It seemed like the 49ers doubled down on yards-after-the-catch guys in the draft. And then just yesterday with TE Jordan Reed. I was wondering if that caught your eye also and what are your impressions of the new pass catchers that have been added to the mix this season?
"Yeah, it's been a productive offseason, just you know, getting new guys, the guys that we've already had, working with them and even getting some guys back from injuries. So, it's a great group. It's going to be a competitive camp and going into the season we'll see who kind of separates themselves from the crowd. But, I think whenever you can get more weapons like that, the more competition you add to different position groups and things like that, it only adds to better play."
How does your knee feel now compared to at this time last year? A two-parter. First, how does your knee feel now compared to last year and, two, do you expect to have more mobility or maybe velocity than you did last season? Just because you're another year removed?
"Yeah. Well, my knee definitely, it's night and day compared to where I was last year, this time. This time last year, it was more so getting back into being in a live pocket, having live bullets flying around me and getting used to that. So, we're past that. I haven't really thought about it in a long time. But, as far as the mobility and things like that, it's whatever [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] calls for. I think my knee's in a good position to, it's able to do whatever it needs to do at this point."
I don't know if you know this, but a lot of people seem to have opinions about your game. I want to know what your opinion is of how you played in 2019 and what's been your focus between the lines to get better this season, what have you really concentrated on? But first off, how do you feel you played last year?
"I thought it was a productive year. Obviously, it didn't finish the way we wanted it to, but I think there was a lot of things that went well for us. A thing that I always take pride in is being an accurate quarterback, more accurate you are, the more yards after catch your guys could go get it for you. So, in our offense it's putting the ball in the right spot, putting it in the right timing of the play and it's little things like that, that go a long way in our offense. So, I think, I was pretty happy with everything, how it went, and like I said, we just want the last game of the season to turn out a little differently."
What are your thoughts about just playing this season with the COVID-19 hanging over everything? And, how did that impact your offseason and how did you go about kind of alleviating those concerns?
"Obviously, it was a different offseason. Got a lot of new things, new weight room at the house. So, there's some positives that come out of it, but just, everyone's dealing with it and it's one of those things you've got to adapt as quickly as possible. And, it's going to be different. We know that going into it and it's just how you deal with the different situation. And, obviously having the mask and being safe with things like that, it's those little things that'll go a long way. But, it is what it is type of thing. There's some things that you can control and some things you can't and so the things that are out of our control, you try not to think too much about. But, at the end of the day, you want to be safe and guys are going home to their families. So, there's a fine line there, but I think the NFL has done a great job of, I mean, I can't tell you how many precautions we're taking, the testing, being six feet apart. There's a million things that go into it, but it's been good so far."
We have not talked to you in this type of group setting since just after the Super Bowl. You've been requested. So, just wondering why haven't we talked to you? I assume the request got back to you and anticipating maybe part of your answer, that you don't want to separate yourself, like, 'Hey, I'm the quarterback,' from your teammates. And if that's part of the reasoning, how do you balance that desire with being a franchise quarterback and somewhat of a team spokesman?
"There's obviously a fine line there, but yeah, I never like to put myself ahead of anyone or anything like that. But, [vice president of communications] Bob [Lange] never gave me those requests, so you're going to have to talk to him about that one. I'm just kidding. No, it was a different type of offseason though. I don't know. I'm glad I'm talking to you guys now."
Kyle Shanahan said recently on a podcast that last year he felt like it was a good kind of foundation for you that you finally got those 16 games under your belt, and that you can really take a big step forward this year. I'm curious how much looking back you think it helped to finally get that box kind of checked off and also what it would look like if you are able to take a step forward next year? Specifically, what are areas of your game that you think could elevate?
"I think having my first full season under my belt, coming off the ACL and everything like that, I mean, everything that went into that season, it will only help me going forward. So, I think in terms of being a quarterback, I still have a long way to go. I'm still, pretty, relatively young for a quarterback, just in terms of playing time. So, I think as a quarterback, you've got to get out there and get the reps playing, getting the live action like that. And, I think having a full season under my belt will help me going forward."
I wanted to ask more of a big-picture question, kind of reflecting back on when you first came to the 49ers in 2017, playbook was all new, teammates were all new and since then, you've been building, but the team has also been building. I'm wondering if you just noticed the trend that the front office has done a good job, bad job, medium job building an offense around you and your skill set? Do you feel that that has really fallen into place that the receivers and the linemen, everybody matched what you do well?
