Q: Kyle Juszczyk has had a nice career for himself, obviously coming from Harvard. What do you remember about scouting him, being that he was at a local school here, and how did you project his possible fit in the NFL?
BB: Kyle's had a very good career and he's a versatile player. When he was with the Ravens, they used him in a lot of different ways, and then San Francisco signed on to a big contract for a fullback – certainly the highest paid player at his position by quite a bit, if I remember correctly – and he continues to be used in a variety of ways. He plays quite a bit as a traditional fullback, carries the ball some, but he's also out of the backfield kind of as a tight end would be in 12 personnel. So, when he's in the game, you really don't know for sure whether they're in 21, 12, or sometimes even an 11 personnel look. The players are still the players, but they are able to move him around to create the appearance of being in a different personnel group and they are running plays that go with 11 and 12 personnel, as well as their 21 plays. But, he's an excellent receiver. He's made some big plays in the passing game. He's a pretty good runner with the ball in his hands and he's got good size and he's a competitive blocker, so he provides a lot of value and certainly a lot of versatility for them. The 49ers use the fullback more than any team in the league and they probably have the best fullback in the league. So, those two line up and he's been very productive for them.
Q: Is that something you could have projected coming out of Harvard, or was that sort of a tougher projection just based on what he was doing in college?
BB: Yeah, I mean I think he was a player, like a lot of fullbacks, a player that you know you'd want to work with, but his career has certainly developed and gotten to a point where he's the top player at his position in the league. So, yeah, it's impressive. I'm sure it's due to his hard work and effort, and I would say also probably opportunity. His performance has been rewarded with more opportunities and the ability to do different things and he's done them well. He's a tough guy to match up with. There aren't a lot of people in the league that can play in and out of the backfield and do the things that he does as well as he does them. And Coach [Kyle] Shanahan really likes that. He likes having the option of having a fullback in the backfield or not having one, and that's a good way to pressure the defense. It's a good fit.
Q: Is there any level of pride that you have when you see Robbie Gould and that he's still doing what he's doing, given that the doors sort of opened for him here in 2005?
BB: Yeah, I mean Robbie was a good kicker. We knew we had a good kicker with Robbie. Certainly, had we not had [Adam] Vinatieri, he could have easily been our kicker if it had been a year later. But at that point he was gone and we drafted Steve [Gostkowski]. Robbie has all the skills. He's got a good leg. He's very mature and dependable and is a solid person and doesn't get rattled and kicks with a lot of poise and has a lot of presence on the field. You could see that just in his competition with Adam. So, he was able to really excel in his opportunities here, it's just we, at that point in time, didn't feel like we could keep him over Vinatieri. He's gone on to have a great career and wish Robbie well except for on Sunday, but he's certainly done everything and more than what we saw in training camp. But we saw a lot in training camp and feel like he was going to be an excellent player. Had he been available when Adam left, who knows how it might have gone. Obviously, Steve came in and Steve had a tremendous career here as well, so I've been very fortunate to have some good kickers – [Matt] Stover in Cleveland and then Vinatieri and Steve here. I'm pretty, pretty fortunate.
Q: Anfernee Jennings has been playing on the edge and off the ball. I know he did play off the ball a little bit in college and a lot of the Senior Bowl, but what does it take for a player, especially a rookie, to be able to play both of those roles for you guy?
BB: Yeah, it takes a lot of work. It's really hard to play one, and to play both takes a good level of instinctiveness and both mental and physical versatility because the skillsets are quite different between playing off the ball and only a few inches away from a good blocking tight end or a good receiving tight end. So, those are challenges. As you mentioned, Jennings did both those things at Alabama. He also is a very, very good communicator and signal caller and had roles on third down, as well. So, he had quite a bit on his plate in college, and I think that the volume of what he has now is certainly manageable, maybe a little bit more. But, he's a good football player with, as I said, some versatility and ability to do some different things. We'll continue to try to see where he fits in our defensive scheme and game plan on a weekly basis.
