Transcripts: 12-29-2021 Press Conferences 

HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY

Opening Statement

"I just want to (give) condolences to the Madden family. The Hall of Fame coach, broadcaster, EA Sports Madden game, obviously meant a lot to this game and meant a lot to us as coaches with what he represented and what he portrayed as a coach and as a human being. He'll be missed, and a big part of this game is John Madden. I know for me coming through this business, he'll be sorely missed."

Can you remember the first time you heard of John Madden? What were your thoughts about him as a broadcaster, especially?

"I hope nobody gets mad at me, but as I was growing up I was an Oakland Raiders fan all the way back to when he was coaching there, and always have been. I love what they're all about, from Al Davis to John Madden. He's always, to me, represented what an NFL coach is supposed to be about in this business. He carried himself that way. Once he retired from coaching, I think he only coached about 10 years in the game, he went into broadcasting. In broadcasting, he became a must-see on Monday Night Football. Any time he was announcing, it was just as important to hear what he had to say as much as watching the game. But he was a big influence and I love what he represented and what he was all about."

What are the things you've seen that make QB Davis Mills a mature quarterback?

"His composure. He never gets rattled. He has that calm demeanor about him. He's always thinking about things and he's always learning. That's the big thing that I've seen that's been so consistent with him is just the way he carries himself, the way he wants to learn. He doesn't go through highs and lows as a player, he doesn't go through highs and lows even as a person when you're around him. He seems to be the same guy all the time, and I've seen him that way as a player here."

In what ways has QB Davis Mills sought out to learn from you and others?

"First of all, he watches film unbelievably and I think he got that from Tyrod (Taylor), just the way Tyrod had prepared. He's seen how that happens and he's always in there, he's always asking questions. He's always wanting to know about why they do certain things on defense, why we're doing certain things on offense. He always has a 'why' for everything that we're doing because he wants to know exactly what the adjustments are going to be, why we're doing certain things. That's where I see a lot of maturity in him."

What do you guys do as you prepare for Trey Lance? What do you think about this matchup of two rookie quarterbacks?

"To me, we don't look at it as being about our guy and their guy. We look at it as being about the 49ers. What we will do, though, is we'll go back and look during the preseason when Trey (Lance) played quite a bit and kind of look and see if they did things any differently. But I do know Kyle (Shanahan)'s offense has been the same through his whole career as a coordinator. Obviously, they're going to run what they run and they'll use their quarterback with what they feel like he does best for them."

Do you expect some players back from the Reserve/COVID-19 List today? Who would those guys be?

"I don't know exactly who they are going to be. It depends on, we're still doing testing. But we do expect some of those guys back. I don't know the exact number or who it will be, but we are expecting some of those guys back."

DeMeco Ryans is in his first year as the 49ers Defensive Coordinator and they are playing well right now. When you are going up against a first-time play caller, how do you handle that situation not knowing what their tendencies will be?

"Well the thing about them is that they have been pretty consistent all year long about how they do things. We do know this about them, that they are one of the least teams in the league in blitzing and those kinds of things but what they do is, they keep the ball in front. They play good team defense. I know he's been influenced by a couple of guys who were on that staff before that and are now a head coach. They basically are just playing the defense the way they've been playing it and we just expect it to be what we've been seeing on video for him to do the same thing."

TE Brevin Jordan was a healthy scratch at the beginning of the season and now he has established himself as an important piece of the offense. Can you talk about how important it is for a rookie to not jump in right away and take a moment to learn the game from a far?

"Well at that time, he didn't know what he didn't know and he was learning. He watched the veteran guys that were in front of him. We got three of them in front of him that are basically pros, that do things the right way. He's actually just waited his turn, waited his turn. I'll tell you what he did. The whole time in practice he practiced as if someday he was going to have that opportunity. He did a lot of stuff on our show team, did very well and as the year went on and you started to see him get a little better. You started to see him get a little more comfortable. Obviously, the opportunity presented itself for him to come in and play, and he's taken advantage of that and done a really good job."

What does it mean to you seeing DB Tavierre Thomas named AFC Defensive Player of the Week?

"Very well deserving. Not only did he get the pick-six, but he played very well defensively for us. He led our team in tackles, he was around the ball. He's been playing that way all year long. For him to go in and do that, I tell you what, he was well deserving of the award."

As a coach over the past several decades, how have you seen John Madden's influence on players in the NFL?

