HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"As a football coach, we like practice. Practice is always good, players like it too. Practice does have a little bit different feel when you have a special guest come back. We've been praying for John (Metchie III) and watching him deal with a tough illness, but it's good for the team to see him back in the full. Once you get to these practices, too, this will be a typical Friday practice for final work. This is isn't typical because we have an early game, but we're excited about playing the 49ers. They're a good football team, a tough football team. It will be good for us to see exactly how we match up against one of the better teams in the league."
How does it feel having WR John Metchie III out at practice today, and what does it mean for the culture of this team?
"Normally, on most teams I've been with, it's a tight knit group. There is a brotherhood, and you care. He is family. Everybody, of course, realizes what John is going through. A visual means an awful lot. That special smile that he has, it was good for everybody to see it today."
What would you like to see from the running backs, in particular, that you haven't seen already?
"Running backs in all positions, it's a good football team, we're going to play more. We're going to just see exactly where we are, all those practices we've put in. This will be the last dress rehearsal before they count, so that's what we're going to see. Running back position of course is a big part of that."
What have you seen from RB Dameon Pierce in practice?
"We've seen everything you need to see from a good running back. He can catch the ball. He can run in between tackles. He'll make you miss in the open field. Pads down low, there's a lot of things to like about Dameon (Pierce)."
What do the rest of the running backs in the room need to do to set themselves apart?
"Play better. It is that simply, really. It's about production when you get opportunities, flash. Show us your best. At the end of training camp, the best of everyone is what we should've seen. If not, one last time to show us."
Do you have a set number of players you'd like to keep on the defensive line and linebackers?
"Yeah, we have a set number, but numbers are always flexible a little bit. I'll talk gameday more than just keeping. Gameday most of the time, we're going to dress at least eight defensive linemen. We're going to dress at least six linebackers. From there, the numbers get a little bit flexible."
When was the first time you recall thinking RB Dameon Pierce is special?
"Early on, we did a lot of work on him coming in. We've seen his highlights, the best of him in college we saw. That's on your mind. Then when he gets here, he was just eager. Every time the special teams work and you see him out here working, and then when he started playing. Early on there were signs, but you had to get in pads. Then, we liked some things he did in pads. Training camp, we're not doing a lot of live work. You get to the first game and you see what a player is like, live action. We've liked him every step along the way. We're talking a lot about Dameon, but I'm going to say the same thing for, we like what Marlon (Mack) has done, Royce (Freeman), Rex (Burkhead), Dare (Ogunbowale). We have a good group. We have a good strong running back room."
Will DL Ross Blacklock play in Thursday's game?
"He will not play in this game."
What about OL Kenyon Green?
"Kenyon has made a lot of progress. He'll play. He won't start, but we're going to get him into the mix. He's right on schedule."
How much do the new practice squad rules factor into you and GM Nick Caserio building the 53-man roster?
"A lot goes into it. I know most people say okay, you've got to get down to 53. No, we see 53, 16 practice squad players and one international player, so a 70-man roster is what we're looking at. We're doing whatever we can to try to keep those 70 strong that we're going to need going into the season."
DB STEVEN NELSON
What was it like to have WR John Metchie III here at practice today?
"It was good. Good to have his presence. Some of the guys haven't seen him in a while. Just kind of want to see how he's doing and glad that he's in good spirits."
We've seen some interceptions from you in practice. It's not a new thing for you, but how are you putting it together?
"It's been going good. I'm really pleased with myself. At this point in the process, you never want to kind of peak too early, so I kind of feel like I'm hitting at the perfect time."
As a veteran, how do you approach your relationship with DB Derek Stingley?
"Just being a guy he could come to, whether it's on or off the field. That's what I had in Eric Berry when I was in my rookie campaign. Just kind of being a big brother figure to him, and the rest is history. He can play ball the way he's supposed to play ball."
Has there been a bunch of battles between WR Brandin Cooks out here?
"Yeah, me and (Brandin) Cooks go way back, as some of you know. Very competitive guy. I'm a competitive guy. For the most part, it's about getting us both better and prepared for the season."
How did the team feel seeing WR John Metchie III?
"It gave us a lot of hope to see him in good spirits. When you have cancer like that, that can bring, especially a young guy, down, anybody for that matter. But it was good seeing him."
