Ulbrich on the up-and-up

Niners linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, who is third on the team with 28 tackles and has San Francisco's only interception through four games, talks about getting ready for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals and his move to middle linebacker, among other subjects.

Q: Jeff, after four games, you have the only interception on the team. What do you guys have to do to turn that around?

Ulbrich: We've got to play better in every facet. If turnovers come, they come. I've found sometimes they come in bunches. Sometimes if you emphasize only turnovers, you can make bad tackles, you can go for the pick sometimes and take a bad angle and the guy catches it on you, or you could try to strip it from the running back and not wrap up on the tackle and the guy could get loose.

Q: Can the lack of turnovers be attributable to you guys falling behind early so often this season?

Ulbrich: That's definitely part of it. A lot of times turnovers come when you're blitzing, when you've got them in passing situations. Obviously when a team's ahead, they don't have to pass a lot so you don't get a ton of pass-rush opportunities. By the same token when you blitz, sometimes quarterbacks throw hot, they can get picked.

Q: Has the inconsistency on defense this year been affected by the contant personnel changes?

Ulbrich: When you look at the play of the guys that have come in, I don't think that's been our problem at all. We're lucky enough a coach like (defensive line coach) Dan Quinn, he's put in some extra hours. That guy is starting from ground zero, he's starting at minicamp level with these guys and getting them ready on Sunday, and there have been very few, if any, mental breakdowns with the new guys. So I don't think the new guys have been any part of it.

Q: How much of a challenge will it be on defense this week with all the new injuries?

Ulbrich: Definitely it's going to be a challenge. The next guy has got to step up again. It's nothing we're not used to.

Q: How was the rotation at linebacker going before Derek Smith got hurt?

Ulbrich: I sit out a series, then Derek sits out a series, then Jamie (Winborn) sits out a series. We always start the game with me at weak side-outside and Derek in the middle. And then the second series I go to middle, Derek sits out and then Jamie comes in and plays outside. And then I sit out the third series and the two of them play. Then the fourth series I come back in on the weak side and Derek plays in the middle.

Q: Will you rotate now with Derek out?

Ulbrich: Probably not.

Q: Will Saleem Rasheed play more?

Ulbrich: Not unless they put him in one of the sub packages.

Q: Do you like being at middle linebacker now, a position that is pretty familiar to you?

Ulbrich: I'm happy if I'm on the field. I don't lean toward either one. I just enjoy playing.

Q: You can tell your grandchildren after this week that you took on the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

Ulbrich: Emmitt? How many times have I played against him? Five times. I've got a sweet picture of him when he was playing for Dallas. He got a hit on me and fell back. He got this shot on me and was, like, curled up on the ground.

Q: You should get him to sign it.

Ulbrich: I did.

Q: Was he happy to sign it?

Ulbrich: Not really.

Q: Are you surprised Emmitt still is going strong?

Ulbrich: It's pretty surprising. He looked like the Emmitt of old, he really did.

Q: How do you compare this team's 0-4 start to the 0-3 start of your rookie season in 2000?

Ulbrich: Probably the biggest difference is the fact that back then the youth was on the defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side of the ball we had Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, Greg Clark, Jeff Garcia. Now it's kind of flip-flopped. The defense has kind of been together for a little while. The offense is young. I've always said my rookie year, my second year, when I started playing, the game was really fast for me. For a lot of young guys who are stepping up and having to play the game is only going to slow down. I think we can only get better. I don't think it's like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Guys just need to get experience.

Niners Digest Top Stories