"The thing about him was, I wouldn't know if you call him a player's coach, but I do know this: If I remember correctly, I knew some guys that kind of played for him and coached with him, and he was more or less like a screamer. Let me tell you what he did, though. He loved his players. On the field, off the field, they knew he had their back. He was just one of those guys. I know everybody's heard the story about Darryl Stingley, there's been others. That's John Madden. He was more than just a great football coach in this league. He was a great human being, humanitarian. He was just a guy who loved all his players and loved everything about this game."

How do you think the wide receivers stepped up with WR Brandin Cooks out? Will Cooks be back?

"We're hoping Brandin will be back this week. We anticipate him being back. Because of guys like Brandin, because of the way he's been as a leader on this football team, those young guys, plus Chris Conley, Chris Moore, (Phillip) Dorsett, those guys that have come in here, those guys are all pros. They know that obviously, when their opportunity comes up to be able to play, they know what's expected of them. Brandin's leadership all year long, I think it just helped those guys become what they were and be able to go out and play the way they've played for us and help us win football games."

What does it say about QB Davis Mills that he is the highest-rated quarterback in the red zone? Other than needing to get in the red zone more, what does that say about his decision making and playing?

"I agree with one thing you said, we do need to get in the red zone more. I'd like to think that if we get in the red zone more and he's still taking care of the football, which is what he's been doing, that just speaks for it. I think more than anything that speaks for when we do get down there, Tim (Kelly) and our offensive staff have done a really good job of being able to attack what they do down there. Obviously, the field gets shrunk, things happen much quicker. With a rookie quarterback and things happening quicker down there, it's very important that you make good decisions. He's done a good job of doing that. He did a really good job of doing that last week."

What do you see from Nick Bosa as a blocking assignment for your guys?

"You've got to account for him every play. He's one of the most disruptive players in this league on defense. I think he has 15 sacks, he leads the league in tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He's just a great player and we're going to account for him. Obviously, we'll have a plan to be able to take care of him and not let him wreck the game for us."

DB DESMOND KING II

What does it feel like being at practice with all the players being back at practice today?

"It's definitely helpful for the team to see everybody coming back from off the list and getting guys out there running around. Just getting back acclimated to the team and the playbook."

How much have you been able to look at the film of Trey Lance? What do you think of him as a quarterback?

"We're just going to take it day by day and be prepared for who is going to be out there. We know Jimmy (Garoppolo) is going to be down so we have to dig deep into the film study and see what Trey gives us for the game."

What were your reflections when you heard that John Madden passed?

"I saw it via social media and just seeing that, it's very iconic person, a legend to the game of football. Someone that made this game fun that turned it into a video game. Everybody that plays the sport knows how much he meant the game of football. Very sad about it, just knowing what he did for the game and for us."

What was your connection to John Madden?

"I'm still young, but I had a little knowledge on him. Him being an iconic coach, the Raiders' head coach and like I said, just creating the video game, Madden, that's been around for years. It gives us that spark when we go out there on the field. When you see yourself do it in the video game, so you want to go do it in real life. That's what it gives me and it gives me that type of feeling."

Do you still play Madden?

"Oh, all the time. Can't be beat."

How do you prepare for Deebo Samuel's versatility?

"We've faced multiple guys with that type of caliber, just with Jacksonville how they have Laviska (Shenault Jr.). Same kind of built type guy. Deebo is a very special person. He is a guy that can have the ball in his hands. He can catch the ball. He's a gadget guy so we are going to have to be prepared for what he has coming to the table."

What are some of the challenges that go into preparing for Trey Lance when there is not much film on him?

"Like I said before, just dig deep into the film study this week and see what kind of keys we can read off of him going into Sunday."

What's the feeling like around the building being on a two-game winning streak and to be finishing the season strong?

"Just getting ourselves on the right track going into next year and just putting our best foot forward. We want to still put good film on tape. We want to still go out there and win. That's the goal each and every week. That's our approach and we are going to keep doing that." 

What did you think about DB Tavierre Thomas being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week?

"All he needed was a chance and he seized it. That was his opportunity to go out there and showcase his talent. We've been talking about it for years ever since we were little. This was his opportunity. He did it on the main stage."

What have you seen from QB Davis Mills in practice?

"He's young. Every young guy is going to go through some trials and tribulations, some obstacles and it is just giving him time to learn and see what he can do better for himself and I've seen it. We played against him in camp. He was here for camp, preseason and I can see the progression that he has made throughout the week, throughout the year. It's coming along and I am proud of him." 

How have you seen QB Davis Mills grow into his personality?

"Just watching how he walks around the facility, his film studying. I see him in here every morning, early either working out, watching film or getting his body right in the training room. That's something that you can see from a young guy that's coming to this team and knowing what to do and the right things to do."

QB DAVIS MILLS

What's it going to be like going back to the Bay Area where you played college football?

