Breakfast with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo

Breakfast with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo

Dec. 22, 2010MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comSt. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo does not have to play any cat-and-mouse games leading up to Sunday's matchup against the 49ers that might end up deciding the NFC West champion.When asked Wednesday morning on a conference call with three Bay Area reporters if he were prepared to announce the identity of his starting quarterback for the game, Spagnuolo answered, "I don't think I need to do that."Rookie Sam Bradford is clearly their quarterback. He has started all 14 games, and figures to be in that role for a long, long time. Bradford this season became the third rookie in NFL history to throw for more than 3,000 yards, joining the likes of Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan.The 49ers, meanwhile, are trying to keep Spagnuolo, a defensive mastermind, guessing whether he'll see Alex Smith or Troy Smith on Sunday. Alex Smith is 4-1 as a starter against the Rams, while Troy Smith threw for 356 yards in a 23-20 overtime victory Nov. 14 against St. Louis.REWIND: Smith, 49ers overcome penalties, Rams in OT
Spagnuolo joined 49ers reporters Wednesday morning on a conference call. Here is a little of what he had to say:--Does the uncertainty at the 49ers' quarterback situation impact the Rams' ability to put together a game plan?
Spagnuolo: "We had a similar situation last week for Kansas City (Matt Cassel or Brodie Croyle). I've always been a firm believer, there might be a few things here and there, but you're defending the system. The thing I know about San Francisco is they run the ball terrifically well. They have a great offensive line. So we'll have to prepare for both in some regards. There are slight differences. But there are a lot of other things that that football team does offensively really, really well and they do it well with either quarterback."STATS: Alex Smith 2010 splits Troy Smith 2010 splits
--Is it different preparing to face a 49ers team that does not have running back Frank Gore?
Spagnuolo: "Again, I'm not so sure it does. I look at Alex Smith as a very athletic, quality quarterback. And we know what Troy Smith did to us last time, so I put both quarterbacks up there high. We prepare for a very good quarterback whoever's taking the snaps. And I have a lot of respect for Frank Gore, and it's a shame that he got hurt. But I know this, they have two very good running backs, and one I'm very, very familiar with (Brian Westbrook) and have a lot of respect for, and I know the rookie has done a good job too, (Anthony) Dixon."--After game against you guys, teams seemed to have a book on Troy Smith . . .
Spagnuolo: "I wish somebody had shared that book with us. He had a terrific game against us."--Was it a priority to keep him contained in the pocket that game?
Spagnuolo: "Oh, yeah. We knew. They had the game in London before they played us. They had the bye week. I thought he played terrific, and we didn't finish some things. We had some chances, and he made us miss. He's a terrific athlete and a good football player, he had a great day that particular day, but we're moving on. They've had a lot of games since then. We have, too. We face each other on Sunday."--Is there a mental edge you have, as the other team plays a cat-and-mouse game at quarterback?
Spagnuolo: "We don't get all wrapped up in that, to be honest with you."--Is there a sense of accomplishment of how far the Rams have come under your leadership?
Spagnuolo: "There are a lot of people involved in this whole thing, and we knew it would take a lot of people. What we're most proud of is everybody to a man or woman in this building has bought in and embraced what we're trying to do. We've seen some fruits of that in recent weeks, and we'd like to see more. We have a very difficult challenge coming up this Sunday that's what want to stay focused on. When they tell us the season's over, whenever that is, we'll reflect back on what we've accomplished and where we go from there."RELATED: Spotlight on the Enemy -- St. Louis Rams
On the difficult loss to the 49ers in Week 10.
Spagnuolo: "At that particular time, you feel it. And then the guys here in this building, coaches, players, administration, have learned when you go through the adversity of losing a football game, you dust yourself off on Monday and you can't stay focused on the past, and you move on to the next one. It was meaningful because it was a divisional game. But they're all the same. We feel the same way when we have one point less than the opponent at the end of the game, it counts the same in the league standings."--Did you get any clarification from the NFL Office after the controversial pass-interference penalty called on safety O.J. Atogwe in overtime that set up 49ers for winning field goal?
Spagnuolo: "I'm not going to go back to that play. We've moved on from all of it. All the plays in that game. The officials officiate. Whatever they see, they call. And both teams live with it and move on and play."--Bradford has seen a recent dip in production. Is there anything that you can point to as a reason?
Spagnuolo: "We look at it as a complete 11-man procedure here. Certainly, the quarterback is the most important guy on offense, so people will look and have certain perceptions when you're doing well and not doing well. But Sam has been -- this is an obvious statement -- a tremendous addition to this football team, not just on offense but to the team, as well. The other 10 guys guys in the huddle are there with him, they respond to him. He'd like to a have a few plays back. We all would. But he's a resilient guy and a tremendous, tremendous, fierce competitor. And that's what we love most about him."RELATED: Sam Bradford season stats
--On what he's seen from the 49ers' secondary.
Spagnuolo: "I just showed a tape to the team. The one thing I see back there is that they're very opportunistic in the secondary. They make a bunch of plays there. They're a good defensive football team. It all starts up front, but they've made a bunch of plays. Nate Clements is a terrific football player. They got some safeties playing well. (Shawntae) Spencer does a nice job. I look out there, I see a good, solid defense out there -- all 11."

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

CHICAGO – The 49ers trained for the expected low-30s temperature and snow at Soldier Field with a week of workouts in the 80-degree heat of Florida.

However, the team’s specialists got some practice handling wet footballs during the 49ers’ final practice in Orlando, Fla.

Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton and his assistant, Michael Clay, made a game of it. Long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to execute 10 perfect snaps to holder Bradley Pinion for field goals. Then, Pinion moved back to punt formation, where another 10 in a row were required.

But they had to be perfect while Swinton and Clay squirted water on the ball and at the hands of Nelson and Pinion, who also received a blast of water in his ear hole at one point.

“We always look up to see if there’s a chance of rain or snow, and we go, ‘Wet-ball drill,’ ” Nelson said. “They (Swinton and Clay) get to have fun, squirting water on us and use the water bottles.

“They make it as bad as possible.”

Nelson and Pinion teamed up to execute perfectly on all 20 field goals and punts.

“If I can do this, in a game it’s going to be even easier,” Nelson said. “They make it a lot harder in practice than it is in a game, so when we get to a game, everything is not as fast.”

The weather conditions on Sunday against the Chicago Bears will likely challenge Nelson, Pinion and kicker Phil Dawson as much as anyone. Dawson has been tracking the weather forecasts for more than a week to get mentally prepared for what he might face.

“Soldier Field is notorious for being a tough place to kick because of the wind and the field itself,” Dawson said this week on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “The footing is pretty poor. So when you add snow and moisture to the equation, it’s going to be one of those days.

“You need to have conversations with your coaches and let them know – be honest with them – about the difficulty. But you have to do that without it affecting your confidence to go out and get the job done.”

Said Nelson, “It takes more focus in bad weather. The snaps have to be a little more perfect. Bradley has to focus more on catching the ball, and Phil has to concentrate on the approach and be more cautious.”

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.

Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.

When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.

"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.

"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.

"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.

In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.

“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”

Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."