Q: I noticed he's played a little bit more over the last couple of weeks. What has allowed him to take on that bigger opportunity?
BB: Well, I think in general, some of our younger players start off the season, and in a couple of cases they play because more out of necessity, but as they gain experience and we gain confidence in them and they've been able to string repeated good efforts together on the practice field or in some game opportunities, that's led to more opportunities. Jennings' situation is similar to a lot of other players in his position that as they get the opportunity and they show that they can be productive and help the team, then that's going to lead to more.
Q: The players expressed excited to be back in the building and on the practice field. How has this week gone in your mind and what has it been like for you and the players to be able to kind of get back on track and focused on football?
BB: Yeah, it was great to be able to get back on the field and have a pretty normal week. We had the virtual meetings on Wednesday, but yesterday and today have kind of been our normal Thursday and Friday schedule, and we anticipate doing that going through the weekend. I think we all appreciate that – maybe took it for granted a little bit from the way it was in the past because it was always that way. But, now having experienced the other side of it – you know, players dressing in a bubble and driving home and having to shower and things like that – it's just a lot of little inconveniences that as a team, players and coaches, that we've had that we didn't have here for a few days. And now that we have them back, I think there's definitely an appreciation. I know there is. I have it and I know a lot of our players feel it, as well, just to be able to do things on kind of a normal basis. So, that's been positive for the team and I think their attitude and energy has reflected that.
Q: How does Beau Allen look in his return to the practice field? Is there any sense to the idea of kind of being in football shape versus the conditioning that he might have to do before hitting the field? Is that something you might have to monitor and measure looking at a player coming off such a long layout?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. I'll start with that. I mean football conditioning is a lot different than running around a track or jumping over bags and things like that. Those guys, especially in the interior line, I mean it's like being in the ring. You're in close quarters. You're leaning and pushing and blocking and defeating blocks against each other in close quarters. There's an element of stamina and leverage and technique and position that you just can't simulate hitting a bag or running back and forth across the field. So, not only is there a lot of technique involved, but there's a great deal of endurance and stamina that you just don't get unless you're playing across from another guy your size and doing the same thing down after down after down and that's how you build it. So, any player who hasn't played recently needs that. It doesn't matter whether honestly you're coming off an injury or not coming off an injury. Once the injury is healed, they're still back to the same thing as regaining football acclamation. And, we did that, everybody did it in the league through the acclimation period this year, between the ramping up of activities to longer practices to padded practices and so forth. But yeah, that's all part of bringing a player back on to the team in a productive way is something that we deal with every year and I'd say each situation is different. So, one player's situation, one player's injury, his position, role, so forth, is different than the next guy's and it's different than the next guy after that. So, each of those is done on a very specific and individual basis that takes into account what the player needs and what opportunities we can give them to regain that conditioning and fundamental work and how to best get it done.
Q: The 49ers have had some significant losses in their front seven, but yet they've still been able to effectively stop the run. What do you notice about the way that the other players have stepped up and the way they've handled things despite those significant losses?
BB: Right, well, Megan [O'Brien], first of all, the 49ers have good depth and they play that depth. They didn't leave the same four guys out there the whole game, anyway. So, some of the players that are getting playing time now were receiving playing time before. The percentages may have changed a little bit, but they have guys that have played and played well. But, like every team like we've seen, when you lose players then somebody else gets an opportunity and there's a little bit of an adjustment or break in period with that player. I think the main thing with the Niners is that they are very sound. They know what they're doing with their scheme up front. They play hard, they're aggressive and I would say they don't try to overcomplicate things. They try to put the players in a position where they can be aggressive and react. I'd say, for the most part, that's what they've done. So, it's a group that hustles, that plays hard, that's pretty athletic. We just have to do a good job of not allowing them to play the game on our side of the line of scrimmage and disrupt all of our running and passing plays for that matter. So, that'll be a challenge this week.