"It's exciting to get back out there to California. It's pretty far from here in Texas and it was far from where I grew up in Atlanta, so it's good to get back across the country and play on the west coast. I'm excited, but when it comes down to it, it's just like any other game, any other week, we're preparing the same."

What are some of the things you do when an opponent has a pass rusher as good as Nick Bosa?

"Big thing is just knowing where he's at on the field, being able to mix up the cadence so he can't get a jump on our offensive linemen and beat him off the ball. Also, we have protection stuff where we can get a little help to our tackles if he's coming off the edge too fast, so we'll be able to figure it out that way."

What was the jump like going from Georgia to California?

"It was cool. Obviously, the weather and the campus out there is beautiful. I wasn't really missing the heat from back in Georgia. But the biggest thing, my family flew out as much as they could to come see me when I was playing. I tried to get back as much as I could when we had an off weekend or extended break. When it came down to it, I felt Stanford was the best fit and it didn't really matter where it was in the country because it's the best school in the country. Going out there was an awesome experience and it's exciting to go back to the area this weekend."

In the time since your first start, how much do you sense you have grown in your command in the offense?

"It's definitely grown. Obviously, the coaches are still the ones out there calling the plays and I'm just echoing it to the team and making audibles or changes at the line if needed within the scheme. But I think the most growth in that regard is just my knowledge of the offense, being able to go out there and play fast rather than having to hear a play call and then try to picture it in my head, think of what step drop I have, things like that. I'm just able to go out there and play faster, and I guess that leads to better execution."

Have you noticed anything different with the atmosphere of the team being on a winning streak?

"Obviously, winning's a lot better than losing. I guess there's just morale in the locker room that everyone's excited to keep this win streak alive, keep going and attacking each week with that relentless attitude."

When you were going through the NFL Combine, were you ever contacted by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch?

"No, I actually wasn't."

How do you prepare for a linebacker like Fred Warner?

"A lot of it, like with (Nick) Bosa, just knowing where they're at on the field. A lot of it is with scheme. We're able to do some stuff with backfield actions, play actions, and just make a lot of things look similar but end up in a different result or a different place. Just keep those guys guessing as much as possible so that we can slow them down."

What was it like to get WR Brandin Cooks and other players back at practice today?

"It'll be exciting to have him back, obviously. Brandin was back, Justin Britt was back and a bunch of others. The team's coming back together and everyone's excited to attack it moving forward."

What were your biggest memories of working through your injuries at Stanford?

"Really, I got hurt senior year of high school and then again freshman year at Stanford. When you're injured, you're going through the rehab process and you're not really out there practicing with the team every day. So, I was away from football for an elongated period of time and it really just gave me the time to think, 'Why am I out here at Stanford? Why am I playing football?' And it ultimately led to my conclusion of just football is the thing I want to do for my future. I love playing and this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing if I'm able to do that. It allowed me to come to that conclusion and then ultimately realized that I've just got to put my head down and get to work, and eventually my opportunity will come and I'll have to take advantage of it."

Was there a moment when that conclusion clicked?

"Pretty shortly after I got hurt that second time. It was within probably the week following before surgery I realized like, 'Okay, what's the next step?' I was always a logical thinker, so I was like, 'Okay what's my future going to look like and how can I make what I want to happen?'"

How early do you get here in the morning, and how have you tried to learn like Head Coach David Culley has said?

"The biggest thing is just setting that routine from early on. That was a big thing the IMPACT team talked about when we got here as rookies during rookie minicamp was kind of find your way and become what everyone says is a pro's pro, and that was my way of doing it. Try to be, as a quarterback, one of the first guys in the building and be one of the last ones out. Just be scheduled and film study, taking care of my body, pretty good diet, eating healthy, eating the right things. It led us this far and it's been working obviously the past two weeks, so we've just got to keep it rolling."

When you were debating whether or not to go pro, do you think there was more you could've built on in college?

"I thought about going back to school, but there were a lot of uncertainties at the time with COVID protocols, especially out in California, Santa Clara County. I think the 49ers had similar protocols that we had at Stanford where basically if you left the state and came back, you'd have to quarantine for two weeks, stuff like that. So, I didn't know if I'd get a full spring ball or offseason to train and keep getting better. Ultimately, I felt like I had enough on tape to give myself a shot for a team to take the chance on me, and I ended up in Houston and here we are."

Did you have a chance to meet any of the other quarterbacks in your draft class? Do you feel a kinship with others in your draft class, and do you look at what the others are doing?

