Q&A with ex-49ers CB Nate Clements

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Q&A with ex-49ers CB Nate Clements

Cornerback Nate Clements said Wednesday morning that he didn't figure he'd be playing for the home team this week when the 49ers visit the Cincinnati Bengals.He figured a new contract would be worked out and he'd be back for a fifth season with the 49ers. But the 49ers released Clements and he quickly signed with the Bengals.On Sunday, he'll be facing an offense that looks nothing like the one he saw while with the 49ers, he said. And he sees an offensive philosophy under new coach Jim Harbaugh that plays to the strengths of quarterback Alex Smith.Here is what Clements had to say in a conference call with Bay Area reporters:On so many former 49ers in the locker room:
Clements: "It's one of those things where it's just a coincidence. It happened to work out that way."

On whether Bengals asked him about Taylor Mays:
Clements: "No. I really don't have anything to do with the front office decisions. So those guys, they're capable in what they're doing when it comes to that, and I just focus on playing football."How soon after you got released did Bengals go after you?
Clements: "Actually, I didn't even expect this to happen. But things happen for a reason. I was fortunate enough that I didn't have to wait too long for a call."Did you expect to be back with the 49ers?
Clements: "Well, yeah, I mean, at the time, my mindset was I'm a player who's still under contract. I knew we'd have to talk contract issues, and I was fine with that. I definitely didn't think things would play out the way they did. And so like I said, things happen for a reason. That's the nature of this game.On whether they talked about a smaller contract:
Clements: "I really don't want to get into details about that situation. All I know is I had to do what was best for me and my family, first and foremost. And if it wasn't in me and my family's best interest, I wasn't going to do it."Is there any resentment the way the 49ers handled your situation?
Clements: "None at all."When you signed with the Bengals to did you look at the schedule and circle this one?
Clements: "I didn't circle it. I'm anxious. I was excited because this year is definitely unique in the sense we had the lockout and guys missed a whole offseason. So it was a unique offseason and just be able to play football and get out there every week. The season opener, I was anxious and excited. I'm excited every week."On looking back on the years in San Francisco:
Clements: "Great. Great. I had great teammates. The fans are still good to me. They show me a lot of love out there. I felt blessed for the opportunity and fortunate enough to play for an organization with that much tradition."How much do you miss it here?
Clements: "I miss my teammates. That was the big deal. But I've been in the league awhile. And I see things as I've been playing. I think I've been prepared for this time, for anything that had to happen. I was prepared for it."Do you play the slot on third downs?
Clements: "I do a little bit of everything."When you now start studying the 49ers' receivers, what do you see?
Clements: "My impression is the same as it was before -- a young, talented receiver corps that definitely has what it takes to have potential stars in this league. They definitely have speed, talent, size. I had a chance to face those guys every day in practice, so my perception has not change."Has the 49ers offensive philosophy changed?
Clements: "It's pretty much changed every year that I was there. But, just looking at it on film, you definitely see a major difference -- a major difference. It's nothing like last year. You can see major difference in the philosophy, formations and how they approach the set up. You can see the difference."Can you can give an example?
Clements: "Well, the one thing I notice is they move guys around in different positions. It's a very versatile type of offensive philosophy. They stick different guys in and run the same thing. It's very versatile. You can do a lot with it."Does that put more pressure on you guys?
Clements: "I wouldn't say pressure. I'd say you really have to be focused and play with technique and within the defensive scheme when you face an offense like that."Have you noticed a change in Alex Smith? It seems like he's sticking with plays longer and not just throwing the ball out of bounds.
Clements: "I think Jim Harbaugh is doing an excellent job of playing to Alex's strengths. You can look at him and see he has a higher completion percentage, which is key for a quarterback. That's a great thing for them. He's definitely playing to his strengths."On the 49ers' defense of past years not getting over the hump:
Clements: "We definitely had the players, had the chemistry. I can't really pinpoint on one thing. Things didn't pan out the way we all wanted them to."How much has your game changed through the years? Are you even more physical?
Clements: "I just try to play my strength and be who I am."On sharing tips about 49ers offensive players with Bengals coaching staff:
Clements: "I've definitely told my teammates things to look out for and what guys are good at -- things of that nature."Is Vernon Davis one of those guys you've talked about?
Clements: "Vernon and, yeah, pretty much all the skill players and what they can do and what they're capable of."Did you see Cowboys and Seahawks trying to take Vernon away from the passing game?
Clements: "I'm not sure what their game plan was. A guy like Vernon, he's an explosive player and he's going get a lot of balls thrown at them. You just got to minimize -- and be fundamentally sound when you go up against a guy like that."On what the Bengals defense offers?
Clements: "I'm excited about our defense. We have some talented players on that side of the ball. We have some players, young and hungry. You can see we make plays. We try to be opportunistic in making plays and be confident and stripping and deflecting balls and try to get interceptions. It's exciting playing with this group."Did you expectDonte Whitner to sign there?
Clements: "I'm not sure. I wouldn't be the one to talk to about that. You'll have to talk to management about that one."How is Manny Lawson doing?
Clements: "Manny's doing great. He's getting acclimated, not only to our system but being back on the East Coast."How is Lawson's role different than it was in San Francisco?
Clements: "It just a different style of defense. It's a 4-3 here, 3-4 there, so it's completely different style of defense."After having gone against Andy Dalton in training camp, how much has he improved from those days to the first two games of the regular season?
Clements: "One thing about him is he's getting better every day. And you can see it. The key is with guys who are young, in general in the NFL, they key is confidence. You can continue grow and get better and you gain more confidence. When you play with confidence, it's not a better feeling than going out and playing with confidence and feeling, 'Hey, I can make this throw' or 'Hey, I can make that throw.' It's exciting to see him progress every day and do it in practice."

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”