What's it like to see the defense come together in the last game?
"It was good to kind of see a glimpse of what we could be and what this defensive team could be like moving forward. To get that going in the preseason, it's good to see."
What have you seen from your front seven?
"Those guys are workaholics, man. They're all dogs. They all want to get better. They all want to light up that stat sheet, man. So, hey, go ahead. It's fine by me."
Which of the wide receivers has surprised you so far, especially the young guys?
"Obviously Nico Collins has made some big plays in camp. You saw a big catch he made in the preseason. It's a lot of guys, a lot of young guys. (Jalen) Camp has done some great things in camp. That's funny, Camp and camp. It's a ton of guys. I can't just name them all, but they've all been doing pretty well."
Who is the toughest guy to cover on the team?
"They all come with their own skill set. I think every receiver is challenging because as a DB, we're going backwards, and they know what they're going to do. That's where I'll leave that at."
Being a veteran cornerback, how do you help develop DB Derek Stingley Jr. for going against bigger guys like WR Nico Collins and speedy guys like WR Brandin Cooks?
"Help him understand formation-wise, personnel-wise, down and distance. It's a lot of things that goes into it. Pretty much telling him how the offense is going to attack at any given point. That's my biggest thing, to try to help him out with."
LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
How important is this last preseason game?
"This game is just a good game to get everything fine-tuned. We've been working hard all preseason just trying to get all the guys in there and working together. It will be pretty important.
How are you feeling and moving?
"I feel good. I'm just trying to perfect my craft, and just keep getting better every week."
How did it feel to have so much penetration and sacks against the Los Angeles Rams?
"That was good to see. As a linebacker, to see the D-line getting home, that's exciting for us. We're happy about it."
Maybe some blitzes for you?
"Maybe we can dial some of those up. That would be nice."
What did it mean to see WR John Metchie III out at practice today?
"It was awesome. I can't even imagine what he's going though. To see him out and see him doing so well, is amazing. Such a blessing. He's such a great guy."
What does it do for the team?
"It makes us take a look at all of us. We take this for granted a lot and for a guy like (John) Metchie just to wake up one day and his whole life is different, for now. It's a blessing to be out here and were excited to see him grow and continue to get better."
How does DB Desmond King II's familiarity and versatility help the defense and secondary?
"It's a great thing. I think a lot of corners struggle to play nickel because they don't understand how to play zone defense. In the slot, it's like playing linebacker. But Des (Desmond King II) can do it all, to have that versatility to go back and forth, just keeps offenses guessing."
What do you think of the immediate impact that DB Derek Stingley Jr. and DB Jalen Pitre can make in the secondary?
"Those guys can run. They are smart, young guys. They are ahead of the game for sure. I'm excited for the year."
What do the details in your tattoos mean?
"All biblical. Just what's really important to me. My story and things I relate to."
How many hours did your tattoos take?
"All of this was probably 24 (hours)."
"No, I broke it up in different days."
What's the message you're trying to send to rookies in their final preseason game?
"For me, being a lower drafted guy and someone that was waived and then picked up, I relate a lot to those guys that are trying to make the team. Just letting it loose and not having any regrets. Just letting them know that they've been putting in the hard work and to keep dominating."
What have you seen from LB Christian Harris?
"He's impressive, just the way he can move. The way he runs. He's an athlete and I can honestly say I haven't seen many people like him before. I'm excited to get him back."
OL TYTUS HOWARD
Did you get a chance to talk or interact with WR John Metchie III today?
"I haven't gotten the chance to talk to him, but he seemed like he's in good spirits. If he's happy, that's good for me and good for him."
What does it mean to have him out there?
"It means a lot, man. He's going through a lot right now. The testimony to him that he's out here supporting us, what we've got going on. It was good to see him, and I hope I get a chance to catch up with him in the locker room."
How does it pump you guys up?
"It pumped us up pretty good. It's the last preseason game of the year. We got to set a tone. We're looking to go 3-0. I think the team is excited going into the weekend, trying to get a win."
How much does seeing WR John Metchie III out here help you?
"That's what I was saying. It felt good to see him out here. He pumped us up so we can have a good game this weekend. Hopefully we can go out and get the win for him this weekend."
As a former first round draft pick, what advice would give to OL Kenyon Green going into his first game?
