that. I know people think you should just quarantine a quarterback and just have him sitting there in a room, just on ice, ready to come out when time's needed. If it gets to that point, I feel bad for that guy too. You can't just go into an NFL game after being locked in a room for weeks until you're needed and think you're going to go out there and perform much better than a practice squad receiver would at quarterback. That sounds nice, but if it gets to that point, no answer is very good. So, you just deal with it."
It feels like WR Deebo Samuel has this Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry type effect when defenders make business decisions on him. It seems like the more he touches the ball, the more guys are reluctant to tackle him. Do you see that type of effect on Deebo and was wondering, when he's breaking tackles, do you feel like that energy rub off on him on the sideline?
"Oh, yeah. Without a doubt. It rubs off on me. I think it rubs off on our fans. I know it rubs off on our players and it hurts to tackle people. Like, I don't care how you are, if you've ever played football. That's why you wake up the next thing, you don't totally feel right. When you have a receiver who is so fearless and physical, and also when you hit him, probably feels similar to hitting a fullback, that can really wear on a team and it brings a mentality to our offense that is huge. That's what we were hoping for when we took him, we wanted that physicality and stuff in him. We thought we needed that and he's brought that a ton and that's why when he's out there, no matter where he's at, he always helps us. That's why I'm very excited about Deebo and excited about getting Aiyuk back and just the more these guys can play together, the more they can get out there. They're made of the right stuff. They're built the right way and they'll only get better because how they are, their character and stuff. I just want to get them going and every time Deebo gets going and we've had a little bit of a setback, but you guys see how much he helped us and how much he has every time he's been in. It's a lot more fun to have him out there."
Do you expect C Weston Richburg or DL Ronald Blair to be able to play this season?
"I don't. Both of them had really bad setbacks with the stuff that happened in their surgeries. I know both of them, I mean, they're still around. I see them every day. I see them on every Zoom meeting. I see them leaving rehab all the time. I know they both are trying as hard as anyone, but it's not looking very good right now."
Last year during the stretch run, you said you didn't really look at the standings and that was something you only really did over the final weeks. Just given where you guys are now, are you spending more time looking at the standings and what's your approach to that?
"I promise, I haven't looked at it at all. Also, because everyone else does, so I get to hear them tell me all the time. So, there's lots of counters and watch stuff. I've always my whole life, just my whole football career. I've always looked at it as 10 wins get you in and that's kind of how I've always based it off. I know there's some seasons that 10 wins doesn't. I remember New England, 11 and 5 didn't get in one year. I think 10 and 6 didn't last year, maybe. But, I've always looked at it that way. That's why I always keep it there until the end. And then when you get right down there to the last couple of games, you know if that's going to work or not."
You've played a number of games over the years in Glendale. What are your thoughts on that stadium and on that field? What are your thoughts on basically your new home over the next few weeks?
"I like the stadiums. Seems nice, clean. Glad that there's not Cardinals fans in there when we're the home team. So, that'll be good and the field's fast. I've always liked that and it's nice weather. So, I think it's as good of a situation as we could have. I'm pumped that they made it so convenient for us. I think it's really as good as it can get and it could be a lot worse, so I'm real excited about it."