A week of firsts for Shaun Hill

Shaun Hill took the first meaningful snaps of his six-year NFL career and provided the 49ers' offense with a spark during last week's loss to Minnesota. Now he'll be making his first NFL start Saturday when the 49ers host the Cincinnati Bengals. On Wednesday, Hill stood before the media as a starting quarterback for the first time, and he covered a spectrum of topics regarding how he got there.

Q: It's been a real week of firsts for you. Is talking to the media as a starting quarterback today another one of those?
Hill:
Absolutely. I'm very excited for the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it. We have a lot of preparation to get done in a short week and I think so far we're off to a good start on that.

Q: It's a big difference when you start a game as opposed to coming off the bench, right?
Hill:
No doubt about it. Now you have to come out to practice every day and you have to be as mentally focused in practice as you will be in the game. When you run a scout team, to be honest, you can kind of get away with not being as focused. But now, you have to have kind of game mentality every day in practice. And I'm really, really enjoying that part of it, too.

Q: How strange is it to be Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer … Now all of a sudden, it's Shaun Hill and Chris Weinke?
Hill:
It's the nature of the business. You know, injuries occur. The next person has to step in and do a good job.

Q: Alex Smith addressed the team today. Was there ever any doubt in the locker room, that people were questioning his courage?
Hill:
I'm not going to go there. Right now, the whole team is just focused on winning this game and moving forward. I'll leave it at that.

Q: You'd never really had any NFL action besides two kneel-downs before Sunday. Can you talk a little about your progression and playing well when you got the chance last week?
Hill:
I'll start by saying the two kneel-downs were perfect plays. So I had a good base. But no, obviously, if you had asked me coming into the league, ‘Shaun, you're going to play six years,' I would have thought that I'm going to play far before my sixth year. But as it's turned out, this is the way it played out, and I'm very excited for this opportunity and to play with the guys I'm going to be playing with on Saturday night.

Q: What has the reaction been since you got in the game last Sunday? Have you heard from a lot of people?
Hill:
Yeah, I've gotten so many text messages and voice mails and things from teammates, friends, family. Everyone is very excited for me. That's all good to kind of take in on Monday and Tuesday, but now it's time to get ready for the game.

Q: How does it feel to leave the stadium on Sunday thinking you threw two interceptions, and now because of some changes by the league, you find out you didn't throw any?
Hill:
I was pretty happy to hear that. But in all honesty, they're both still turnovers. And the first thing I need to do is cut down the turnovers.

Q: What is the last game you started?
Hill:
It would have been in Scotland (in 2003 in NFL Europa). I don't remember it exactly. It was a rainy day as most days are in Scotland. I remember we lost.

Q: What's your mindset going into a game like this, which is going to be the only game played on Saturday, and it's going to be your first start and all?
Hill:
The mindset is just to go out there and whatever it takes to get a win, and that's it. Period.

Q: What do you think of the Cincinnati secondary?
Hill:
They have a great group of safeties and the corners are playing at a high level right now. And they have a good front as well. They're a much better defense than I think people give them credit for. I know, personally, Madieu Williams, I played college ball with him. He's a great player, you're going to have to know where he's at all times.

Q: It seems like the guys are excited about you getting a chance to play. Can you sense the team rallying around you?
Hill:
I don't know, to be honest with you, if they are or aren't. I think my demeanor kind of stayed the same, and I think most people around the locker room have stayed the same as well.

Q: Has your finger gotten any better than last week?
Hill:
A hundred percent. It's 100 percent. It's getting better every day. It really improves a lot on every Monday and Tuesday. We just keep working on the swelling and keeping it down when we can.

Q: Are you not wearing a bandage or brace on it?
Hill:
We still did the tape today. We'll see later on in the week how it feels.

Q: Over the years, when you meet people or you're at a party or something, and they ask you what you do for a living, is that an odd conversation?
Hill:
No, not at all. UPS driver. That's it every time. That's what I say. UPS driver. I can still pull it off. Familiar face, you know.

Q: Has Trent Dilfer given you any words of encouragement or advice?
Hill:
Absolutely. Trent's great. He's awesome to have around. He's been with me watching film yesterday, was out here on the field helping me out today. He's just very encouraging, just a huge help.

Q: How much is a whole week preparing as the No. 1 quarterback going to help you?
Hill:
I think it's obviously going to help. I get to kind of jell with those guys around me. We get to go through the game plan together, get some timing with the guys outside, and get to be around the linemen in the huddle, at the line of scrimmage with those guys, hearing their calls, hearing the change-ups and things … All that's stuff going to definitely help.

Q: Is it almost night and day to what you've done previously in practice the past six years?
Hill:
Absolutely. You go out there on the scout team, you can just grip it and rip it. I mean, you throw an interception, great job defense. It's not the quarterback's fault. It is a different role. What it is, it's your training camp role again. That's how you play training camp football, preseason football as a backup is you're going out there to prepare for a game.

Q: Do you watch more film of the defense when you're a starter than you would ordinarily?
Hill:
We have a great group of guys here, Alex and Trent and myself. We've always, no matter who's starting, we've always watched film together after each practice. So all that's stuff is not going to change. And we come in on Tuesdays and watch together. None of that's changed. The same amount of film. I've said it before, I've always prepared like I was going to play, so whenever this opportunity did come, it's not going to be a shock to the system. I'm going to know how to prepare. And Trent's helping me with that now. Alex is gone right now, but he helped me out earlier in the week, too.

Q: Is part of your assignment this week getting Chris Weinke up to speed?
Hill:
You know, to be quite honest with you, this week I'm not at all thinking about that. I'm concentrating on myself. There's other guys that are helping Chris out right now and learning the system. He's a veteran guy, he's a smart guy. He'll get it figured out.

Q: Are you also looking at this as an opportunity to make yourself more prominent in the quarterback picture here in the future?
Hill:
Absolutely. I've always said, you know, my goal has never been to be a third-string quarterback. So, obviously, this is an opportunity to use this as a stepping stone to move up.

Q: How does it feel to have a backup quarterback after being one throughout your career?
Hill:
When I was in Minnesota one year, I was the No. 2 for nine weeks, and we had a 3 there too. I don't know, I never really thought about that.


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