"Absolutely. Yeah. I think the speed that we bring in, especially in the offensive skill group, I love that. That helps with the run after catch, and it makes my job a little more tough getting them the ball on time and accurately. It's a little different with speedsters like that, but it's a luxury that I love to have. I think Kyle and [general manager] John [Lynch], and the whole front office, just bringing in good people, people that work hard, people that all think relatively the same. I think it's a big key to our success and bringing in the new O-linemen, bringing in Trent Williams, Tom Compton, it's a great group up front. Those guys, I love having them and it's been fun so far."
This is the first time we've spoken to you since former T Joe Staley retired. So, can you give us your favorite Joe Staley memory? And then also, how is your transition going to be with this kind of shortened offseason adjusting to Trent Williams?
"That's a tough one. Favorite Joe Staley? I can't think of one off the top. When I first got here, Joe was one of the first guys in the locker room. What was it, the Joe Show, I think it was called? I really didn't even know Joe at the time and we were singing a song together and everything. I'm sure you guys have seen the video. But, Joe was always a guy who always had open arms right away. Very, very upfront, very cool with me from the get go and I always appreciated him for that. We'll miss him in the locker room. His character, it's unmatched."
How with the shortened offseason, adjusting to Trent Williams, different pieces on the offensive line, how is that going to work for you?
"Yeah, well yesterday was kind of our first day getting back into it. Starting with day one install and it'll build from here. But, it's different training camp than usual. So, we've got to build quickly, build that chemistry and everything. I think everyone's on the same playing field, so we've just got to take advantage of it."
Can you talk a little bit about the new COVID protocols and how you are adjusting to them, and then as a follow-up, can you also talk about the testing process and what that's been like for you?
"Yeah, it's definitely different. Your morning takes longer to come in. You've got to go through all the testing, answer the survey and all that. There's a lot of little pieces that go into it, but it's like anything, it's part of your routine now. It's just kind of getting used to it and you adapt to it. But, I think the biggest difference is just the time efficiency I would say. You can't really go from one thing to the next real fluidly. It's different than it was before. And so, like I said, we just have to adapt to it and make the best of the situation."
I know you haven't seen a lot of RB Jerick McKinnon at this point, but I was hoping you could share your observations of what you have seen from him. Also, your recollection from what it was like with him in 2018, the rapport that you guys seemed to, the quick rapport that you guys seemed to have early on?
"Yeah, Jet, being a former quarterback it's kind of a rarity to have a skill position guy who sees the game like a quarterback still and Jet does a great job of that. Even just throwing routes on air this offseason, he runs them differently than most running backs and he has a feel that's like a receiver, but he feels space like a quarterback. It's very unique and I'm excited to get him back, man. It's been a while. We came in together, me and him when we both signed here, and it's exciting to have him back."
There's a lot of talk about what's going to happen if a player tests positive, especially at the quarterback position. What are you guys doing as a group, as a position group, to mitigate the risk involved with such a thing?
"Well, the masks is the first step. This is with us everywhere we go. And, then just staying six feet apart is the other big part of it. I think it's easier said than done. I mean, there's a lot of times, especially on the field that you're interacting with people, you're talking to people, but you just try not to make it last too long, I guess. I know it sounds weird to even say, but these are the rules that we're given, so we've got to make the best of the situation, adapt to it and keep moving forward. But, whatever happens, I think we'll be ready for it."
I'm interested to figure out what are your thoughts on playing in front of an empty stadium? How is that going to affect the game and the momentum and that whole thing?
"It will be different. No silent count will be needed on the road. So, that's a luxury that I'm pretty excited about that one. It'll be different. We're going to have to, you'll have to bring your own juice. I'll tell you with our team, that's one thing that we don't have a problem with though. It's bringing the energy, we bring it every day in practice and you see it out there during training camp already. The first walk through basically felt like full speed. So, it's just one of those things I keep saying it, but we're just going to have to adapt to it and change on the fly, I guess. And I'm sure there'll be some hiccups along the way, but the better we can adapt and the more quickly we can adapt the better."
Can you just explain what the whole scenario was like when the 49ers came out and said that they were looking at Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady and whether Tom reached out to you on that? And then my second question, just basically how the new receivers or the guys back like WR Brandon Aiyuk, WR Jalen Hurd and WR Trent Taylor specifically.
"Yeah, I think when all that was going on, you hear about it and things like that, but I really wasn't too worried. I'm always confident in my play and I know what I put out there this season and everything like that. So, it's all about being confident and it's just part of the business. I've seen both sides of it, so I've been there. But, as far as the new guys, it's been exciting getting guys back who were hurt last year, the rookies getting them in. There's some talent across the board. And so, it'll take some time and we've got to play some catch up with those guys, but it's an exciting time of year. It's good to be back."