"To answer the first part, I met a couple of them. I trained with Mac Jones down in Mobile for Combine training. I knew Trevor (Lawrence) a little bit growing up, but really haven't met the other guys other than the ones I kind of ran into a little bit at camps growing up in high school. Yeah, I like to keep up to date with how the guys across the league are doing. Not just rookies, but other quarterbacks across the league and see how everyone plays each week and kind of go back in the offseason, watch some different guys on film and see if I can pull some things from other people's games and add it to my own to make myself better."

DB TAVIERRE THOMAS

What did you think about being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week?

"Happy. Too happy. Glad it came when it came, when we got a win. I'm just going to continue do what I do and go out there and continue to show people who I am on and off the field."

I wouldn't think you could be too happy doing something like that?

"I kind of knew yesterday, but when I woke up and I actually saw it, it was amazing. Just to see that and see my mom, my family and my teammates happy for me and my coaches texting me this morning. It was nice. It was great."

You tweeted the other day about making the Pro Bowl next year. How important is goal setting even after what you just accomplished, and have you been doing it your whole career?

"Yeah, it's something I always wanted to be in. As a special teams guy, I always wanted to go to the Pro Bowl, but we had (Matthew) Slater in the AFC when I was in Cleveland. He beat me out every year. That's one of my big goals. Now playing defense, my goal is to be there with Denzel (Ward). That's one of my boys, Denzel Ward. He's going to his second one. Proud of him. So, I am trying to get there with him. If I can do that, that will be another goal checked off my list."

What have you picked up from the coaches including Cornerbacks Coach Dino Vasso?

"They help me out a lot. I am with Lovie (Smith) a lot, but Dino, he's with me as well because I have to play corner if something were to happen, so he is on me about that. I have to be ready to play all positions. He (Dino) keeps me right. Lovie is like a father figure. Dino is like a big brother and a coach at the same time. Just having those two guys it helps me each and every day to become a better player."

What were your thoughts on John Madden? How did you find out about him?

"I knew about him from actually playing the game. My mom, when we had enough money to buy video games, the first game she bought me was Madden. I don't know what made her want me to play football but, all of my brothers are 6'4", 6'5" and I was always the little one, so she always dressed me in football jerseys and stuff. For Christmas once we could afford it, she would buy me all of the Madden games. I used to play Madden all day long. Just to see what he's done for the game, it's amazing. Prayed for his family last night when I saw it. So, I'm just continuing to pray for his family and just thank you for everything he's done for the game of football."

You said you weren't sure why your mom wanted you to play football. Did playing Madden help you realize maybe this could be something?

"Oh yeah, for sure. When I was playing, I was like I just want to do it. When she put it on me, she put it on me, 'You got to play football.' I took all of my anger out. I like football because I can take my anger out without getting in trouble for it. So, I just went out and played football and what not. I used to create my player. Just to see myself now actually in the game it's an amazing feeling. So, just happy."

Do you crank all of the things up to 99?

"All 99s and I played offense."

What position?

"Quarterback. I played quarterback in high school. I got an arm. You can ask the coaches and the players. I hit the crossbar every Saturday before every game."

You and OL Tytus Howard?

"Me, Tytus, D-Walk (DeMarcus Walker). It's probably just us there. Everyone else it will take them too long to hit it."

Do you remember what year Madden your mom got you?

"The first one was the one with Ray Lewis on it. 2005."

How much are you going to use not being in the Pro Bowl this year as motivation for next year?

"I don't feel like I've been snubbed because there is a pretty good guy in Kenny Moore in the AFC. He's real good. Look up to him. Just learning the game from him and the other guys. I'm finally getting my opportunity to play defense and I just want to continue to show everyone that I can actually do it. So, when the opportunity comes next year, I hope my name gets called for the Pro Bowl slot corner."

Have you noticed any inconsistencies with the rookie quarterbacks you guys have played? What have you seen on film from Trey Lance with the minimal snap he's played?

"Like I said yesterday, he's top three picks in the NFL draft so we know what he can do. He probably hasn't played a lot because he is behind a veteran, but when you are that top guy in the draft, we know that you are good. Just got to go out there and just try to pick up a little bit of keys that we can play off of and just go from there. Just go out and play, read our keys and play hard."

DB Desmond King II told us he can't be beat in Madden. What do you think about that?

"We play every other day because he's always sleeping or doing something when I want to play. He called me in the middle of the night and I beat him. When we play for money, I win. When we play for fun, he wins because there is no prize. He ain't ready for me though. He's scared to play for money. He only wants to play for fun, play for pride, trying to post me on social media. So today when I get home, I'm going straight home and playing Madden and I'm going to beat him."

What's the score prediction?

"I'm going to win, 28-14."

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