"I would say be calm. We've been playing this game for a long time. The level gets harder and harder as you increase it. Kenyon is a good player. There's a reason he was taken 15th overall. He needs to go out there and play his game, be calm, just let the older guys talk to him, get him going. I think he'll do a good job."
What does it feel like to watch RB Dameon Pierce run and see him working?
"Dameon is going to do a lot of special things for this team. I remember being on the sideline, I wasn't here when he made those runs in the first week, but I was excited. We haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher here since 2019 with Carlos Hyde. To see a rookie come in and make those type of plays the first time getting the ball, he's going to be something special."
How much does having OL Laremy Tunsil and OL Justin Britt out there help the offense?
"It's always good to have two of your players out there, two older vets. J.B. (Justin Britt) has been the center here for the past two years. He's going to set the tempo. Laremy (Tunsil) is a great player. He's going to lock down whoever is over here. To have the whole starting offensive line out there, we should have some elite play out there this weekend."
What's that relationship like between you and OL Laremy Tunsil?
"We're friends here and outside of here. It's always good to develop friendships outside of football, and I think me and him have got that. It only helps us when we're on the field. Like I said, you can get criticism from your coaches and stuff like that, but nothing is like when your teammates can critique you and help you with stuff. I think it just feels different when you get it from your teammates. Me and Laremy (Tunsil), we're good friends. He's helped me a lot since he came here early on in my career, so it's good to have him here."
What would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned from OL Laremy Tunsil as a tackle?
"The main thing is don't try to change my game to try to be like somebody else. Just develop my own game, be my own self when I'm out there on the field. I think that's something I've honed in on since I've been at tackle, just developing my own game, being myself, and letting it come to me."
How does it feel to get those reps at your natural position?
"It feels good. I was just telling them I'm excited to get out there and prove that I'm one of the best in the league. I think that this preseason I'm getting a chance to show that. I think this season is going to be a good testimony to show you all that I'm one of the best."
How can the preseason victory actually set the tone for this upcoming season?
"It's always good to win. By going 3-0 in the preseason, it just gives us confidence. If they're playing their one's and two's, we can get a lot done as a team. Our defense has been playing great all preseason. So offense, I think we can do a better job of putting more points on the board, eliminating turnovers, running the ball better. I think we keep on building this momentum for the preseason, it's going to just go in for Week 1 against the Colts."
Seeing the way that QB Davis Mills and the offense clicked on Friday night against the Los Angeles Rams, how does that set the tone going into the regular season?
"I think the number one thing when I see that, if we give him (Davis Mills) time, he can make all the throws. If we're doing our job up front, those guys that coach has put behind us, they're going to get the job done, but it starts with our front. Whether it's offense or defense, we've just got to win our front first."
Would you say it's as important for you to have clean blocks and pass protection as it is for QB Davis Mills to make the right reads?
"Yes, sir, no doubt."
Where does the aggressiveness come from?
"I've just always been like that. I had an older brother when I was a kid. Everybody knows when you've got an older brother and you're the younger brother, I was smaller than my brother growing up, I had to have that little extra 'oomph' in me to fight with him. I just carried it over to football. It's all about finishing. When you finish people and you block them and get a pancake, it just gives you more momentum for the next play. I try to get those type of plays to give me more momentum to finish the game out even stronger."
Do you feel you have a point to prove coming from an HBCU?
"Obviously I have more to prove to myself than what people have to say because I really don't care what people have to say about me. All I care is what my coaches feel and how I feel as a player. When I look at the film, I critique myself, my coaches critique me. That's more of the thing I need to improve on. I really don't care about what they say. So probably not."
Do you have a friendly competition you wager on with OL Laremy Tunsil?
"We like to play cards. We love playing cards, play tunk, play spades. We get the chance to vibe, talk, have a good time. I think that's probably the one thing we like to do."
Can't get him on the ping pong table?
"He can't play ping pong with me. I'm a demon."
What is it about these games that can help you connect?
"I don't know if you ever played card games when you were growing up, but when you're playing cards, you get to have fun, talk about stuff that doesn't have anything to do about football, just talk about real personal life stuff. When we play cards, we're having a good time, just be chilling, vibing, getting a mental space outside of football, and I think that's good for us."